Anna Deavere Smith

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Everybody recognizes Anna Deavere Smith as a performance genius — the most compelling individual on the American stage, it’s been said — and still nobody knows a simple way to describe what she does.

It starts with her own reporting and listening to the country: for her theatre pieces on the Brooklyn and Los Angeles race rumbles of the early 90s, Anna Deavere Smith went out and heard stories by the hundreds, from cops, shopkeepers and kids of all colors. Always she edits and cuts and reweaves the threads of the tapestry; and then she inhabits the many parts herself.

Her own acting in these creations turns out to be crucial: for her White House tableau of the Clinton years, titled “House Arrest,” she first hired a posse of actors and actresses to play all the parts: everyone said it was a better show when she took all the roles herself.
(Hosted by Christopher Lydon)


Playwright and actress Anna Deavere Smith.