MacArthur Fellows Program

Anna Deavere Smith

Theater Performer and Playwright | Class of 1996

Title
Theater Performer and Playwright
Location
Stanford, California
Age
46 at time of award
Area of Focus
Theatrical Arts

Anna Deavere Smith is a theater performer and a playwright who has created a new form of theater—a blend of theatrical art, social commentary, and intimate reverie.

Deavere Smith’s performance pieces offer compelling views of urban, racial, and class conflict.  For these pieces, she interviews a series of people connected to a common event or theme.  She then weaves brief monologues together, deftly recreating these people in their own words.  One of her skills lies in creating works that help those who are diametrically opposed to see the viewpoint of the other side.  Her work has advanced performance theory and introduced a new way for the theater to reflect, and reflect upon, society.  Her one-woman shows, Fires in the Mirror (1991), Twilight, Los Angeles (1993), and House Arrest (1997), are part of a series called On the Road: A Search for American Character, which she began developing in 1983.

Deavere Smith is the founding director of the Institute on the Arts and Civic Dialogue, based first at Harvard University (1998-2000), and now at New York University, where she is a professor in the Tisch School of the Arts.

Deavere Smith received a B.A. (1971) from Beaver College in Pennsylvania and an M.F.A. (1977) from the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco.

Last updated January 1, 2005

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