Thursday, May 1, 2008

From Washington College to Washington, D.C.: Tony-Nominated Actress/Playwright Anna Deavere Smith to Appear at Smithsonian, May 10

Washington — Anna Deavere Smith, known for her brilliant solo performance pieces (including "Fires in the Mirror: Crown Heights, Brooklyn and Other Identities") as well as her work on TV's "The West Wing," will appear at the Smithsonian on Saturday, May 10, as part of the new American Pictures Distinguished Lecture Series. She will unravel the mystery and meaning of Ruth Orkin's photo, "Member of the Wedding, Opening Night: Ethel Waters, Carson McCullers, and Julie Harris, New York, 1950."

Sponsored by Washington College in partnership with the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the American Pictures Distinguished Lecture Series features an all-star lineup of eminent cultural figures who, on four Saturdays this spring, are each exploring a single powerful image in American art.

Millions of TV viewers know her as National Security Advisor Nancy McNally on "The West Wing" or District Attorney Kate Brunner on "The Practice," but Anna Deavere Smith is a versatile creative force with noteworthy accomplishments in various fields.

As a dramatist, she is known for her "documentary theater" style. She was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1993 for "Fires in the Mirror," which won her a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding One-Person Show. She was nominated for two Tony Awards in 1994 for "Twilight," one for Best Actress and another for Best Play. The play won her a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Solo Performance and a Theatre World Award.

She also is the author of the books Talk to Me: Travels in Media and Politics and Letters to a Young Artist: Straight-up Advice on Making a Life in the Arts—for Actors, Performers, Writers, and Artists of Every Kind.

Smith was one of the 1996 recipients of the MacArthur Fellowship, often referred to as the "genius grant." She also won a 2006 Fletcher Foundation Fellowship for her contribution to civil rights issues, as well as a 2008 Matrix Award from the New York Women in Communications Inc. In addition to teaching at New York University School of Law, she teaches in the Department of Performance Studies at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. She formerly taught in the drama department at Stanford University.

Her May 10 "American Pictures" lecture, which is free and open to the public, will take place at 4:30 p.m. in the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture at 8th and F Sts., N.W., in Washington, D.C. For more information about the series, visit

May 1, 2008

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