Character Performance

Character Performance

Workshop/Discussion: The relationship of language to Character using American English as a basis for discussion and work, we will also invite participants to speak about language and its relationship to identity to their own culture.


As an actor, playwright and teacher, Anna Deavere Smith has built a remarkably wide-ranging and respected career. Ms. Smith--whose work explores the American character and our multifaceted national identity--has been acclaimed by the media, critics and audences across the country. The MacArthur Foundation awarded Ms. Smith a prestigious fellowship in 1996, saying she "has created a new form of theatre --a blend of theatrical art, social commentary, journalism and intimate reverie." Looking at controversial events from multiple points of view, Ms. Smith's work combines the journalistic technique of interviewing her subjects with the art of interpreting their words through her performance. As playwright and performer, Ms. Smith has, over the past nineteen years, created a body of theatrical works which she calls ON THE ROAD: A Search For American Character. FIRES IN THE MIRROR: Crown Heights, Brooklyn And Other Identities, which explores the 1991 clash between Jews and Blacks in that New York community, was the runner-up for the 1993 Pulitzer Prize, earned her an Obie and numerous other awards, and was broadcast on PBS as part of The American Playhouse series. TWILIGHT: Los Angeles, 1992, which examined the civil unrest following the Rodney King verdict, received critical acclaim on Broadway in Los Angeles.

Her most recent play, HOUSE ARREST, explored the mythic role that the presidency has played throughout American history. Ms. Smith has written a book, Talk to Me, based on her observations and impressions of her time in Washington and on the road. The book was published by Random House in October 2000. Ms. Smith founded and directed the Institute on the Arts & Civic Dialogue, a three-year experiment that was held for three summers (1998- 2000), at Harvard University. In the fall of 2000, Ms. Smith was a visiting professor at Yale University Medical School. She interviewed doctors and patients and presented a performance for the medical school entitled Rounding it Out, about the doctor/patient relationship. Ms. Smith is a tenured professor in the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, with an additional affiliation at the New York University School of Law.