Anna Deavere Smith is an actress, playwright, teacher, and author. She is credited with having created a new form of theater. Smith’s work combines the journalistic technique of interviewing her subjects with the art of interpreting their words through performance.
Smith has created over fifteen one-person shows based on hundreds of interviews. Her most recent play, Notes from the Field, looks at the vulnerability of youth, inequality, the criminal justice system, and contemporary activism. The New York Times named it among The Best Theater of 2016 and Time magazine named it one of the Top 10 Plays of that year. In 2018, HBO premiered the film version of Notes from the Field. Smith’s play Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 was recently named one of the best plays of the last twenty-five years by The New York Times.
Smith has appeared on television programs including Shonda Rhimes’s For the People, Black-ish, Nurse Jackie, and The West Wing. Her film work includes roles in The American President, Philadelphia, RENT, and Rachel Getting Married.
President Obama awarded Smith the National Humanities Medal in 2013. Additional honors include the prestigious MacArthur Award and the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize for achievement in the arts. She has been honored with the George Polk Career Award in Journalism, a Ridenhour Courage Prize, and the Dean’s Medal from the Stanford University School of Medicine. Her work has received two Tony nominations and she was runner up for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama. Her honorary degrees include those from Yale, University of Pennsylvania, Juilliard, Dartmouth, Spelman, and Swarthmore.
She is a University Professor at Tisch School of the Arts and the founding director of the NYU Institute in the Arts and Civic Dialogue.