Anna Deavere Smith to perform as centerpiece of Vassar College’s Semester of “Storytelling”

Anna Deavere Smith

Award-winning actress, playwright and educator Anna Deavere Smith will perform Snapshots: Portraits of a World in Transition, as the culmination and centerpiece of the Vassar College Engaged Pluralism Initiative’s “Semester of Storytelling” on Wednesday, May 1 at 7:00 p.m. in the Majed J. Nesheiwat Convention Center, formerly the Mid-Hudson Civic Center. Vassar’s Semester of Storytelling is a series of events, residencies, and programs aimed at building new ways of learning about one another in our community, of building knowledge, and of bringing us closer together.

Free Admission, general seating, reservations are required.

The renowned Ms. Smith uses her singular brand of theatre to explore issues of community, character, and diversity in America. The MacArthur Foundation honored Smith with the “Genius” Fellowship for creating “a new form of theatre—a blend of theatrical art, social commentary, journalism, and intimate reverie.”

Ms. Smith has been interviewing and listening to people across the country from all walks of life for decades, using Walt Whitman’s call “to absorb America” as an inspiration. In service of her goal of bringing “people across the chasms” of what she calls the “complex identities of America,” Ms. Smith performs portrayals of the people she has interviewed, recreating a diversity of emotions and points of view on controversial issues.

Best known for crafting more than 15 one-woman shows, based on hundreds of conversations, Smith turns her interviews into scripts, transforming herself into an astonishing number of characters. In 2012, she was awarded the National Humanities Medal, presented by President Obama. In 2015, Smith was named the Jefferson Lecturer, the nation’s highest honor in the humanities. She also is the recipient of the prestigious Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and most recently, the 2017 Ridenhour Courage Prize and the George Polk Career Award for authentic journalism.

Smith’s Notes from the Field, winner of an Obie Award and the 2017 Nortel Award for Outstanding Solo Show, examines the School-to-Prison Pipeline and injustice and inequality in low-income communities. Time Magazine named it one of the Top 10 Plays of the year. In his New York Times review of Notes from the Field, Ben Brantley called Smith “the American theater’s most dynamic and sophisticated oral historian.” The film adaptation of Notes from the Field aired on HBO in 2018 with executive production by Gary Goetzman and Smith.

Smith’s breakthrough plays, Fires in the Mirror, a runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize, and the Tony-nominated Twilight: Los Angeles, tackle issues of race and social inequality that have become touchstones of her work. Her portrayals of patients and medical professionals in Let Me Down Easy delivered a vivid look at healthcare in the United States. The show aired on PBS’ Great Performances.

She is probably most recognizable in popular culture for her roles as the hospital administrator on Showtime’s Nurse Jackie and the National Security Advisor on NBC’s The West Wing. Her films include The American President, Rachel Getting Married, and Philadelphia. She appears as Rainbow’s mother Alicia on ABC’s hit series Black-ish and stars in the ABC legal drama, For the People.

Smith is the founding director of the Institute on the Arts and Civic Dialogue, launched at Harvard University and now housed at New York University, where she is a Professor at Tisch School of the Arts in Performance Studies, and at the NYU School of Law. Her books include Letters to a Young Artist and Talk to Me: Listening Between the Lines.

She has been an Artist-in-Residence at MTV Networks, the Ford Foundation, and Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. Smith was appointed to Bloomberg Philanthropies’ 2017 U.S. Mayors Challenge Committee, a nationwide competition urging innovative solutions for the toughest issues confronting U.S. cities. She holds honorary degrees from Yale, the University of Pennsylvania, and Julliard, among others.

This event is sponsored by Vassar College’s Engaged Pluralism Initiative, The Office of the Dean of the Faculty, The Office of the Dean of the College, The Office of Student Growth and Engagement, The American Studies Program, The Drama Department, The English Department, The Film Department, and The Religion Department, The Vassar Student Association, The Social Consciousness Fund, The Philaletheis Society, The Majed J. Nesheiwat Convention Center, The Helen Forster Novy 1928 Fund, and the Creative Arts Across Disciplines.

For more information about this event contact the Vassar College Box Office at (845) 437-5599 Monday–Friday, 10 a.m.–4 p.m.


Formerly known as the Mid-Hudson Civic Center, the Majed J. Nesheiwat Convention Center is located in Poughkeepsie, NY. Parking is available at the City of Poughkeepsie Municipal lots located between the Convention Center and The Poughkeepsie Grand Hotel, and directly across the street. The parking fee charges vary.

The convention center provides wheelchair and companion seating that can be reserved by calling the box office for this event, (845) 437-5599, during regular business hours, Monday–Friday, 10 a.m.–4 p.m.

Vassar College is a coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861. Beginning in Fall 2017, Vassar College embarked on a dynamic and responsive process to cultivate an environment where all members of our community can belong and thrive. The Engaged Pluralism Initiative (EPI) is an evolving community initiative to reimagine what it means to live, work, and learn together. The initiative is co-sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Vassar College.