Anna Deavere Smith’s extraordinary form of documentary theater shines a light on injustices by portraying the real-life people who have experienced them. In Notes from the Field, she renders a host of figures who have lived and fought the system that pushes students of color out of the classroom and into prisons. (As Smith has put it: “Rich kids get mischief, poor kids get pathologized and incarcerated.”) Using people’s own words, culled from interviews and speeches, Smith depicts Rev. Jamal Harrison Bryant, who eulogized Freddie Gray; Niya Kenny, a high school student who confronted a violent police deputy; activist Bree Newsome, who took the Confederate flag down from the South Carolina State House grounds; and many others. Their voices bear powerful witness to a great iniquity of our time—and call us to action with their accounts of resistance and hope.
About the Author
Anna Deavere Smith is an actress, teacher, playwright, and the creator of the acclaimed On the Road series of one-woman plays, which are based on her interviews with diverse voices from communities in crisis. A recipient of the National Humanities Medal from President Obama and two Obie Awards, her work also been nominated for a Pulitzer and two Tonys. Onscreen, she has appeared in many films and television shows, including Philadelphia, The West Wing, Black-ish, and Nurse Jackie. She is University Professor in the department of Art & Public Policy at NYU, where she also directs the Institute on the Arts and Civic Dialogue. In 2019, she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
“Invaluable. . . . Absorbing. . . . Dazzling.” —The New York Times
“Deeply moving. . . . Dazzling stagecraft meets dazzling spectacle. . . . Magnificent. . . . Wonderful.” —Newsday
“Moving. . . . Smith is an effective and supremely talented conduit.” —Los Angeles Times
“Anna Deavere Smith has created one of her most ambitious and powerful works on how matters of race continue to divide and enslave the nation.” —Variety
“Devastating. . . . Astonishing. . . . Unquestionably great theater.” —Vulture
“Brilliant. . . . Anna Deavere Smith may be the most empathetic person in America.” —HuffPost
“[A] masterpiece. . . . Smith’s powerful style of living journalism uses the collective, cathartic nature of the theater to move us from despair toward hope.” —The Village Voice
“Urgently timely. . . . Audacious and mind-opening.” —Time Out New York
“This is captivating political theatre, a devastating document of racial inequality and the most rousing of rallying calls. Everyone should watch it.” —The Guardian
“A tour de force. . . . A coruscating indictment of the school-to-prison pipeline.” —Financial Times
“Stirring. . . . Powerful. . . . The scope is almost Shakespearean: the voices range from policy professionals to people on the street. If there’s an overarching thrust . . . it lies in the suggestion that the struggle for civil rights is ongoing: the legacy of segregation, its trauma too, endures and reasserts itself.” —The Telegraph (London)