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~Anna Deavere Smith Will Speak on 'America in Change' at Wellesley College Feb. 18~

For immediate release:
February 11, 2004

Arlie Corday,

WELLESLEY, Mass. -- Wellesley College will celebrate its Quintessence Day 2004 with award-winning author and performer Anna Deavere Smith Wednesday, Feb. 18, at 7 pm in Alumnae Hall. Smith will offer a lecture, “Snapshots: Glimpses of America in Change,” which examines issues of race, community and character in America. The event is free and open to the public.

"Quintessence Day is a celebration of black womanhood and achievement, and in Anna Deavere Smith many students at Wellesley, from across the racial spectrum, have found a role model and an inspiration," said event organizer Natalie L. Maddox, a sophomore at Wellesley who serves as the Quintessence Chair 2003-2004.

Hailed by Newsweek as “the most exciting individual in American theater,” Smith is a playwright and performance artist who uses her singular brand of theater to explore the issues of our time. She was awarded the prestigious MacArthur Foundation “genius” Fellowship for creating “a new form of theater — a blend of theatrical art, social commentary, journalism and intimate reverie.”

She is perhaps best known as the author and performer of two one-woman plays about racial tensions in American cities — Fires in the Mirror (Obie Award-winner and runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize) and Twilight: Los Angeles 1992 (Obie Award-winner and Tony Award nominee). Combining the journalistic technique of interviewing subjects from all walks of life with the art of recreating their words in performance, Smith transforms herself onstage into an astonishing number of characters (up to 46 in one show), expressing their own points of view on controversial issues.

From learning Korean to play a shop owner devastated by the Rodney King riots to rehearsing (to idiosyncratic perfection) such well-known figures as Al Sharpton and oral historian Studs Terkel, Smith extends her great artistic ability to depict America’s immense diversity in culture and thought.

Smith plays National Security Advisor Nancy McNally on NBC’s The West Wing and co-starred in the CBS drama, Presidio Med, a series by the original writing/producing team for NBC’s ER. She has appeared in the films The Human Stain, Philadelphia, Dave, The American President and on TV’s The Practice. The film version of Twilight premiered at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival. She also is the author of Talk to Me: Travels in Media & Politics, which documents the creative process behind her play, House Arrest. In an effort to discern the mythic role of the presidency in American society, Smith interviews more than 400 people from all walks of life, from prison inmates to President Clinton. The New York Times Book Review wrote, “[The book] succeeds in teaching one crucial lesson: those who truly listen, truly hear.”

In 1998, in association with the Ford Foundation, Smith founded the Institute on the Arts & Civic Dialogue at Harvard. The Institute's mission is to explore the role of the arts in relation to vital social issues. Smith is a tenured professor at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University and is affiliated with the NYU School of Law, where she teaches a course on “The Art of Listening.” She is currently working on a new book, Letter to a Young Artist.

The lecture is sponsored by Harambee House, Ethos and a number of other departments, programs and groups on the Wellesley campus. For more information, call 781-283-1760.


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  • Date Modified: February 11, 2004
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