Anna Deavere Smith to Present ‘Snapshots: Portraits of a World in Transition’ on April 6
For Immediate Release
Galloway, N.J. - Anna Deavere Smith, a nationally known playwright, educator and actress whose credits include roles on The West Wing, Nurse Jackie, Black-ish and Madam Secretary, will give a public presentation titled: “Snapshots: Portraits of a World in Transition,” at Stockton University on Thursday, April 6 at 6 p.m.
Deavere Smith’s appearance is the second in the Dean C. and Zoe Pappas Visiting Scholar series. The program was endowed in 2012 by Dean Pappas, a university trustee who died in 2016, and his wife, Zoe, to expose the campus and wider community to profound and inspiring thought leaders. The inaugural Visiting Scholar was retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman appointed to the court.
“Stockton students, alumni, faculty and staff and the entire southern New Jersey community continue to benefit from the enormous generosity of the Pappas family,” said President Harvey Kesselman. “In life, Dean Pappas gave of his time and talent as a trustee for 10 years. He and his wife, Zoe, committed over $1.4 million to the university, including $1 million to bring distinguished visiting scholars such as Anna Deavere Smith here for public presentations. He wanted Stockton students to have access to ‘transformational experiences’ similar to the one he had as an undergraduate in 1961, when he heard the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speak at Dickinson College. We are proud to honor the Pappas’ living legacy.”
In her presentations, Deavere Smith transforms into living portraits, creating a diversity of emotions and points of view on timely issues. Through a theatrical multi-character presentation, she highlights issues of community, character and diversity in America.
Her work grows from interviews she does while traveling through the U.S. and abroad, editing them down and bringing the subjects to life. She rarely plays herself, but has occasionally portrayed famous people including Lance Armstrong, and the late Texas governor Ann Richards in her indictment of the health care system, 2009’s “Let Me Down Easy.”
Smith’s work includes her current one-woman show playing at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Mass., “Notes from the Field: Doing Time in Education.” In it, she portrays young and old, males and females, who experience violence and inequality in America. The underlying theme is how for many black Americans, the civil rights crisis in their schools and society leads not to a career, but to prison.
“By turning herself into a diverse array of Americans, the playwright also transforms her audience,” The New Yorker said.
“It’s impossible to talk about theatrical performance these days without mentioning Anna Deavere Smith,” said Carra Hood, assistant provost for programs and planning. “She has taken solo performance to a unique place, transforming herself as she transforms her audience, to empathize with individuals she and the members of her audience might never encounter.
“Truly memorable, Deavere Smith projects awareness of the existential dilemma faced by people of color, immigrants, and those living in poverty in this country. I have always learned about myself and about the world I live in as a result of watching her perform onstage.”
Smith played Dr. Nancy McNally on NBC’s The West Wing, hospital administrator Gloria Akalitus in the Showtime series Nurse Jackie, and Alicia, mother of Rainbow, the main character played by Tracee Ross Ellis on Black-ish, among her television series roles.
She is currently the artist-in-residence at the Center for American Progress, a progressive policy research and advocacy organization in Washington, D.C. In 2015, she was named the Jefferson Lecturer by the National Endowment for the Humanities, which termed the lecture “the highest honor the federal government confers for distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities.”
Over the past three decades, she has been the recipient of a MacArthur “genius” grant, a Guggenheim fellowship and a professorship at Stanford.
Smith’s program will be held in the Sports Center. Tickets are free, but access to seating must be pre-arranged. To reserve a seat through the Stockton Performing Arts Center (PAC), please call 609-652-9000 or visit stockton.edu/pac.
For more information on the Pappas Visiting Scholar Series, visit stockton.edu/pappas.