Anna Deavere SmithProjects

Read our interviews and exclusive videos


Project History and Background 

Anna Deavere Smith, dramatist and actress, has been credited with creating a new form of theater. She has, for four decades, used theatre and movies to reveal the effects of inequality and discord on American communities. With the belief that no individual or single affinity group can effectively author the story of our divided communities, Smith explores moments of crisis from multiple points of view. She then creates dramatic works in which she performs excerpts of interviews. Her works suggest that audience members could step beyond their personal worldviews to grasp a larger understanding of the problems that plague our society.

Launched in 2012, The Anna Deavere Smith Pipeline Project is a call to action. It draws attention to youth who, through poverty, are vulnerable to becoming embroiled in cycles of incarceration. When Smith was made aware of what has been branded “the school to prison pipeline,” she set out to conduct more than 250 interviews about race, inequality, and disciplinary practices across the U.S. to write a dramatic work,Notes From The Field. Notes was produced as an award-winning play. Its success also led to an HBO film and a Random House book.


Views on “Fires in the Mirror”: the playwright, scholars, Center Stage

wypr image

Midday presents a variety of perspectives on Fires in the Mirror: Crown Heights, Brooklyn and Other Identities, Anna Deavere Smith’s 1992 play about Black-Jewish relations in America that’s getting a new production at Baltimore’s Center Stage. To read more please visit WYPR’s site listed here.

Baltimore Center Stage is presenting Fires in the Mirror, in a live stage production that runs through December 19, 2021. To learn more about the production click here.

Poster art credit Gilah Press



Since beginning her research for The Pipeline Project in 2013, Anna Deavere Smith has interviewed over 250 people in four main geographic areas: Northern California, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and South Carolina. Interviews have also been conducted in New York, Washington DC, and even Helsinki. In order to get as many perspectives as possible, Anna has spoken with a wide variety of people who have been affected by these issues: students, teachers, and principals; incarcerated youth, correctional officers, judges, public defenders, and law enforcement officials; community organizers and activists; academics and social scientists; musicians and journalists. Scroll down below to hear from a few of these individuals directly.



Amanda Ripley

Following the November 15 performance of Notes From the Field at Second Stage, Anna Deavere Smith sat down with Amanda Ripley, a journalist and Pipeline Project interviewee. Amanda has written extensively about education, in the U.S. and abroad, and recently wrote an article for The Atlantic about the disturbing schools law in South Carolina.



Taos Proctor

“Prison don’t do nothing but make you a worser person. Made me where I didn’t care if I hurt someone. And the longer you stay in prison, the more you lose your feelings about even caring. You don’t care if you stab someone. […] Who cares? You’re worthless!”

Yurok Fisherman, former Inmate
Yurok Reservation, Klamath, CA



Judge Dan Anders

“And what I said to him during sentencing was, I said, the system’s failed you. We as a society failed you. At some point we didn’t meet our responsibility to provide you with a safe environment, an education, all the things that you need. We failed you.”

Philadelphia, PA



Bree Newsome

“So then after the- after the massacre happened and then they wouldn’t even lower the flag to half-staff, that was kind of the snapping point for me. I told him even, like, if we could take the Confederate Flag down, that’s something that I would, you know, risk going back to jail for.”

Artist / Activist
Columbia, South Carolina