By Don Aucoin

March 24, 2017

For the hosts and writers of late-night TV comedy shows as well as the anchors and producers of hyperkinetic cable-news programs, President Trump is the gift that keeps on giving.

But what about theater? What is the role of playwrights when confronted with an unprecedented figure like Trump and the overheated political environment he has generated?

“Right now, satire and comedy are having a ball, but there are people who are going to suffer,’’ playwright-performer Anna Deavere Smith said in a telephone interview. “No matter how many things are done on ‘Saturday Night Live,’ no matter how many op-ed pieces are written, not many of us feel that we understand this. A play has a chance to bring more sense to us, and to help us in a deeper way.’’

Smith said that theater can play a vital role in the present-tense conversation about Trump, but she maintained that there is also “some value to hindsight,’’ adding that dramas fully explaining this political-cultural moment “could be 10 years out, 20 years out.’’


The Flo Kennedy Show (1992) – Anna Deavere Smith talks ‘Fires in the Mirror’

June 4, 1992

Anna Deavere Smith appears on The Flo Kennedy Show to discuss her play Fires in the Mirror.

Anna Deavere Smith receives the Polk Career Award

February 20, 2017

This morning, Long Island University (LIU) has announced the winners of the 68th annual George Polk Awards in Journalism, continuing the University’s longstanding tradition of honoring and celebrating the impact of courageous and authentic journalism on our national and global discourse.

Anna Deavere Smith, the educator, playwright and actress who has brought journalism to the stage in acclaimed interview-based dramatic depictions exploring urban conflict in Brooklyn and Los Angeles and, most recently, connecting incarceration of minority youth to lack of educational access and economic opportunity, will be the 35th recipient of the George Polk Career Award.

The George Polk Awards are conferred annually to honor special achievement in journalism. The awards place a premium on investigative and enterprising reporting that gains attention and achieves results. They were established in 1949 by Long Island University to commemorate George Polk, a CBS correspondent murdered in 1948 while covering the Greek civil war.


Anna Deavere Smith Named 2017 Honorary Degree Recipient at Swarthmore College

February 2, 2017

[Swarthmore College] President Valerie Smith will award honorary degrees to film producer and journalist David Gelber ’63, philanthropist John Goldman ’71, and actor and playwright Anna Deavere Smith at the 145th commencement on May 21, 2017. In addition, approximately 350 undergraduates will receive degrees at the ceremony in Scott Amphitheater.


Students Honor MLK’s Legacy at Alabama Lynching Sites

College Track students traveled to Montgomery, Alabama to learn from Bryan Stevenson and Equal Justice Initiative about our history of racial violence, and how we can all bring new resolve to honoring the truth.


The Atlantic – Anna Deavere Smith Shares ‘Notes From the Field’

That’s what makes Anna Deavere Smith’s Notes From the Field, a production about “a justice system that pushes minors from poor communities out of the classroom and into incarceration,” so striking. As a journalist who’s written, read, and edited countless stories about the school-to-prison pipeline, I entered the theater anticipating an intensely artistic experience but not necessarily a dramatically educational one. Largely because of its language—the words uttered or not uttered, the movements made or suppressed, the way they those expressions were expressed—it turned out to be an intoxicating combination of both.

I recently spoke with Smith about her experience researching for and performing the play, which recently ended its off-Broadway stint at Second Stage Theatre. A lightly edited and condensed version of our interview follows.


Anna Deavere Smith Addresses Complexities of Life, Death in Houston Performance

By Shanley Chien

January 18, 2017

The Baylor College of Medicine Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy hosted Tuesday evening its annual community outreach event to present an abbreviated version of “Let Me Down Easy,” a play performed and written by actress and playwright Anna Deavere Smith that explores the vulnerability of the body and the resilience of the human spirit.

In a series of real-life character portrayals, Smith reenacted nine vignettes of people’s experiences with health care in very personal terms, using their words, expressions, mannerisms, sputters and pauses exactly as they were delivered in her interviews with various doctors, administrators and patients.


The Leonard Lopate Show – Anna Deavere Smith Takes on the School-to-Prison Pipeline in ‘Notes From the Field’

Actress, playwright and professor Anna Deavere Smith discusses her first-person storytelling show, “Notes From the Field.” It depicts the personal accounts of students, parents, teachers and administrators caught in America’s school-to-prison pipeline, as they experience inequality, lack of opportunity and over-aggressive policing in their own communities.


Smith is known for the range of characters she plays onstage and on television, in roles like the national-security adviser Nancy McNally, on “The West Wing,” and Gloria Akalitus, on “Nurse Jackie.” Still, she said, she does not “do” other people, nor is she an impersonator. In discussing some of the characters she plays in her latest production—Niya Kenny, a teen-age girl (fidgety feet, a nervous biting of her cheek) who stood up to a police officer after he violently handcuffed her for refusing her teacher’s order to put away her cell phone; a female prison inmate whose only object of affection is the dog she trains (slumped over, speaking almost in a whisper)—Smith also objected to the idea that she “gives voice” to people who might not otherwise be heard. “If anything, they give me a voice,” she said, when we were downstairs in the airy museum café. “Anybody can speak for themselves, and they always could.”


New York Times – This Time, Anna Deavere Smith Cuts Close to Home

Her new play, “Notes From the Field,” looks at crime, education and the Baltimore she left behind.

Anna Deavere Smith is coming home.

The protean actress and playwright has spent her career interviewing and then embodying people of different races and divergent points of view — “chasing that which is not me,” as she put it in a recent interview. But her new play, “Notes From the Field,” a prolonged meditation on education and criminal justice, is different.

“This piece,” she said, “is about me.”


TIME – Anna Deavere Smith on Race, Education and Criminal Justice

Eliza Berman

October 27, 2016

‘I’ve been interested in people who see the dignity in struggle’

“How did coming from a family of educators shape your perspective on education?”

I grew up in Baltimore, a town that was just coming out of segregated schools. Education was about progress and community and love. My mother taught really poor kids. Even though we were all, at the time, Negroes, there was a clarity for me about my situation and the situation of the children she taught.

“In “Notes From the Field”, you tackle the so-called school-to-prison pipeline, through which many poor kids end up in the criminal-justice system instead of in school.”


BWW TV – Anna Deavere Smith Explains What NOTES FROM THE FIELD Is All About

TDF Stages Directing One Person (Playing 19 People)


MON OCT 24, 2016

Inside Anna Deavere Smith’s latest solo show

Leonard Foglia has directed theatrical events of all scales, including an epic production of the opera Moby Dick that included a sprawling ensemble and eye-popping sets and projections. Yet the versatile director/librettist/novelist contends that the antithesis of such a production – the solo show – can be equally challenging.

“You don’t have a scene where, all of a sudden, ‘Oh! The young people run on stage now to change the rhythm,'” he laughs. “One person has to change it.”

Foglia proved his acumen for shaping solo pieces with Thurgood, which featured Laurence Fishburne as Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall and bowed on Broadway in 2008. Now he’s returning to the form as the director of Notes From the Field, the latest solo showcase for writer-performer Anna Deavere Smith. (The play is currently in previews at Second Stage.)


Anna Deavere Smith introduces Notes from the Field: Doing Time in Education

American Repertory Theater

Published on Jul 22, 2016

Anna Deavere Smith presents her speech Ringside: Get Real as part of the Opening Plenary at the 2016 TCG National Conference: Theatre Nation presented by the Theatre Communications Group on June 23, 2016. Video coverage is presented by the global, commons-based peer-produced HowlRound TV network at ASL interpretations are presented by Miako Rankin.

Anna Deavere Smith solos again with another ‘tough topic’

October 17, 2016
By Linda Winer

She hadn’t intended to be back here and doing this, at least not now.

Anna Deavere Smith — who arguably invented or changed forever the concept of first-person, multicharacter theater — did not set out to be in previews of her solo show about the school-to-prison pipeline called “Notes From the Field.” It took her five years — and some painful cultural shifts — to change her mind.


Anna Deavere Smith Talks Theater and Activism

Anna Deavere Smith Talks Theater and Activism

Published on Jan 6, 2016

Join us for an intimate conversation with Tony-Award winning actress and playwright Anna Deavere Smith.

She’ll sit down with author and producer Susan Fales-Hill for an exploration of the creative process and what happens when theater and activism intersect.

They will discuss her signature form of documentary theater and her ground-breaking stage career — from her powerful one-woman piece “Twilight: Los Angeles,” to her newest work, “Pipeline Project,” an examination of the systemic cycle of school suspension to incarceration that is prevalent in low-income, minority communities.

Anna Deavere Smith tackles school-to-prison pipeline on stage

Anna Deavere Smith tackles school-to-prison pipeline on stage

PBS Newshour
Published on Sep 29, 2015

For Anna Deavere Smith, actress and path-breaking performance artist, Baltimore is home. After the arrest and death of Freddie Gray, the city became a sadly appropriate setting for Smith to tackle her latest project: a one-woman show about the “school to prison pipeline,” which funnels children who get into trouble at school into the criminal justice system. Jeffrey Brown reports.