Anna Deavere Smith set to speak at Distinguished Lecture Series on April 4


Photo courtesy of WT Communication and Marketing

On Tues. April 4, Anna Deveare Smith will headline a Distinguished Lecture Series titled “Reclaiming Grace in the Face of Adversity” at 7.p.m. at Legacy Hall in the Jack B. Kelley Student Center.

Assistant Professor of Musical Theatre, Bradley J. Behrmann and Assistant Professor of Theatre, Echo Sibley, were the brains behind Anna Deveare Smith attending the Distinguished Lecture series.

“I have been familiar with her previous work through her unique style of theater, that is kind of using her interviewees as organic forms,” Behrmann said.

Sibley also spoke of her love for Smith’s work and how Smith becamecame to be a part of the Distinguished Lecture Series.

“I was familiar with her work as an actor, but through Pprofessor Behrmann, I was exposed to her storytelling work,” Sibley said. “I’ve become a fan, and we were reading her book.”

Sibley attended a conference that allowed her to get into contact with Smith’s agent.

“I was co-directing a conference for the Voice & Speech Trainers Association last summer,” Sibley said. “Through a contact I got access to her agent’s email and I was reaching out to her in the hopes that she would be a keynote speaker.”

In an interview, Smith details her experiences acting in Hollywood as well as her work on connecting performance to journalism.

Smith’s acting career has primarily been concerned with social change. Social change also made Smith interested in the ways people change.

“I didn’t start acting until I was already out of college,” Smith said. “I was interested then and still am, in social change. I was 23, it was time to build a career. And that’s what I decided to do.”

The social change Smith has been concerned with has expanded across a variety of social groups throughout her career.

“My generation really helped expand the canon of the kinds of plays you see,” Smith said.

Smith is a current New York University Tisch School of the Arts professor and whoshe learns from her students.

“They are teaching me,” Smith said. “They’re performing their own pieces, we don’t have any scripts, they’re the book. They each come to class with things that they are interested in.”

Smith also mentioned that going into an acting career requires resilience.

“You cannot do it if you’re not tough,” Smith said. “And that’s one of the things I tell my students. If somebody understands what a critique is, I know the spirit is going to make it.”

Smith wrote a book, published in 2006 which gives advice to young artists;, it is available to purchase on Amazon.