March 10, 2015

Centennial Performance By Acclaimed Social Commentator Anna Deavere Smith

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In celebration of its Centennial, Penn GSE has invited actress, playwright and social commentator Anna Deavere Smith for a special performance on May 5 at 5:00 p.m. at the Penn Museum.

Headshot of Anna Deveare SmithShe will perform parts of a work-in-progress play she is writing about the school-to-prison pipeline. After her presentation, she will be joined onstage for a discussion with Penn GSE professors Howard Stevenson and Vivian Gadsden and Penn criminologist John MacDonald, with additional panelists still to be announced. The event is open to the public and tickets are free. To reserve a ticket, click here.

“We are thrilled to have Anna Deavere Smith with us to celebrate Penn GSE’s 100th anniversary,” said Penn GSE dean Pam Grossman. “The themes that resonate in her work—equity, diversity, community—have animated the work of GSE faculty and students across the school’s history. By bringing multiple perspectives to a topic, she provides a compelling exploration of pressing social issues.”

Smith is said to have created a new form of theater. Her honors include a National Endowment for the Humanities Medal, presented by President Obama, a MacArthur Fellowship, the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Award, two Tony nominations, and a Drama Desk Award. She has been invited to deliver the prestigious Jefferson Lecture for the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2015. She was runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize for her play Fires in the Mirror. Her most recent play, Let Me Down Easy, was performed off-Broadway at The Second Stage Theatre in New York City, the Philadelphia Theatre Company, and other regional theaters. Let Me Down Easy tells the human side of the healthcare story in the United States. Smith is known for looking at controversial events from multiple points of view, combining the journalistic technique of interviewing her subjects with the art of interpreting their words through performance. David Richard of The New York Times wrote of her, in response to her performance in Twilight: Los Angeles, that she is “the ultimate impressionist; she does people's souls.” Smith has received honorary degrees from The University of Pennsylvania, Yale University, Juilliard, and Northwestern, as well as a Radcliffe Medal.

Smith is known to television audiences for her role as Nancy McNally on The West Wing and Mrs. Akalitus on Nurse Jackie.

She is University Professor at New York University, where she is founding director of The Institute on the Arts and Civic Dialogue, which convenes artists whose work addresses the world's most pressing problems.

Anna Deavere Smith’s school-to-prison pipeline work in Philadelphia is supported by the Philadelphia Theatre Company, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and the Wyncote Foundation. Lead support for the project is provided by The Atlantic Philanthropies, The Ford Foundation, the Novo Foundation, the Open Society Foundations, the Panta Rhea Foundation, and The California Endowment and its Health Happens Here initiative. The project is also made possible through the generosity of Agnes Gund, Alexandra and Paul Herzan, Robert and Laura Sillerman, The Crown Family, Michael Margitich, David and Susan Rockefeller, the Cultures of Resistance Network Foundation, Robert J. Caruso and The Kantian Foundation, Nancy and Morris W. Offit, Louise Grunwald, Roger and Vicki Sant, and anonymous donors.