Anna Deavere Smith is an actress and playwright who is said to have created a new form of theatre. In popular culture as an actress—Nurse Jackie, Blackish, Madame Secretary, The West Wing, The American President, Rachel Getting Married, Philadelphia, others. Books: Letters to a Young Artist and Talk to Me: Listening Between the Lines. She has created more than person shows based on hundreds of interviews. The best known of those are Fires in The Mirror, Twilight: Los Angeles, and “Let Me Down Easy”. “Fires” and “Twilight” look at US race relations. The latter deals with health care. They were all performed in US regional theaters, and “Twilight” was on Broadway. Her current project “Notes From the Field: Doing Time In Education, looks at what is now called the “school to prison pipeline”—disciplinary practices in schools in poor communities that increase the likelihood that those youths will spend part of their lives incarcerated. Three of her plays have been broadcast on PBS.
The National Endowment named her the 2015 Jefferson Lecturer for the Humanities. The lecture is the highest honor the government confers for distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities. Prizes include the National Humanities Medal presented by President Obama, a MacArthur fellowship, the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Award, two Tony nominations, and two Obies. She was runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize for her play Fires in the Mirror. She has received several honorary degrees. She is founder and director of the Institute on the Arts and Civic Dialogue at New York University.