Anna-Deavere-Smith
Anna Deavere Smith | Biography

Quick Wiki

  • Full Name Anna Deavere Smith
  • Occupation Actress, Writer & Author
  • Nationality American
  • Birthplace Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  • Birth Date Sep 18, 1950
  • Age 72 Years, 2 Months
Playwriter of 'Fires in the Mirror: Crown Heights'

Anna Deavere Smith | Biography

University Professor at New York University Tisch School of the Arts

Smith has also been a successful playwright and stage actress. Her breakthrough play was 'Fires in the Mirror: Crown Heights', 'Brooklyn and Other Identities', which explored the Crown Heights riot of August 1991, following the death of a seven-year-old Black boy after being hit by a vehicle driven by a Jewish man. The play was nominated for the 1993 'Pulitzer Prize for Drama.' In December 2021, Long Wharf Theater announced that the play would be performed from 18 January through 6 February 2022. 


Anna Deavere Smith is an American actress, playwright, and professor best recognized as the playwriter of Fires in the Mirror: Crown Heights and Brooklyn and Other Identities. 

Who is Anna Deavere Smith?

Anna Deavere Smith is an actress known for her television roles on The West Wing (1999-2006) and Nurse Jackie (2009-2015). Her notable film credits include The Human Stain (2003) and Rachel Getting Married (2008). Besides film and television roles, she is most recognized for writing and performing one-person plays like Fires in the Mirror and Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992.

In addition to her career in the entertainment industry, Smith is a University professor at New York University's Department of Art and Public Policy. She is also the author of 'Talk to Me: Listening Between the Lines' and 'Letters to a Young Artist.'

Smith is a recipient of a 'MacArthur Fellowship' from John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. She received the award in 1996 for creating "a new form of theater that blended theatrical art, social commentary, and intimate reverie." She has also received the 'National Humanities Medal' President Barack Obama and 'Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize.'

Additionally, she was named to deliver the National Endowment for the Humanities' annual ‘2015 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities.' Followed by that, in May 2020, she was inducted to the Playwrights' Sidewalk by Lucille Lortel Theater.

Parents and Early Bio

Anna Deavere Smith was born to her parents Anna Young, an elementary school teacher, and Deavere Young Smith, a coffee merchant, in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, on 18 September 1950. She has four younger siblings.

Education

In an interview with the National Museum of American History in October 2017, Smith mentioned that she wasn't a studious child growing up. However, she said she read quickly and early to skip a grade.

Later, she attended Western High School, where she got an opportunity to understand that racial segregation wasn't just between white and black but within the white community itself. She then earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from Beaver College (now Arcadia University) in 1971. She later graduated with a Master of Fine Arts in Acting from the American Conservatory Theater in 1977.

Career Biography

After graduation, Smith began her career as a drama teacher at Carnegie Mellon University. She also taught drama at the University of Southern California and Stanford University. In 2000, she took the position of University Professor at the New York University Tisch School of the Arts, the position she holds to date. Furthermore, she has served as a visiting professor at the Yale School of Medicine and University of California, Los Angeles.

In addition to her teaching career, she has a successful on-screen career. She has appeared in over a dozen films, including Soup for One (1982), Philadelphia (1993), The American President (1995), The Human Stain (2003), The Kingdom (2007), Rachel Getting Married (2008), and Flora & Ulysses (2021). On television, she is known for playing Nancy McNally on The West Wing from 2000 to 2006, Gloria Akalitus on Nurse Jackie from 2009 to 2015, and Alicia on Black-ish from 2015 to 2018.

Smith has also been a successful playwright and stage actress. Her breakthrough play was Fires in the Mirror: Crown Heights, Brooklyn and Other Identities, which explored the Crown Heights riot of August 1991, following the death of a seven-year-old Black boy after being hit by a vehicle driven by a Jewish man. The play was nominated for the 1993 'Pulitzer Prize for Drama.' In December 2021, Long Wharf Theater announced that the play would be performed from 18 January through 6 February 2022. 

Smith's play Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992, written after the Los Angeles Riots, was on Broadway and received multiple awards and nominations, including 'Tony Award' nomination for 'Best Play.' The play was revived at New York City's Signature Theater in November 2021. Her latest play, Notes from the Field, also received wide acclaim. The play was named one of the 'Top 10 Plays of the Year' by TIME magazine. It also received nominations for several awards, including the 'Critics' Choice Award.' Notes from the Field was adapted into a film of the same name, and it premiered on HBO in February 2018. 

Anna Deavere Smith's solo performance
Anna Deavere Smith on the production of her play, Notes from the Field, at ART in Cambridge in 2016. (Photo: Instagram)

Also Read - Wallace Shawn, Actor and Playwright, 'Young Sheldon'

Is Anna Deavere Smith married?

In August 1993, she told People that she has no time for personal life and has never been married nor any outside interests. Later in 2015, nearly two decades later, she talked about Freddie Gray's death case and criminal justice system with PBS News Hour. In the interview, she also mentioned that her boyfriend, Jake, became a police victim for no reason. Then also she mentioned that she does not have a husband.  

However, a 71-year-old Smith has not publicly spoken about her current relationship status. Some sites claim that she is neither dating anyone nor married to anyone.

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