Anna Deavere Smith

Anna Deavere Smith

UCSB Arts & Lectures will host playwright, actor and educator Anna Deavere Smith performing Notes From the Field Snapshots: Portraits of a World in Transition, 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 2. The virtual presentation is part of UCSB A&L’s Race to Justice series. Ticket holders will be able to replay this event for one week.

Smith uses her brand of theater to explore issues of community, character and diversity in America. Honored by the MacArthur Foundation for creating “a new form of theatre – a blend of theatrical art, social commentary, journalism and intimate reverie,” she has been listening to people across the U.S. from all walks of life for decades, using Walt Whitman’s idea “to absorb America” as an inspiration.

To illustrate her goal of bringing “people across the chasms” of what she calls the “complex identities of America,” Smith performs portrayals of people she has interviewed, recreating a diversity of emotions and points of view on controversial issues.

The event is the culmination of an extensive residency working with students and faculty in the UCSB Department of Theater and Dance sponsored by Jody and John Arnhold.

This 45-minute presentation will be followed by a Q&A moderated by Stephanie Leigh Batiste, UCSB professor of English.

Best known for crafting more than 15 one-woman shows drawn from hundreds of interviews, Smith turns these conversations into scripts and transforms herself on stage into an astonishing number of characters.

Her most recent play, “Notes from the Field,” looks at the school-to-prison pipeline and injustice and inequality in low-income communities. Winner of an Obie Award and the 2017 Lortel Award for Outstanding Solo Show, “Notes from the Field” was named one of the Top 10 Plays of the year by Time magazine.

“Notes from the Field,” is a collection of students and teachers, counselors and congressmen, preachers and prisoners discussing their direct and indirect experiences with the school-to-prison pipeline.

In 2012, Smith was awarded the National Humanities Medal, presented by President Barack Obama, and in 2015, she was named the Jefferson Lecturer, the nation’s highest honor in the humanities. She also is the recipient of the 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 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 U.S.

Currently, Smith appears on ABC’s series “Black-ish” and the ABC legal drama “For the People.” She is probably most recognizable 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.”

Tickets are $10 for the general public, free for UCSB students (registration required).

For tickets and more information, call UCSB Arts & Lectures, 805-893-3535 or visit