NEW HIRING OPPORTUNITY

POSITION: Producer/Thought Partner     

Reports to: Anna Deavere Smith
Employment period: ASAP 2022-2023
Classification: Full-time exempt
Location: New York City, with extensive travel

ANNA DEAVERE SMITH AND THE PIPELINE: GIRLS PROJECTS

In her acclaimed play and subsequent HBO film, Notes From the Field, playwright/activist/actor Anna Deavere Smith examined how young people from impoverished communities must contend with the possibility of incarceration from very early in their lives. 

Continuing her investigation of juvenile justice, Anna is now turning her lens specifically to girls and young women. She and her team will immerse themselves in communities across the US to conduct research. The end result will be a theater piece, a series of essays, and other creative projects that reveal how girls in contemporary America fit into ecosystems of poverty.

POSITION OVERVIEW:

A pivotal position, the selected candidate will work closely and in tandem with Anna Deavere Smith to discuss, strategize, visualize, and communicate the “Pipeline: Girls” project and related work. The position supports and partners with Anna both creatively and administratively. 

Creative projects require a living breathing process. The Producer must be flexible and nimble, with a willingness to shift and re-work if/as necessary, so that the projects have room to grow. 

KEY RESPONSIBILITIES:

Work as a thought partner with Ms. Smith on all of her priority ADS Projects, especially The Pipeline Project Chapter 2: Girls, but possibly also including Lyric Opera of Chicago, Project with Office of Global Programs, New York University, as well as writing and other creative assignments.

Act as a mature, proactive, sensitive, and thoughtful “fixer,” driving a route to success by innately understanding the needs of others, especially across cultural differences. Exercise deference while knowing what has to be done to make things happen.

Develop relationships with institutions and/or venues for workshops and, working with Ms. Smith and the Company Manager, act as the main collaborating partner/liaison with all the venue partners.

Proactively mentor and guide staff to ensure an esprit de corps; monitor and react to emotional issues that might arise.

Represent Ms. Smith with production companies, theaters, and donors as needed. Host donors as necessary.

Work closely with organizations, artists, intellectuals, support staff, and representatives involved in and/or partnering on ADS projects.

Act as a spokesperson when necessary.

POSITION REQUIREMENTS:

  • Bachelor’s Degree, Master’s degree, or equivalent preferred
  • Extensive experience in a similar position
  • Strong written and verbal communications skills
  • Excellent organizational skills
  • Excellent listening skills
  • Excellent people skills
  • Entrepreneurial spirit
  • Sense of humor
  • Experience working in environments of racial diversity
  • Ability to travel to different locations for 2-4 weeks at a time
  • Ability to work independently, but also to interact and be a thought partner

TRAITS AND CHARACTERISTICS:

  • Experience working directly with performing artists or other artists preferred
  • Dedication to the mission of social justice and equity
  • Maturity, resourcefulness, flexibility, proactiveness, the ability to juggle many projects
  • Vision and imagination
  • Ability to remain calm under pressure
  • Patience and flexibility
  • Respectful and a willingness to adjust to what different cultures require as signs of respect

COMPENSATION:

  • up to $125,000 per year 
  • Health benefits are not included in the compensation package

ABOUT THE ADS WORK ETHOS:

In joining Anna’s team, one is supporting the creative vision and mission of an individual artist. As this is a project, not an institution, the work must be accomplished in the course of 18 months, not years. The work is concentrated and intensive. It requires intense collaboration, information sharing, and transparency. An aptitude for experimentation and the ability to adjust as methodologies evolve are essential. One also must feel comfortable with being uncomfortable. One must be both empathic and resilient. We will necessarily be exposed to content that is disturbing. 

Staff are expected to exemplify kindness, generosity, hospitality, compassion, good manners, courtesy, and respect. We are a multicultural organization. We are highly interactive with people of all social classes, nationalities, races and beliefs. We are very “outward focused” and strive to combine community service with our research process.

Above all, it is required that you be flexible, trustworthy and communicative.

Smith has created new forms. All of her projects have required new and innovative ways of working. Moreover, this is a dynamic time of societal and technological revision. It has a great impact in the realms of arts, culture, education, and social justice. Our work is dedicated to productive change. It is experimental in nature. We cannot anticipate all needs. Change can only happen when everyone is dedicated to it on a daily, if not molecular, level. While we will respect the parameters of all jobs as outlined, we are looking for a team of individuals who are creative problem solvers and whose daily mantra is “How can I be helpful?”

HOW TO APPLY:

Send cover letter, resume, and any other relevant material you feel support your application, including three (3) writing samples to: Debbie Chinn, Managing Director: debbie@annadeaveresmith.org

Deadline to apply: March 4, 2022

NEW HIRING OPPORTUNITY

POSITION: Executive Assistant to Anna Deavere Smith

Employment period: ASAP – through the Pipeline Project (completed by end of
summer 2022) – and ongoing after that.
Classification: full-time, exempt
Location: New York City

Anna Deavere Smith and the Pipeline: Girls Projects:
In her acclaimed play and subsequent HBO film, Notes from the Field,
playwright/activist/actor Anna Deavere Smith examined how young people from
impoverished communities must contend with the possibility of incarceration from
very early in their lives. Continuing her investigation of juvenile justice, Anna is now turning her lens
specifically to girls and young women. She and her team will immerse themselves
in communities across the US to conduct research. The end result will be a theatre
piece, a series of essays and other creative projects that reveal how girls in
contemporary America fit into ecosystems of poverty.

Position Overview:
This is a full-time position, based in NYC, which requires substantive travel primarily
in the U.S.. This key individual will provide comprehensive executive-level
administrative support to Anna Deavere Smith for all aspects of her “Pipeline: Girls”
project, and for all of Anna’s other projects, as they are all interwoven.
In addition to the full support leading up to an extensive research trip throughout
summer 2022, the Executive Assistant will be the primary staff support beyond the
research phase to finalize project assessments, to the archiving of the entire scope
of research materials (including digital archiving), to assist with final grant reports,
and to handle all administrative matters. This essential role requires familiarity with the work of Anna Deavere Smith.

Key responsibilities:
● Support Anna Deavere Smith in all aspects of her work, both proactively
and as assigned.
● Scheduling: maintain and coordinate Anna Deavere Smith’s calendar,
meetings, and appointments; be the primary contact for and with all other
ADS schedulers, conduct research and prepare assets for speaking
engagements, facilitate and troubleshoot technical needs for Zoom meetings,
handle follow-up items (i.e. thank you notes, documenting and archiving
meeting notes).
● Travel: arrange all air, ground, hotel accommodations and other travel
details
● Professional Outreach/interaction/external relations: Interface with cohorts
across a variety of professions and partnerships including organizations,
artists, intellectuals, support staff, and representatives.
● Assist at events virtual and real. Prepare fact sheets, Know Before You Go
docs, and attendee info for Anna’s review.
● Communications/Creative Support: Assist with proof-reading and
copy-editing, provide assets for the ADS website.
● Work closely with all other staff including Managing Director, General
Manager (Finance/ Bookkeeper) particularly on submission of credit card
receipts and reimbursement requests.

Position Requirements:
● Bachelor’s Degree, Master’s degree or equivalent preferred
● 3-6 years experience in a similar executive support position
● Strong written and verbal communications skills, including experience
communicating with VIPs across a wide swath of professions
● High level of proficiency with Google Suites, digital media.
● Ability to quickly learn new skills: technical and interpersonal
● Excellent Organizational skills within a fast-paced environment
● Excellent listening skills
● Excellent people skills
● Entrepreneurial spirit
● Sense of humor
● Experience working in environments of racial diversity
● Experience in special events is helpful
● Ability to travel to different locations for 2-4 weeks at a time
● Ability to work independently but also to interact and follow instruction
Traits and characteristics:
● Experience working directly with performing artists or other artists
preferred
● Dedication to the mission of social justice and equity.
● Maturity, resourcefulness, flexibility, proactiveness, the ability to juggle
many projects
● Ability to remain calm under pressure
● Patience
● Strong attention-to-detail, excellent written and verbal communication
skills.
● Respectful, and a willingness to adjust to what different cultures require as
signs of respect.

Compensation:
● Salary competitive
● Health benefits are not part of the compensation package
● Preferred start date: January 12, 2022 or sooner

How to Apply:
Send cover letter, resume and any other relevant material you feel supports your
application, including writing samples to: Debbie Chinn, Managing Director:
debbie@annadeaveresmith.org

Deadline to apply: December 15, 2021

ANNA DEAVERE SMITH REMARKS UPON ACCEPTING THE GEORGE POLK AWARD

ANNA DEAVERE SMITH’S REMARKS UPON ACCEPTING THE GEORGE POLK AWARD

April 7, 2017

Thank you, John Darnton. Thank you, Charlayne. There are many people I could thank – theaters, philanthropists, other artists – regrettably they are not here.  I will thank Stephanie Schneider from the Institute on the Arts and Civic Dialogue at NYU, who helped us wrangle audiences of 500 people into small groups, so we could have discussions during my last play – a form of civic engagement. And thank you to Allyson Green, Dean of the Tisch School of the Arts, because I am given enough flexibility to do my work, but to still be in the rich intellectual community of my colleagues and students.

I

Christians around the world are readying themselves for Easter Sunday – and the week that precedes it.

I am an Episcopalian. At my church, Grace Cathedral, on Good Friday, the church will be stripped of its color, its candles, its flowers. The priests will wear simple long black cassocks, their capes and other colors left in the closet.

The story of Jesus’s arrest and the conversation he had with Pontius Pilate found in the Gospel of John may be read. Jesus was bound and taken to Pilate.

“Pilate came out to them and said, ‘What charge do you bring [against] this man?’

They answered and said to him, ‘If he were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.’

At this, Pilate said to them, ‘Take him yourselves, and judge him according to your law.’

The Jews answered him, ‘We do not have the right to execute anyone.’

So Pilate went back into the praetorium and summoned Jesus and said to him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’

Jesus answered, ‘Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?’

Pilate answered, ‘I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me. What have you done?’

Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants [would] be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here.’

So Pilate said to him, ‘Then you are a king?’

Jesus answered, ‘You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’

Pilate said to him, ‘What is truth?'”

“What is truth?”

This has perplexed great minds for a long time. Was this sarcasm?  What kind of person was Pilate?

What is truth?

II

I studied acting in a conservatory, and grasped some of the so-called theories for telling either the biggest lies or the biggest truths.  I did well enough that I was soon invited to teach.

On a regular basis, the entire conservatory would gather in a large room, and student actors would display scene work and brace themselves for the critique of the assembled faculty. All trainers were required to attend – acting teachers, voice teachers, yoga teachers, etc. A cluster of the acting teachers would sit together in the front row. I’d look down at my colleagues and see a long line of cowboy boots. Everybody else was a white man, except me.

And we told ourselves that we were some kind of divine enterprise: theater-making. Or foolishness, if you will. Divine foolishness. Because the fool is a truth-teller, supposedly. The value system we had was centered on truth. The truth was the truth of your self. You entered the character by bringing your psychological self, warts and all. This truth, and only this truth, would illuminate the character and make its way into the heart of an audience. It was thus that we might provide a cathartic experience and make a contribution to the betterment of mankind.

It was the YOU in Hamlet and the Hamlet in YOU that we were after. As nervous students applied their body and soul and heart and gesture to being brothers Biff and Happy from Death of a Salesman, sitting in their imagined bedrooms, or Walter Lee and Beneatha in A Raisin in the Sun, arguing in the living room of their Chicago home, or Hamlet, or Ophelia, at a certain point one of those men sitting in the front row would yell out, “You’re lying!”

The actor being accused of the lie was likely to shrink inside from humiliation, burst out into heartbroken sobs, or struggle to suppress rage, depending on their own psychology and biographical response to the deep and paternalistic voice yelling “liar” across the rehearsal hall.

I was never sold on that particular pedagogy, either as a student or a teacher. I had myself avoided being yelled at while in school – pretty much. I spent hours on the top floor of the conservatory, reading everything I could about that theory, which was born in the 19th century at a school in Moscow, fathered by a man named Konstantin Stanislavski. It was even harder for me to open my heart to this discourse because in his most famous book, the first story is about a Russian student who came to class painted in chocolate in order to play Othello. The point of this story was that you don’t have to wear chocolate to find a Negroid in Othello. But still, it was a rough start.

The one thing that I could take from that experience was the idea of “as if.”

It’s “as if” the actor is living in the circumstances of the character. I learned to do my craft by living in the limbo state of metaphor. Imagining as vividly as I could, through trips to museums photographs, newspapers, articles, magazines, documentary films, listening to music – how the humans that I sought to represent lived.

I eventually took my study to observing human beings. Observing their words, their cadences, their gestures, and now their utterances and, in particular, the sentences that they don’t complete. If you think of it, the word sentence is a sentence.

My grandfather, a black man who started a business in Baltimore with a basket of tea, had said when I was a child that if you say a word often enough it becomes you. “It becomes you.” Having been brought up in the lies that justified de facto segregation in Baltimore, a limbo town not North not South, this adage became my walking papers to become America word for word. And that’s how I’ve spent my adult life.

My acting boils down to living in the “as if.” I am not the person I seek to portray. If I am intoxicated enough by the mysterious workings of words in my mind and body, I am not myself. So, I am not the character, and I am not myself. I am a “not not,” which is another positive.

People come backstage and say things to me like, for example – I worked very hard to portray as honestly as I could, which just meant being accurate about his sounds and gestures, Lance Armstrong. And people would come backstage and say things like, “You nailed the mother fucker.” Or, more reverently, recently in my play about the school-to-prison pipeline and my hope for a new Civil Rights movement, where I portrayed Congressman John Lewis, people come backstage and say, “Oh my God, I just saw John Lewis, you nailed him.” And certainly the first famous person I ever interviewed, Charlayne Hunter-Gault, came to see me perform, flanked by both her husbands, an ex-husband and a current husband. And I think they thought I nailed you.

It has never been my goal to “nail” anyone.  I get the limitations of language; intention is what matters, and that praise is a nice salve when one is wiping off the make-up and restoring one’s self to one’s self.

I have been trying so hard to become America word for word. I go where things have fallen apart. One place I went was Los Angeles, after the riots in 1992. I did over 320 interviews. I could not find the truth. I found an assemblage of stories, and I strove to weave them into a fictitious narrative that would perhaps give the audience a feeling that something made sense – if not truth.

Among the first twenty of those interviews was Johnnie Cochran, who gave me another adage:

“There are three sides to every story – yours, mine, and the truth.”

III

I am happy to be here with the family of George Polk. I did not know much about Mr. Polk until I was called about this great honor. On one of the forays into my research to try to understand George Polk and why he means so much to you, a grid of images came up – lots of times images had come up as I went through Google. But this one time, there was an image, a black-and-white photo, and that photo looked a classic clown.

It would appear from popular culture that the highest praise an actor could get is an Oscar or an Emmy. But yet, when our craftsmen study, we are trained that the highest praise could be to be called a fool or a clown. Because it is the fool who would risk getting shot or killed to tell the truth that no other citizen would dare say in the presence of the king.

The photograph that I saw in that grid, as I enlarged it, looked to be of a person in baggy pants, unshaven, with some kind of white, almost clown, make-up on his face. You know, “Chaplin-esque.”

It was the corpse of George Polk – bound, gagged, shot in the back of the head.

In the bibliography of Kati Marton’s book The Polk Conspiracy there is a listing for a letter that George Polk wrote to Newsweek, dated December 6, 1947.  I will read a bit of it here:

 

“This is a letter that should have been written long ago. But it’s been delayed, let’s face it, by avarice, my own avarice. Further, this letter pivots on the date January 1, 1948. On that date, as you may remember in your last letter to me about part-time reporters for Newsweek, you indicated that I might be in for a raise of pay.

However, Harry, before that date, in fact upon receipt of this letter, I wish to terminate my connection with Newsweek.

Bluntly, Harry, I don’t like the job Newsweek is doing. I don’t think the book is balanced; I don’t think the book is enlightened; I don’t like the innuendoes that seem to me to have become Newsweek’s stock in trade; I don’t agree with the magazine’s editorial thinking; and most of all I resent the manner in which Newsweek labels a product as “significant,” but which I regard as often significantly distorted.

Of course, I know that a letter like this could draw charges that I’m a Communist, but I’ll stand on my past, present, and future work to refute such a possible charge. Actually, that is one of the charges I make against Newsweek—too free use of that word. Even more specifically, what I’m trying to do is to make an argument for the need for objectivity in reporting… not just telling a story with all the facts readily available; instead, I think the word requires going out and getting every available fact before even attempting to write a balanced story.”

 

I intend to spend much more time learning more about George Polk. He is a sniffer. He sniffed for truth. The facts of his death still live in a limbo inviting frustration, but also truth-seeking.

I have no business here, only delight at being among you, the seekers in our culture.

We need the spirit of George Polk now more than ever.  I don’t know about you, but he has certainly strengthened my resolve to wrestle with the always-unclear, never-sure truth.  Maybe it is the pursuit that matters.

Congratulations to you all, and thank you for having me.

 

 

 

Workshops

Workshops

ADS workshopsMs. Smith conducts workshops for actors and non-actors.  If you have a business or group that would be interested in workshops about personal narrative and or dynamic expression contact us  here.

ANNA DEAVERE SMITH PRESENTS

ANNA DEAVERE SMITH
PRESENTS

Anna Deavere Smith is the founder and director of the Institute on the Arts and Civic Dialogue at New York University. The IACD creates a meeting place for artists, scholars, and audiences to exchange ideas and generate new work.

 

As a producing organization, the IACD supports artists whose works address the world’s most pressing problems.