An Interview with Anna Deavere Smith

Anna Deavere Smith is a renowned American actress and playwright who has made a name for herself in the world of theater, film, and television.

She has received numerous awards, including two Tony Award nominations, two Obie Awards, and an honorary degree from Yale University.

In an interview with Anna Deavere Smith, she shares her thoughts on the importance of theater, the impact of her work, and the importance of storytelling in the world today. She discusses her process of creating her plays and her work on transforming the lives of others.

Smith talks about her passion for the performing arts and how it has shaped her life and career. She also shares her thoughts on the need for a more diverse group of artists in the theater and the challenges of tackling difficult subjects onstage.

Anna Deavere Smith’s passion and insight make her an inspiring figure who is sure to leave a lasting impact on the world of theater.

Anna Deavere Smith’s Background

Anna Deavere Smith was born in 1956 in Baltimore, Maryland. She has spent most of her life in the city and has referenced it as an important theme in her work. Smith graduated from Duke University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.

She then went on to earn a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Yale School of Drama. In addition to her theater work, Smith has also appeared in a number of films and TV shows.

She made her film debut in the 1979 drama The Ladies Man and landed her first leading role in the 1981 comedy The Incredible Shrinking Woman. She has since appeared in such films as The Road to Perdition, The Ice Storm, 12 Years a Slave, and Concussion.

She has also appeared in TV shows such as The West Wing, ER, and Six Feet Under. Smith is also a writer and has written plays, books, and articles throughout her career.

She has won numerous awards including the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award, and an Emmy Award. Smith holds a Professor of the Art of Telling Art’s Story Chair at New York University.

Smith’s Thoughts on the Importance of Theater

Smith believes that theater is more important now than ever before. She notes that the art form is a great way to open up dialogue and help people process and tackle tough issues.

She believes that theater has a unique power to transform people’s lives and create a dialogue in a way that nothing else does. Smith feels that the theater has the power to address the issues that we are facing in the world today and to bring about change.

She notes that the theater has been used throughout history and in different cultures to explore difficult issues that people are facing. She believes that now is an especially important time for the theater because we are facing so many challenging issues.

She notes that people need a place to discuss these issues and come together to find solutions and figure out how to approach them.

The Impact of Her Work

Smith has created a number of plays that have had a significant impact on the theater world. Her production Sweat spoke to the struggles of working-class people in America. Her play Fisting explored the rights of women and people of color in American society.

Her production Let Me Down Easy dealt with the issue of assisted suicide in America. Her play Twilight: Los Angeles, 1982 explored the relationship between African-American and Latino communities in Los Angeles, California. Her production STOP.

The New President of the United States explores the issues facing people in the country following the election of Donald Trump. Her production Civil Wars tackles issues surrounding race, gender, and the current political climate in America.

Smith’s Process of Creating Her Plays

Smith has described her writing process as a very long and collaborative process. She says that she is always writing, even if some of the work is not seen by the public. She gathers a lot of research, and then the ideas start to form and take shape.

She then shares this work with other people and invites feedback so that she can continue to develop the material further. She finds it important to have feedback and a dialogue with other writers so that her work can be challenged.

Transforming the Lives of Others

Smith has also created works that have transformed the lives of others in various ways. Her production Let Me Down Easy has been used by medical professionals to better communicate with patients about end-of-life care.

Her production Twilight: Los Angeles, 1982 has inspired art exhibits and a museum show. Her production COMPANY has been used in business schools to help students understand company culture and communication.

Smith’s Passion for the Performing Arts

Smith has talked about how she was drawn to the theater because it allowed her to express herself and create something out of nothing.

She has also spoken about how hard the work is and how difficult it can be. She notes that she has worked to create a space for people in the theater to work and share their stories.

The Need for a More Diverse Group of Artists in the Theater

Smith has noted that there is a need for a more diverse group of artists in the theater. She believes that it is important to have more people of color and women in the theater because their stories are not being told.

She has said that the theater community needs to be more inclusive and accessible to more diverse voices.

Challenges of Tackling Difficult Subjects Onstage

Smith has talked about the challenges of tackling difficult subjects onstage. She has noted that she does not want to be didactic or preachy in her work. She has said that she likes to find a dramatic way to explore difficult subjects that is not as heavy-handed as other forms of art.

She finds it helpful to think about how a play would be on a stage rather than how it would be on a page when writing.


Anna Deavere Smith is one of the most renowned and respected playwrights and actors working today. Her work has been praised for its ability to tackle difficult subjects in a poignant way that is still engaging and effective.

Smith has created plays that have transformed the lives of others in various ways. Her work has created a space for diverse voices to be heard and shared. Smith’s passion and insight make her an inspiring figure who is sure to leave a lasting impact on the world of theater.

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