Professor Anna Deavere Smith appointed to the George Eastman Visiting Professorship

anna deavere smith

We’re delighted to announce that Anna Deavere Smith has been appointed as the George Eastman Visiting Professor for Michaelmas Term 2023. Professor Smith is a Tony and Pulitzer Prize nominated playwright and actor, and she currently teaches at the NYU Tisch School of the Arts.

Professor Smith's plays include Fires In the Mirror, Twilight: Los Angeles (a text studied by our students), House Arrest, and Let Me Down Easy. Twilight: Los Angeles was nominated for two Tony Awards. Fires in the Mirror was runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize. Her acting roles include playing Dr. Nancy McNally in The West Wing, Gloria Akalitus in Nurse Jackie and Tina Krissman on the Shonda Rhimes-produced series For the People.

In 1996, Professor Smith was one of the recipients of the MacArthur ‘Genius’ grant, which is awarded to individuals working in any field who have shown “extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction”.

In 2012, Professor Smith was awarded the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, one of the most prestigious prizes in the American Arts, which is awarded to "a man or woman who has made an outstanding contribution to the beauty of the world and to mankind's enjoyment and understanding of life." In the same year, she was awarded the National Endowment for the Humanities Medal by President Obama.

As a playwright and actor Professor Smith is celebrated for her bold innovation in documentary theatre. As Eastman Professor this term, Professor Smith will lead two playwriting sessions (‘Causing a Scene or Scene-ing a Cause’) in which participants’ compositions will be discussed and workshopped with actors. Here, she is inviting writers to explore controversial matters and/or matters for which it is difficult to find words with the aim of provoking conversations on more than one side of an issue.

Professor Marion Turner, Chair of the English Faculty Board, said of the appointment: "We are extremely excited and honoured to be hosting Professor Anna Deavere Smith this coming term. She is an eminent playwright and actor, and it is especially pleasing that she is going to focus on student-centred activity while she is here, running workshops and engaging with aspiring playwrights. Our students will hugely benefit from her presence."