Actress and Playwright Anna Deavere Smith Will Perform and Teach Classes in "Listening" at Yale School of Medicine
Anna Deavere Smith, the actress, playwright and teacher known for her ability to converse and listen to others and then transform the conversations into startling, introspective dramas, will teach and perform at Yale School of Medicine November 15-18.
Smith, the Daniel James Memorial Visiting Professor sponsored by the Department of Internal Medicine, will perform an original theatrical piece November 17 entitled “Rounding it Out,” which is based on the stories of patients whose illnesses are shaped by social and economic disadvantage. To create this original piece, she interviewed a number of patients and their families, physicians and nurses from the New Haven area to achieve a better understanding of the adversity patients face as they experience serious illness.
“The goal of her performance is to illustrate how better to hear what patients are saying and to help us gain a better understanding of the struggle patients, especially those from the lower socioeconomic group, go through in dealing with their illness,” said Asghar Rastegar, M.D., professor and associate chair for academic affairs.
In addition to the performance, Smith will meet with students and residents in a series of meetings revolving around the civic duties of physicians. Her visit to Yale is the last in a four-part Medical Grand Rounds sponsored by the Department of Internal Medicine and entitled “The Civic Responsibility of Physicians.”
Smith is the author of several plays, including “Fire in the Mirror” and “Twilight, Los Angeles.” She is winner of Obie, the Drama Desk Award, as well as a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship Award.
Smith gained national attention initially by her ongoing series of plays entitled “On the Road: A Search for American Character.” These plays were created from a series of interviews of ordinary people across America.
In 1992, she conceived and performed her play, “Fires in the Mirror: Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and Other Identities,” in which she performed 26 characters caught in this crisis, exploring the attitude and social circumstances that lead to the riot in Crown Heights. This was followed by her one-woman play about the Rodney King affair entitled “Twilight: Los Angeles,” in which she portrays the famous and ordinary individuals whose lives were impacted by this event.
Most recently she portrayed the relationship between the press and U.S. presidents in the play, “House Arrest.” She discusses the process of developing these plays in her book “Talk to Me.” In addition, Smith has been a teacher holding the title of university professor at Stanford for 10 years before moving this fall to New York University.
For the past three years, she has led the summer Institute on the Arts and Civic Dialogue at Harvard, which brings together artists from all over the world to create works in progress with the participation of a multicultural audience committed to attending every performance.
Her performance will be held on November 17 at 1 p.m. in Harkness Auditorium, Sterling Hall of Medicine, 333 Cedar St. The performance is free and open to the public.