Leon Forrest Lecture: Anna Deavere Smith
Location: Galvin Recital Hall, Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Center for the Musical Arts (Map it)
Doing Time in Education: The School-to-Prison Pipeline
As research for her new work, Anna Deavere Smith created the Pipeline Project as a way to apply her signature form of documentary theater to investigate the school-to-prison pipeline — the cycle of suspension from school to incarceration that is prevalent among low-income Black, Brown, Latino, and Native-American youth. Now more than ever, we need a moral imagination to put a face on the challenges faced by minority youth and to animate policy conversations around this and other issues of social inequality. In the preliminary stages of developing the piece, she conducted interviews with hundreds of people who are involved in the Pipeline at all levels: students, teachers, parents, police, thought and policy leaders, psychologists, community activists, and many more.
Anna Deavere Smith is perhaps best known to television audiences as Nancy McNally on The West Wing and Gloria Akalitus on Nurse Jackie.
In addition to her work in television and film, Smith is said to have created a new form of theatre. Following her interviews with scores of individuals, usually on a topic of civic and political interest, she creates theater works in which she plays many characters – as many as 52 in one production – representing multiple points of view. When granted the prestigious MacArthur Award, her work was described as “a blend of theatrical art, social commentary, journalism, and intimate reverie.” Her work has been celebrated simultaneously for its journalistic detail as well as its empathic treatment of the people she portrays. David Richard wrote in the New York Times that Anna Deavere Smith “is the ultimate impressionist. She does people’s souls.”
Ms. Smith is University Professor at New York University where she teaches at the Tisch School of the Arts. She is the founding director of the Institute on the Arts and Civic Dialogue, dedicated to supporting artists whose works address social issues and engender civic engagement.
Smith is the recipient of numerous awards, among them the National Humanities Medal, presented to her by President Obama in 2013. She has been the recipient of the prestigious MacArthur Award, The Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, two Tony nominations, and two Obies. She was runner up for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama for her play Fires In the Mirror. Honorary degrees include those from Yale University, Juilliard, Barnard, the University of Pennsylvania, Radcliffe, Wesleyan, Williams College, Northwestern University as well as many others.
**No Tickets Required**