Spend a lively and memorable afternoon with a theater maker who has changed, broadened, and deepened the form, Anna Deavere Smith. In twenty-one plays created over forty years, playwright and actor, Anna Deavere Smith has created a singular body of work under the title On the Road: A Search for American Character. These plays are comprised of the exact words of hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals she has interviewed. She creates rich and human tapestries that represent complex communities or social issues.
Anna Deavere Smith has recounted that her innovative method of creation is inspired by two individuals: the poet Walt Whitman (if she “walked in their words” then she could “absorb America.”) and her grandfather, who told her when she was a little girl: “If you say a word often enough, it becomes you.”
Following her breakthrough stage works, Fires in the Mirror in 1992 and Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992, which was completed in 1994, the MacArthur Foundation awarded her one of their much-respected fellowships: “for having created a new form of theater – a blend of theatrical art, social commentary, and reverie.” Since then, she has continued to create such notable works as Let Me Down Easy (2010), about the health care crisis in the United States, and Notes from the Field: Doing Time in Education (2016), about the school-to-prison pipeline in this country.
Alongside these ambitious and astonishing works, Anna Deavere Smith has acted in such television series as The West Wing and Nurse Jackie and such films as Philadelphia, The Human Stain, and Rachel Getting Married. Her awards and honors are prestigious and numerous, including the Dorothy & Lillian Gish Prize, the National Humanities Medal from President Barack Obama, and honorary degrees from Spelman College, Harvard University, and Oxford University. Anna Deavere Smith has been a university professor her entire career, including at Stanford University and New York University.
In recent years, she has investigated and advanced the concept of Radical Hospitality and has also revised her research methodology using a pedagogy that she calls “performance as a way of knowing.” Her Teen Performance Labs have explored this idea in select U.S. communities propelled by the question: “How do teen girls make sense of a world that many adults say is broken?”Read More Read Less