Anna Deavere Smith is an actor, a teacher, a playwright, and the creator of an acclaimed series of one-woman plays based on her interviews with diverse voices from communities in crisis. She has won two Obie Awards, two Tony nominations for her play Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992, and a MacArthur Fellowship.
She was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for her play Fires in the Mirror. She has had roles in the films Philadelphia, An American President, The Human Stain, and Rent, and she has worked in television on The Practice, Presidio Med, and The West Wing. The founder and director of the Institute on the Arts and Civic Dialogue, she teaches at New York University and lives in New York City.
Question: What causes do you feel particularly strong about?
Anna Deavere Smith: There are many, obviously. The environment, war, poverty. I’d take just those three. But I suppose where I’d end up having to come forward, given, again, the limitations of my experience, the limitations of my lens, is that I’m always interested in justice. I’m always interested in what are we going to do when it isn’t fair? How are we going to help the vulnerable? How are we going to keep power in check? How are we going to keep people from the grips of their own narcissism? How are we going to do that? How are we going to remind them that we live in this thing together, and part of our enterprise has to be about making this thing habitable?
Recorded on: 08/22/2007