Friday, December 04, 2009

Anna Deavere Smith

I was podcasting Science Friday on NPR, and they were interviewing Anna Deavere-Smith about her one-woman show at 2nd Stage called "Let Me Down Easy", which is about health care. I kind of love when you're being geeky and then something like an amazing theater artist who you truly admire surprises you. You can listen to the interview on the link.

The show, which hopefully will travel, is culled from over 300 interviews, whittled to 20 to make an evening of theater. It's great to hear her talk about her process, and also to hear a few of the characters. One of my favorites is a bull rider who talks about having emergency surgery. You can see her do him here as well by selecting Bull Rider of the four characters she does. This is an earlier story, but the same guy. If you have time, you can watch them all.

I had the pleasure of seeing her do some characters at a benefit. Some people have criticized her as mimicry, but it feels deeper than that. She has an interest in being both transformational shaping an evening of theater. She never comments on her characters while she's playing them, and though any editing will shape a piece to lead the audience to a desired experience, she's about as documentary as it gets for theater. I find her work thrilling. When I saw her, she was followed by Jessye Norman singing "Balm in Gilead" and I had to hold the railing of the church balcony in front of me to not completely break down. It's transformational work for the audience as well. Here website links to a site under construction called "arts and civil dialogue". I think that's it.

And she's in Nurse Jackie and teaches at NYU. I love how she can do all of that.

I hope we get a chance to see her out here.

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