About Notes From the Field

A full production of Anna Deavere Smith’s Notes from the Field opened in late 2016 at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and immediately transferred to off-Broadway, opening at Second Stage Theater in New York. In this unique one-woman show, Smith dramatized the accounts of students, parents, teachers and administrators affected by America’s school-to-prison pipeline, which pushes underprivileged, minority youth out of the classroom and into incarceration.

The HBO Films presentation focuses on the lack of opportunity and resources for young people living in poverty, which often leads them into the criminal justice system. Smith fearlessly brings to life the stories of 18 real-life people in the one-woman show, among them current and former inmates, protestors, educators and politicians. Shining a light on a lost generation of American youth, Notes From the Field is an expression of community, positivity and, ultimately, hope by inspiring awareness and change.

Enlightening and empathetic, the film tackles questions of race and class through compelling first-person stories, drawing on the accounts of well-known figures like Rep. John Lewis, NAACP Legal Defense Fund president Sherrilyn Ifill, and activist Bree Newsome, as well as everyday people struggling in a broken system. Culled from hours of interviews conducted by Smith with more than 250 people across the country, Notes From the Field showcases her extraordinary gift for transforming herself into diverse characters as she recreates each person’s speech patterns, movements and emotions. Filmed in front of a live audience and intercut with haunting video footage and photographs, Notes From the Field features accompaniment by jazz bassist Marcus Shelby.

The full stage production of Notes From the Field serves as a centerpiece of Smith’s social-justice initiative, The Pipeline Project, which began in 2013 and seeks to extend the conversation of pressing issues beyond theater and into America’s communities. The film is a Playtone production; executive produced by Gary Goetzman and Anna Deavere Smith; conceived and written by Anna Deavere Smith; directed by Kristi Zea.