Award-Winning Actress, Playwright to Speak April 4 for WT Distinguished Lecture Series


CANYON, TX—Award-winning actress, playwright and educator Anna Deavere Smith will speak on “Reclaiming Grace in the Face of Adversity” as the headliner for the 2023 West Texas A&M University Distinguished Lecture Series.

Smith’s presentation will take place at 7 p.m. April 4 in WT’s Legacy Hall in the Jack B. Kelley Student Center. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Those unable to attend in person may register for the Zoom option.

“I am thrilled to have Anna Deavere Smith coming to WT,” said Dr. Emily Kinsky, chair of the DLS committee and professor of media communication in the Sybil B. Harrington College of Fine Arts and Humanities. “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.”

The event is co-sponsored by WT’s Department of Art, Theatre and Dance, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and the Department of Communication. In addition to the public presentation, Smith will offer a masterclass for WT theatre students while she is on campus.

Smith 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.”

Smith has won numerous awards 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.

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.

Fostering an appreciation of the arts is a key component of the University’s long-range plan, WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World.

That plan is fueled by the historic, $125 million One West comprehensive fundraising campaign. To date, the five-year campaign — which publicly launched in September 2021 — has raised more than $120 million.