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Award-winning actress, playwright, and professor Anna Deavere Smith will explore performance as a way of knowing in this four-part series.

Anna Deavere Smith, Photo by Jeff Riedel

Anna Deavere Smith is a University Professor at the Tisch School of the Arts. In 2012 President Obama awarded her the National Humanities Medal. In 2015 she was named the Jefferson Lecturer by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the nation’s highest honor in the field. She was the recipient of the prestigious 2013 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize for achievement in the arts, and of the Ridenhour Courage Prize and the George Polk Career Award in Journalism, both in 2017. Smith has also been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and for two Tony Awards. She is the recipient of several honorary doctorates, including from University of Oxford, Spelman College, Yale University, Harvard University, and the Juilliard School.

Smith has created over 15 one-person shows based on hundreds of interviews. In 2016 her play Notes from the Field: Doing Time in Education looked at the vulnerability of youth, inequality, the criminal justice system, and contemporary activism. Her play Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 was recently named one of the best plays of the last 25 years by the New York Times. She has appeared on the television shows Black-ishFor the PeopleNurse JackieInventing Anna, and The West Wing; and the films The American PresidentPhiladelphia, and Rachel Getting Married.

Watch the Lectures

Since 1980, Anna Deavere Smith has been interviewing Americans through her project “On the Road: A Search for American Character,” which she developed into a new form of theater. Delivered with segments of performance, these lectures will examine this material collected over the course of Smith’s career.

Conceived as a sequel to her 2015 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities, Smith’s Mellon Lectures will continue to explore performance as a way of knowing about others—and herself—with a new lens.