Art Works Blog

Art Works Podcast: Anna Deavere Smith

Washington, DC

In this week's Art Works podcast we're talking with playwright, actor, and activist Anna Deavere Smith.

Smith came to national prominence with her one-woman show Fires in the Mirror, a play she composed from conversations with people who experienced or observed New York's 1991 Crown Heights racial riots.  She followed that with the play Twilight: Los Angeles about the riots that erupted when Los Angeles police officers were acquitted in the beating of Rodney King. It?s all part of a life-long project titled On the Road: A Search for American Character.

In her current show, Let Me Down Easy, Smith explores the human body, illnesses, and mortality. She interviewed more than 300 people on three continents, and selected 20 of them to inhabit on the stage: from a rodeo bull rider to a doctor in a New Orleans public hospital, from a Buddhist monk to cyclist Lance Armstrong. Dancer Elizabeth Streb makes an appearance too! Smith uses not only their exact words, she takes on their physical stances, and projects the rhythms and patterns of their speech.

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