Acclaimed actress, playwright Anna Deveare Smith to Speak at WT in April


CANYON, Texas—Actress, playwright and educator Anna Deveare Smith will headline West Texas A&M University’s Distinguished Lecture Series annual spring event.

Smith will speak at 7 p.m. April 4 in Legacy Hall in the Jack B. Kelley Student Center on the WT campus in Canyon. The lecture is free and open to the public.

“I believe students will be inspired by Anna Deveare Smith’s successful career, the impressive awards she has earned and, most of all, how she has used her talents for good,” said Dr. Emily Kinsky, chair of the DLS committee and professor of media communication.

The Department of Art, Theatre and Dance will co-host this event, and Smith will instruct a masterclass for WT theatre students. Smith’s visit also will be co-sponsored by WT’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

Smith is best known for creating a form of theater that combines the journalistic technique of interviewing her subjects with the art of interpreting their words through performance. She came to prominence with “Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992,” a one-woman show recounting the uprising following the acquittal of L.A. police officers in the beating of Rodney King. The drama was nominated for two Tony Awards.

Additional plays include “Fires in the Mirror,” a runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize; and her most recent work, “Notes from the Field,” a critically acclaimed 2016 drama about youth in the criminal justice system that was adapted in 2018 for HBO.

Smith also is a familiar face on several hit television shows, including “Black-ish,” “The West Wing,” “For the People” and “Inventing Anna.”

Her films include “Philadelphia,” “The American President” and “Rachel Getting Married.”

In 2012, President Obama awarded Smith the National Endowment for the Humanities Medal.

The MacArthur Foundation honored Smith with a “genius grant” for creating “a new form of theater—a blend of theatrical art, social commentary, journalism, intimate reverie.” Smith uses her singular brand of theater to explore issues of community, character and diversity in America.

Smith also has been awarded the prestigious 2013 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize for achievement in the arts, the George Polk Career Award in Journalism, and the Ridenhour Courage Award for her devotion to social justice.

In 2015, Smith was named the Jefferson Lecturer, the nation’s highest honor in humanities. Smith has received several honorary degrees including from Yale University, Juilliard School, University of Pennsylvania, Smith College, and Spelman College.

She is a professor at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, where she founded the former Institute on the Arts and Civic Dialogue.

Previous DLS headliners have included Steve Burns from “Blue’s Clues,” Temple Grandin and Maya Angelou.

I am thrilled to have Anna Deveare Smith coming to WT,” Kinsky said. “It is essential for the Distinguished Lecture Series to bring speakers with different talents, backgrounds and experiences to our campus and for WT students and our broader community to see how these people have used their abilities, knowledge and influence to benefit others.”