Anna Deavere Smith is an actress, playwright, teacher, and author. Her most recent play and film, Notes from the Field, looks at the vulnerability of youth, inequality, the criminal justice system, as well as contemporary activism. The New York Times named the stage version of Notes from the Field among The Best Theater of 2016, and Time magazine named it one of the Top 10 Plays of the year. HBO premiered the film version in February 2018.
Looking at current events from multiple points of view, Smith’s theater combines the journalistic technique of interviewing her subjects with the art of interpreting their words through performance. Plays include Fires In the Mirror, Twilight: Los Angeles, House Arrest, and Let Me Down Easy. Twilight: Los Angeles was nominated for two Tony Awards. Fires in the Mirror was runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize.
Smith co-stars on the Shonda Rhimes-produced ABC series For the People, and she also appears on the hit ABC series Black-ish. She previously starred on Showtime’s Nurse Jackie, as well as NBC’s The West Wing. Films include The American President, Rachel Getting Married, Philadelphia, Dave, Rent, and The Human Stain.
In 2012, President Obama awarded her the National Endowment for the Humanities Medal. She was the recipient of the prestigious 2013 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize for achievement in the arts. In 2015, she was named the Jefferson Lecturer, the nation’s highest honor in the humanities. She was the 2017 recipient of the Ridenhour Courage Prize. She was the 2017 recipient of the George Polk Career Award in Journalism.
She holds honorary degrees and medals of recognition from Juilliard, Dartmouth, The University of Pennsylvania, and John Jay College of Criminal Justice, among others. Smith is the founding director of the Institute on the Arts and Civic Dialogue at New York University, and she currently teaches at NYU Tisch School of the Arts.