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Martique Smith, passionate actor in local theater, dies

Martique Smith starred as Thelonious Monk in “Palindrome,” a Rapid Lemon Production at Theatre Project, and had a role in “The King of Howard Street” at Le Mondo.
Martique Smith starred as Thelonious Monk in “Palindrome,” a Rapid Lemon Production at Theatre Project, and had a role in “The King of Howard Street” at Le Mondo.

Martique Smith, whose passion for the theater shined bright every time he performed onstage, died Aug. 26 at his West Baltimore home. He was 31.

His wife of five years, the former Rachael Williams, said he died of undetermined causes.

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While attending Carver Vocational-Technical High, Mr. Smith discovered his love for theater and the arts. A phone call from the Carver Vo-Tech principal to Ms. Catherine Orange, the director of the youth theater program at Arena Players Inc., helped pave the way.

“She said I have this young man and I just know theater is the place for him and I’m wondering if you had a program that he can be a part of,” Ms. Orange said. “I told her, ‘Yes, we meet on Mondays and Wednesdays and Saturdays — but you can tell him to meet me at the theater this afternoon.’ And sure enough, he came that afternoon and said he couldn’t stay today but he’d be back on Wednesday and he left. I said ‘Hmm ... ’ but he came back on Wednesday and never stopped coming.”

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At Arena Players, the country’s oldest continuously operating African American community theater, Mr. Smith performed in youth theater and main stage productions, and mentored in the youth program. On Sunday night, Mr. Smith was honored with a candlelight vigil at the front of the theater.

“Martique was a really creative young man — very, very into theater and the arts,” Ms. Orange said. “He was a very good performer, very conscientious. We were all shocked to hear the news.”

The son of Tim Smith, now a retired maintenance worker, and Janey Young, who is a payroll accountant for the state of Maryland, Mr. Smith was born in West Baltimore and raised there, where he graduated from Carver Vo-Tech.

He attended Coppin State University and performed in a number of productions, including “Suspects in America,” “Zooman and the Sign,” “Tell Pharoah” and “The Waiting Room.”

He also starred as Thelonious Monk in “Palindrome,” a Rapid Lemon Production at Theatre Project, and had a role in “The King of Howard Street” at Le Mondo.

When it came to theater, Mr. Smith, who also worked as a security guard for Aasim Security Agency the past three years, did it all. He was an actor, singer and dancer onstage and handled lighting, sound, technical and props backstage.

“His absolute dedication and passion for the project stood out. Whatever he was working on, he wanted to see it to the end,” said Amini Johari Courts, a former professor and director of theater at Coppin State, and former artistic director at Arena Players. “He always came with a sparkle in his eyes and something new to rehearsal to make it special. He always brought positive energy, pouring it into everything and he always wanted to do his absolute best. I just loved working with him — he was an awesome individual and even more consummate performer.”

Mrs. Rachael Smith, who met her husband at Coppin State and is now a theater resource teacher and character development mentor, said he enjoyed spending time with his family, especially his three children, along with friends and savoring alone time, mostly in his basement studio where he could spend hours writing music and rapping. She added how much he cared about everybody who crossed his path.

“Whoever he came across, he would help. Homeless people, outcast people — everybody from any walk of life he was always willing to help,” she said.

The funeral service will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at Wylie Funeral Home, 701 N. Mount St.

In addition to his parents and wife, survivors include a son, Noah Smith of Baltimore; two daughters, Dakota James and Madilyn Smith of Baltimore; a brother, Donte Smith of Baltimore; a sister, Shanae Jones of Baltimore; and a stepfather, Earl Young of Baltimore.

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