Anna Deavere Smith Graces Mount With Amazing Performance

Image courtesy of: http://www.blackfilm.com/read/2016/11/creator-anna-deavere-smiths-notes-field-tackles-issues-many-voices/

By James McVey

It seems hard to believe that there exists such a person that can put on a mesmerizing one-hour performance that includes a free emotional roller coaster ride, but that person came to the Aquinas Theatre on Oct. 12.

Anna Deavere Smith, a playwright, actress and educator, acted out her award-winning performance of “Notes From the Field” for various members Mount community.

A pioneer of “Verbatim theatre”, Deavere’s performance is a word for word recount of a selection of interviews she held with people from all walks of life. She hoped to capture a vast array of people and their unique personalities and finding commonalities that affect them.

Selecting nine interviews used in “Notes From the Field” Deavere recounts the horrors of the school to prison pipeline as experienced by well-known political figures, victims, inmates, juveniles, and more while mimicking their speech patterns, tone, and emotion.

Watching Deavere transform again and again on stage was a mesmerizing experience and really exhibited the power of theatre.

James Phillips, an associate professor of theatre at the Mount, said, “Anna Deavere-Smith is one of the most important American artists of the past century.  Her work is both exciting and compelling, and her ability to reveal truths hidden by complex problems is unique in American theatre.”

During the post-performance Q&A session, many audience members expressed how passionate they were about seeing a change to this negative recurrence of minorities being funneled from public schools into prisons. Administrators, educators, social workers, corrections officers, and veterans each had personal experiences that opened their minds to this problematic pathway.