A story night with Anna Deavere Smith

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Anna Deavere Smith, an educator, an actress, and a storyteller, gave a unique performance on Feb. 18th, 2020 at the Krannert Centre for the Performing Arts. This is a new and creative form of theatre, by performing portrayals of people she has listened to and interviewed, demonstrated what she calls the “complex identities of America”.

By Jiaxuan Meng

Profile of Anna Deavere Smith

Through the one-hour event, Anna Deavere Smith created a unique form of performance. She brought audiences portrayals and stories of different people she has been interviewed across the country for decades, “recreating diversity of emotions and points of view on controversial issues”.

Knowing Anna Deavere Smith

Honestly speaking, I didn’t know Anna before the event. When she first showed up on the stage, I thought she might be a stand-up comedian who brought laughs and jokes to audiences. She surely did it. We laughed a lot, we applauded a lot and we had a wonderful night with Anna.

Emotions and inspirations

In addition to laughs and jokes, what impressed me most is her theme of the performance. She was not only telling the stories, telling the jokes, making people laugh, what she really tried to achieve is to bring “people across the chasms and the complex identities of America”. And she did it! She is not only an actress, a playwriter, she is also an educator who brings us thoughts and inspirations.

Anna Deavere Smith on the stage

Unique Style

Anna Deavere Smith is best known for her “documentary theatre” style, also called verbatim theatre, which as the sole performer of multiple and diverse characters based on interviews she had conducted with numerous people.

Different from documentary films, her performance is much more interactive and engaging. She transformed herself into a great number of different characters on the stage. She was able to portray a whole lot of different interviewees by changing her voices and body gestures. On the stage, she dressed in black without a very representative set or costumes. Although she didn’t move a lot and she consistently stood behind her microphone; we, as the audiences, still could follow her presentation easily and smoothly.

My ticket of the performance

Thank you, Anna. Thanks for bringing us your missions and your stories.

It was a great and unique night.

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