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Anna Deavere Smith to Present at SUNY Arts Now Conference - Public Discussion Blends Theatre, Social Commentary, and Intimate Reverie

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09/06/2001

NEW PALTZ -- Image available at http://hawk.newpaltz.edu/news/images/AnnaDeavereSmith2.jpgCelebrated playwright, author and actor Anna Deavere Smith will deliver a keynote lecture and discussion on Thursday, September 20, 2001 to attendees of the 2001 Arts Now Conference, "Sites of Conflict: Art in a Culture of Violence." The presentation is preceded by a viewing of Smith's acclaimed film adaptation of her one-woman play Twilight: Los Angeles, at 4:00 pm in Lecture Center room 112 at SUNY New Paltz. At 7:30 pm, Smith takes to the stage at Julien J. Studley Theatre for a public conversation on issues common to Twilight: Los Angeles and the Arts Now Conference. Admission is charged at the door. Students, staff and faculty are admitted free of charge with valid I.D. A book signing and reception follows the event at the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art.

Twilight: Los Angeles is Anna Deavere Smith's powerful one-woman, multi-voiced theater piece about the 1991 Rodney King beating, the violent aftermath of the 1992 verdict, and the lasting impact of the L.A. riots on America's conscience. Award-winning director Marc Levin weaves Smith's virtuosic stage performance with news footage and recent interviews to create an unflinching portrait of rage, sorrow, loss, and battered hope.

Ms. Smith's performance of Twilight: Los Angeles at the historic Ford's Theater in Washington, D.C. in early 1997 drew audiences that included President and Mrs. Clinton and Vice President Gore. Those performances led Smith to conclude that despite the passage of time, the relevance of the play remains far-reaching: "I think it's because the issues that were raised in Los Angeles in 1992 are unresolved and what they mean to us is not entirely clear. Current events keep putting them in a different light" (Taken from Production Notes, courtesy of Yahoo).

Smith continues, in her distinctive style, to examine sites of conflict from diverse perspectives, using what the MacArthur Foundation referred to as a "blend of theatrical art, social commentary, journalism and intimate reverie." Says Smith of her method: "It is not a result. It is not an answer. It is not a solution. I am first looking for the humanness inside the problems, or the crises." Theatre and spoken word provide the ideal avenue to relate that innate humanness. The New York Times calls Smith "the ultimate impressionist: she does people's souls." By exploring the private, individual responses to violence, Smith offers catharsis and builds a shared sense of responsibility.

Anna Deavere Smith is the current Ann O'Day Professor of the Arts at Stanford University. In December of 1996, the Ford Foundation named Smith as its first Artist-In-Residence and in 1998 Smith founded the Institute on the Arts & Civic Dialogue at Harvard University to explore the role of the artist in society. As a playwright and performer, Ms. Smith has, over the past nineteen years, created a body of theatrical works that she calls On the Road: A Search For American Character. This collection includes Twilight: Los Angeles, which received two Tony nominations, an Obie Award, a Drama Desk Award, a Special Citation from the New York Drama Critics, and two NAACP Theatre Awards; Fires in the Mirror: Crown Heights, Brooklyn And Other Identities, an Obie winner and runner-up for the 1993 Pulitzer Prize; and numerous other critically-acclaimed works. The film adaptation of Twilight, conceived, written and performed by Smith and directed by Marc Levin, premiered at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival and was broadcast on PBS this spring as part of the prime time drama series, "Stage on Screen."

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Note to editors: Images of Anna Deavere Smith are available on the web at http://hawk.newpaltz.edu/news/images/twilight.html. Other images are available: call 845-257-3872.

SUNY New Paltz is a university of nearly 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students located in the Mid-Hudson Valley halfway between New York City and Albany. SUNY New Paltz is committed to providing high quality, affordable education to students from all social and economic backgrounds. For more information about the university, visit its web site at http://www.newpaltz.edu.