ABOUT ANNA DEAVERE SMITH
Playwright, actor, and educator Anna Deavere Smith uses her singular brand of theatre to explore 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.”
Best known for crafting more than 15 one-woman shows, based on hundreds of conversations, Smith turns her interviews into scripts, transforming herself into an astonishing number of characters. In 2012, she was awarded the National Humanities Medal, presented by President Obama. In 2015, Smith was named the Jefferson Lecturer, the nation’s highest honor in the humanities. She also is the recipient of the prestigious Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and most recently, the 2017 Ridenhour Courage Prize and the George Polk Career Award for authentic journalism.
Smith’s Notes from the Field, winner of an Obie Award and the 2017 Nortel Award for Outstanding Solo Show, looks at the School-to-Prison Pipeline and injustice and inequality in low-income communities. Time magazine named it one of the Top 10 Plays of the year. In his New York Times review of Notes from the Field, Ben Brantley called Smith “the American theater’s most dynamic and sophisticated oral historian.” The film adaptation of Notes from the Field will be available through HBO in February 2018 with executive production by Gary Goetzman and Smith.
Smith’s breakthrough plays, Fires in the Mirror, a runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize, and the Tony-nominated Twilight: Los Angeles, tackle issues of race and social inequality that have become touchstones of her work. Her portrayals of patients and medical professionals in Let Me Down Easy delivered a vivid look at healthcare in the United States. The show aired on PBS’ Great Performances.
Currently, she appears as Rainbow’s mother Alicia on ABC’s hit series Black-ish. She is probably most recognizable in popular culture as the hospital administrator on Showtime’s Nurse Jackie and the National Security Advisor on NBC’s The West Wing. Her films include The American President, Rachel Getting Married, and Philadelphia. During the 2017-2018 television season, she starred in the new ABC legal drama For the People.
Smith is the founding director of the Institute on the Arts and Civic Dialogue, which was launched at Harvard University and is now housed at New York University, where she is a Professor at Tisch School of the Arts. Her books include Letters to a Young Artistand Talk to Me: Listening Between the Lines.
She has been an Artist-in-Residence at MTV Networks, the Ford Foundation, and Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. Smith was appointed to Bloomberg Philanthropies’ 2017 U.S. Mayors Challenge Committee, a nationwide competition urging innovative solutions for the toughest issues confronting U.S. cities. She holds honorary degrees from Yale, the University of Pennsylvania, and Julliard, among others.