“I think of what language is and does and can do,” said Smith in an interview prior to her dynamic, performance-style lecture featuring portrayals of various people she’s interviewed as part of her decade-spanning project documenting the American character. “That’s been my metaphor, where I’ve lived — not just in the stories of other people, but in their words and the manners in which they speak. What I’m trying to do is reach for that which is not me.” […]
“Her portrayal of Michael Tubbs, a city councilman from Stockton, Calif. — who was in the audience Monday — was particularly arresting. Adopting Tubbs’s mannerisms and speech patterns, Smith recalled the time he read to first graders during a campaign event and a 6-year-old boy told him flatly that his uncle had been shot and killed.
“Before I turned the page, everybody knew somebody who got shot or was a victim of a violent death,” Smith said. “How routine and how normal does that have to be that a 6-year-old could look you in the eye and say that so matter-of-factly? Six years old. What happens when they’re 7, 8, 9, 10?” [. . .]
“The humanities represent meaning — we can all go make a craft and learn how to do something, but that is the future of work, as in tasks, not a career,” Smith said before her lecture. “What’s a career? It’s an assemblage of experiences with the expectation that you will develop gravitas. You need the humanities to give you a larger worldview.” [. . .]
“Though bleak, such explorations of the “other” — many of which center on justice and equality — are for Smith and her characters a means of getting closer to the American promise of “a more perfect union.”
“Reaching For That Which Is Not Me”
Inside Higher Ed
"A More Perfect Union"
April 7th, 2015
The actress and playwright, Anna Deavere Smith delivered the the National Endowment for the Humanities’s annual Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. At this event, she stated that despite the inhospitable setting, the funds in cutting, and the political rhetoric, it is important to remember that "the humanities remain fundamentally American and full of promise."read more at insidehighered.com »