Wilkes University

Anna Deavere Smith

Anna Deavere Smith

Playwright, actor, and professor Anna Deavere Smith uses her singular brand of theatre to highlight issues of community, character, and diversity in America. The MacArthur Foundation honored Smith with the “Genius” Fellowship for creating “a new form of theatre — a blend of theatrical art, social commentary, journalism, and intimate reverie.”

Date:  Sunday, April 30, 2017
Time:  7:00 p.m. 
Location:  Dorothy Dickson Darte Center
Topic:  "Snapshots: Portraits of a World in Transition"

Best known for crafting one-woman shows based on conversations with real people from all walks of life, Smith turns her interviews into scripts, transforming herself into an astonishing number of characters. For her multi-character plays about American social issues, Smith has been awarded the 2013 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, one of the largest and most prestigious awards in the arts, as well as the National Humanities Medal

Smith’s breakthrough plays, Fires in the Mirror and the Tony-nominated Twilight: Los Angeles, which dramatized the LA Riots in the days that followed the Rodney King trial, tackle issues of race and social inequality that have become touchstones of her work. Her upcoming play on the School-to-Prison Pipeline, Notes from the Field: Doing Time in Education, continues in this tradition by exploring the cycle of suspension from school to incarceration prevalent in low-income communities.

2009's Let Me Down Easy examines healthcare and the resilience and vulnerability of the human body. Smith presents 19 characters, including a bull rider to a prize fighter to a New Orleans doctor during Hurricane Katrina to Texas Governor Ann Richards to Lance Armstrong. With a mix of personalities based on patients and healthcare professionals, she delivers a vivid look at healthcare in the United States. The show aired on PBS’ Great Performances in 2012.

In addition to appearing on Showtime's Nurse Jackie, Smith’s television credits include The West WingBlack-ish, and Madame Secretary. She has appeared in films, including Rachel Getting Married,Philadelphia, and The American President.

In 1997, Smith founded Anna Deavere Smith Works at Harvard. Now part of the Aspen Institute, where Smith is on the Board of Trustees, ADS Works “cultivates artistic excellence that embraces the social issues of the day.” In 2016, she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for theatre arts.

A University Professor at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts and an affiliate with the NYU School of Law, Smith delivered the 2015 NEH Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities.

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