Anna Deavere Smith

Anna Deavere Smith is an actress, playwright, author and activist. Her play, Notes From the Field, now an HBO Film, looks at issues of education, racial inequality and incarceration. The New York Times named it among The Best Theater of 2016 and Time magazine named it as one of the Top 10 Plays of the year.

Anna will co-star on series For the People from Shonda Rhimes in March. She has also appeared on Black-ish, Nurse Jackie and The West Wing. Films include The American President, Rachel Getting Married, Philadelphia, Dave, Rent and The Human Stain.

In 2012, President Obama awarded her the National Endowment for the Humanities Medal. She was also the recipient of the prestigious 2013 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize for achievement in the arts. In 2015, she was named the Jefferson Lecturer, the nation’s highest honor in the humanities. She has also been nominated for two Tony Awards and is the recipient of the 2017 Ridenhour Courage Prize and 2017 George Polk Career Award in journalism.

Smith’s theater combines the journalistic technique of interviewing her subjects with the art of interpreting their words through performance. Her plays are part of a series she began in the early 1980s called On the Road: A Search For American Character. Among the series are Fires In the Mirror, Twilight: Los Angeles, House Arrest and Let Me Down Easy. All address social issues. Twilight: Los Angeles was nominated for two Tony Awards and Fires in the Mirror was runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize.

Smith is the founding director of the Institute on the Arts and Civic Dialogue, which was launched at Harvard University and is now housed at New York University, where she is a Professor at Tisch School of the Arts. She has been Artist in Residence at a wide variety of places, ranging from MTV Networks to the Ford Foundation to Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.

She has several honorary degrees and medals of recognition, among them from Juilliard, Barnard, Smith, Dartmouth, Swarthmore, The University of Pennsylvania, Cooper Union, Radcliffe College, and John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She serves on the boards of the Museum of Modern Art, The Aspen Institute, The Yale School of Drama, The American Museum of Natural History, and the Playwrights Realm.