About Anna Deavere Smith


ANNA DEAVERE SMITH has been teaching acting for nearly forty years. She has taught in some of the nation’s most prestigious arts education environments. Currently a tenured professor at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, she previously taught at Stanford University, Carnegie Mellon University, Yale University, University of Southern California, The Lincoln Center Institute, the Pennsylvania Governor’s School and the American Conservatory Theater.

While studying at the American Conservatory Theater, when she wrote her MFA thesis, “Towards Developing A Method”, she aspired to find more inclusive ways of thinking about how humans engage in the world and how they communicate. She began to see human physical and linguistic behavior as a kind of mimicry that assigns us each to pre- existing identity groups: race, gender, social class, etc. Not satisfied that the Stanislavsky inspired century old teachings were as universal as they were said to be, she set out, early in her career to workshop new ways of broadening an actor’s range of expression. Now, after thirty years in show business, and in academia, she is opening her classroom, which has been limited to university settings, to a broader public. Central to her multi-faceted career has been teaching.

Ms. Smith is said to have created a new form of theatre. Her signature theater form based on interviews has inspired new forms of theater world wide.

She is known to television audiences, as Nancy McNally on The West Wing and Gloria Akalitus on Nurse Jackie.

She is the recipient of many awards, among them two Obies, two Tony nominations, the prestigious MacArthur (“genius”) prize, and the Gish Award. She was runner up for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama for her play Fires in the Mirror. Honorary degrees are numerous and include those from Juilliard, Barnard, the University of Pennsylvania, Wesleyan, Williams College, Northwestern University as well as many others.

The work she does on stage is considered among other things, to be a demonstration of not only her acting skills, but her listening skills and her aptitude for empathy. This class will focus on the actor as an empathic creature – and acting as a form of empathy.  Her hand picked faculty, have some of the most fine tuned teaching skills one can find. The work will be supported by opportunities to talk and reflect on many aspects of our human condition. Hospitality and fellowship will be a part of our daily activity.  Smith sees acting as first and foremost a study of humanity, and the acting classroom as a laboratory where all aspects of our humanness are explored.