Anna Deavere Smith, who performs at Bard College’s Fisher Center this Saturday, February 15, has been hailed by Newsweek as “the most exciting individual in American theater.” She’s recognizable for her film and television work, but her primary reputation is that of a stage trailblazer who writes and performs one-woman shows about the political underbelly of contemporary America.
She’s a perennial Drama Desk Award-winner who has been a finalist for Tonys and Pulitzer Prizes and gets rave reviews for her investigative “documentary style” theater. Yet she was also a regular on The West Wing, and more recently Nurse Jackie, who cut her teeth on daytime soaps before taking on such films as Philadelphia, The American President and Rachel Getting Married.
Smith has won a Dorothy & Lillian Gish award for theatrical achievement, as well as a MacArthur “genius” grant. She has been granted a National Humanities Medal by the president, and a host of honorary degrees. She has published several books, and teaches at New York University.
What to expect from “An Evening” with Smith? Think of an original – like Spalding Gray, Eric Bogosian, early Whoopi Goldberg and Lily Tomlin – who has created monologues from an assortment of characters. The works she’ll be pulling from include: Fires in the Mirror, based on the Crown Heights controversy in 1991 New York; and Twilight: Los Angeles, written in response to the 1992 LA riots. She’ll also draw from her House Arrest, Let Me Down Easy, the Arizona Project and magnum opus, The Americans. Smith works from interviews, like Eve Ensler, and then sharpens what she has. According to the New York Times, “Anna Deavere Smith is the ultimate impressionist. She does people’s souls.”
An Evening with Anna Deavere Smith, Friday, February 15, 7:30 p.m., $25+, Fisher Center, Bard College, Annandale; (845) 758-7900, www.fishercenter.bard.edu.