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Anna Deavere Smith

Anna Deavere Smith

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Also Known As: Anna Young Died:
Born: September 18, 1950 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Baltimore, Maryland, USA Profession: playwright, actress, director, teacher

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Known just as well for her socially relevant work as a playwright as for her stunning reputation as an actor, Anna Deavere Smith was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1950. After graduating from Arcadia University with her Bachelor's in 1971, she earned an MFA in acting from American Conservatory Theater and embarked upon a career as a professional actor. Though she would earn quick notoriety for playing Glamorama the Shampoo Girl on the soap opera "All My Children" (ABC, 1970-2011) in 1970, Deavere Smith would find a real home on the stage, appearing in productions like the Riverside Shakespeare's "The Merry Wives of Windsor" and The American Place Theatre's "Aye, Aye, Aye, I'm Integrated." In 1992, she wrote and starred in "Fires in the Mirror," her first of several one-woman-shows written in the documentary theater style, with Deavere Smith portraying several real-life people who survived a socially tumultuous historical event. She would earn tremendous acclaim with several such plays including "Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992," "The Arizona Project," "Let Me Down Easy," and "On Grace." Deavere Smith has also consistently worked as a college professor, teaching at Stanford University, the University of...

Known just as well for her socially relevant work as a playwright as for her stunning reputation as an actor, Anna Deavere Smith was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1950. After graduating from Arcadia University with her Bachelor's in 1971, she earned an MFA in acting from American Conservatory Theater and embarked upon a career as a professional actor. Though she would earn quick notoriety for playing Glamorama the Shampoo Girl on the soap opera "All My Children" (ABC, 1970-2011) in 1970, Deavere Smith would find a real home on the stage, appearing in productions like the Riverside Shakespeare's "The Merry Wives of Windsor" and The American Place Theatre's "Aye, Aye, Aye, I'm Integrated." In 1992, she wrote and starred in "Fires in the Mirror," her first of several one-woman-shows written in the documentary theater style, with Deavere Smith portraying several real-life people who survived a socially tumultuous historical event. She would earn tremendous acclaim with several such plays including "Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992," "The Arizona Project," "Let Me Down Easy," and "On Grace." Deavere Smith has also consistently worked as a college professor, teaching at Stanford University, the University of Southern California, Carnegie Mellon University, and NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, in addition to enjoying a successful career on screen. She notably appeared in the White House films "Dave" (1993) and "The American President" (1995) before joining the cast of the presidential series "The West Wing" (NBC, 1999-2006). She later co-starred on the series "Nurse Jackie" (Showtime, 2009-2015). In 2018, Deavere Smith appeared in the biographical dramedy "Can You Ever Forgive Me?"

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

2.
4.
 Kingdom, The (2007)
5.
 Life Support (2007)
6.
 Rent (2005)
8.
 The Human Stain (2003) Mrs. [Dorothy] Silk
9.
10.
 American President, The (1995) Robin Mccall
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1993:
Appeared in Jonathan Demme's film about AIDS and homosexuality, "Philadelphia"
1992:
Breakthrough role as the solo performer playing multiple and diverse characters in "Fires in the Mirror"; also wrote play
2008:
Co-starred in Jonathan Demme's "Rachel Getting Married"
1983:
Made TV debut on the ABC daytime soap, "All My Children"
:
Was a professor in the drama department at Stanford University
1983:
First play produced, "On the Road"
2000:
Had a recurring role as District Attorney Kate Brunner on "The Practice" (ABC)
2001:
Had a recurring role on the NBC White House drama, "The West Wing"; created by Aaron Sorkin
1982:
Feature film debut, "Soup for One"
1995:
Played the president's press secretary in Rob Reiner's "The American President"; scripted by Aaron Sorkin
2003:
Cast in "The Human Stain," opposite Anthony Hopkins and Nicole Kidman
2005:
Co-starred in the film adaptation of the Broadway musical, "Rent"
1997:
First produced stage play with a cast of actors, "House Arrest: First Edition"
2009:
Headlined her solo show "Let Me Down Easy" at off-Broadway's Second Stage
1974:
Made her stage debut in "Horatio"
1986:
Moved to Los Angeles
2007:
Played Deputy National Security Advisor in Peter Berg's "The Kingdom"
1999:
Reworked the stage play of "House Arrest" for the Los Angeles stage
:
Taught acting at New York University
1978:
Was an assistant professor of theater at Carnegie-Mellon University
1993:
Once again was the solo performer of multiple characters in "Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992"; first opened in LA and later moved to NY; nominated for two Tony Awards for Best Actress and Best Play
2000:
Starred in film version of "Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992"; presented in a special screening at the Sundance Film Festival
2009:
Cast as hospital administrator Mrs. Akalitus in Showtime's dark comedy, "Nurse Jackie"
:
Began appearing on the soap opera "All My Children" as Glamorama the Shampoo Girl.
:
Played Mistress Quickly in a Riverside Shakespeare production of "The Merry Wives of Windsor."
:
Co-starred in a production of "Aye, Aye, Aye, I'm Integrated" at The American Place Theatre.
:
Played Mrs. Davis in the political comedy film "Dave."
:
Became a professor at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts.
:
Wrote and starred in the acclaimed play "The Arizona Project."
:
Took on the recurring role of Rainbow's mother Alicia on the series "Black-ish."
:
Appeared in the biographical dramedy "Can You Ever Forgive Me?"
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Education

American Conservatory Theatre: San Francisco, California -
Western High School: Baltimore, Maryland - 1967
Beaver College: Glenside, Pennsylvania - 1971

Notes

Smith received a 1996 MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Grant.

"I wanted not just to be part of the theater 'tradition'. I felt that the theater tradition in this country was too far behind the times.I think that art is supposed to be ahead of the times.

"I knew that I could not rely on my theater colleagues to get me 'with' the times, so I knew I was going to have to find a way to use art to put myself among the American people, in order to discover something about the American character. That's why I go out and interview poeple instead of making up things in my head; there's a trap that every play that I did would have MY voice, and not an American one." -- Smith quoted in "Ms. Smith Goes to Washington" by Diane Haithman, Los Angeles Times, January 24, 1995.

"Maybe there is something more strategic to what I'm doing than I realize. It has always been my nature never to be trapped in any ghetto, and when I saw through my training as an artist that [theater] could be a ghetto, I immediately started to move away and to find allies elsewhere." -- from "Ms. Smith Goes to Washington" in Los Angeles Times, January 24, 1995.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Deaver Smith. Retired coffee merchant. Died in 1995.
mother:
Anna Smith. Elementary school principal.
sister:
Rosalind Allen. Born c. 1960.

Bibliography close complete biography

"Talk to Me: Listening Between the Lines" Random House

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