Keynote Address: Inquiry, Innovation, & the Possibilities for Social Imagination
Anna Deavere Smith, BA, MFA, is probably most recognizable in popular culture as Gloria Akalitus on Showtime’s hit series Nurse Jackie, or as Nancy McNally, national security advisor on NBC’s former hit The West Wing. Yet, her work in the theater has been a central part of her artistic life. It has been said that she created a new form of theater.
When granted the prestigious MacArthur Award, her work was described as “a blend of theatrical art, social commentary, journalism, and intimate reverie.” Ms. Smith’s theater combines the journalistic technique of interviewing her subjects with the art of interpreting their words through performance. These one-woman shows are a part of a series she began in the early 1980s called On the Road: A Search for American Character.
Her most recent work, Let Me Down Easy, deals with the subject of health care. It ran for six months at New York’s Second Stage Theater, and then toured for nine months around the US. Its PBS broadcast (January 2012) is part of PBS’s arts initiative.
She has several honorary degrees including those from Julliard, The School of Visual Arts, University of Pennsylvania (2012), Wesleyan, Radcliffe, Northwestern, Bryn Mawr, Haverford, Barnard, Simmons College, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and others.
She is a Professor at New York University.