Anna Deavere Smith

Anna Deavere Smith
Anna Deavere Smith
  • Born: September 18, 1950
  • Nationality: American
  • Profession: Actress, Playwright, Professor









Quote Topics Cited
When things fall apart you sometimes can see more. You might even be able to see how to put things back together. Secrecy & Transparency ;Reform, Change, Transformation & Reformers
A lot of acting techniques are very self-oriented.
Artists are the people that no matter what, pick up the pen, pick up a paintbrush. They take the time to translate what is happening to create something that resonates deeply with the rest of the people that are caught in the middle of their own reality. Time
Because of the generation in which I came into the world, there were expectations. Of course there were expectations. It was something having to do with being a respectable Negro woman who would make the people in Baltimore proud.
Each person has a literature inside them.
For me, first of all, I love people, I love ideas. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
Friendship is a wildly underrated medication. Friendship
I am interested in personal stories because that's when people become expressive, spontaneous and heartfelt.
I am lucky: I have fantastic doctors and a fantastic dentist.
I call the language of political figures, pundits and administrators 'the haute couture of language.'
I don't talk a lot when I interview. My job is to get out of the way.
I feel like my work has been my path to freedom from having grown up in a segregated environment. Freedom & Liberty ;Work, Workers & The Labor Force
I have a lot of optimism about new doctors because I think it's really clear that it's a lot of hard work and no guarantee of a lot of money. Money, Coins & Minting ;Work, Workers & The Labor Force
I have never been in a violent movie or television show.
I love studying how people are. Not just what they're saying, but how they are, what they're doing. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
I made a real specific decision when I came out of school and most artists were writing about home - if you were a woman, you were writing about being a woman - and I decided not to do that, write about what you know. That's not what I do. I went as far away from home as possible in terms of the development of my imagination.
I mean, I think a healthy country is a country where people are healthy physically, and a smart country is a country where people are educated.
I mean, I think that - as an actress, in particular, I'm basically a fool, and I see the world upside down.
I never know when somebody's going to knock on the door of my own unconscious in a way that I wouldn't have anticipated.
I remember from my father's funeral that the minister kept using a metaphor about life of a prism. And I took that away like a cherished image. Life
I see myself as not a typical theater person, but a person who uses the theater as a place to meet people and explore ideas.
I see myself first and foremost as a student of expression.
I talk about race a lot. It's been my work ever since I came out of acting school. But it's true that in a way talking about race is a taboo. Because so many of our debates about race have to do not with race but with what we are willing to see, what we will not see and what we don't want to see. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
I think a lot of L.A. is something like USC - this incredible white culture living in the midst of color, and no obvious reaction to it at all. I mean, they have guards at the gate at USC - guards at the gate of a major university! And the guards chase young black boys away - I've seen it, chasing 8-year-old boys.
I think as a kid I always liked to listen to people. I loved hearing stories.
I think it's really important to give yourself a very big question that you're working on that you can come home to, even if you, you know, are going to have to go without a cup of coffee or even a meal, that that should nourish you.
I think some of our most talented people are not going to pick the arts as a way that they're going to spend their lives.
I think that art is supposed to be ahead of the times. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
I think we need leadership that helps us remember that part of what we are about is caring about more than the person right next to us, but the folks across the way. Leaders & Leadership
I was a mimic when I was a child. I mimicked the teacher and made friends that way, actually. That was a very subversive activity, because I was a goody-goody who never got in trouble. But if I went off in the corner and mimicked the teacher, people loved it. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
I would love to have been a documentary filmmaker; I just didn't have the resources to do that. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
I write plays about big, intense subjects.
Identity is an assemblage of constellations.
If I do three interviews in a day, I can be exhausted, because the process of hearing everyone requires that I empty out myself. While I'm listening, my own judgments and prejudices certainly come up. But I know I won't get anything unless I get those things out of the way.
If you think about what acting is supposed to be, my job is to disappear.
I'm interested when things are upside down - because there are so many possibilities in that one moment. There is a lot that is exposed.
In my own life I'm frequently in predominantly white atmospheres. Life
In my profession, I'm around a lot of people whose bodies are their instruments in one way or another.
Learning is a tunnel experience that makes us think more broadly. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
Listening is not just hearing what someone tells you word for word. You have to listen with a heart. I don't want that to sound touchy-feely; it is not. It is very hard work. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
Making your life is ultimately an extraordinarily creative endeavor. Life
Many people are afraid to talk about race because it's so emotionally loaded. We don't have the vocabulary to talk about it. Every day, our vocabulary seems more and more inadequate.
Movies, as evidenced by a chorus of protesting and celebrating Americans, influence broader trends. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
My main concern is theater, and theater does not reflect or mirror society. It has been stingy and selfish, and it has to do better. Society
My work is about giving voice to the unheard, and reiterating the voice of the heard in such a way that you question, or re-examine, what is the truth. Truth ;Work, Workers & The Labor Force
Not that many people, even contemporary writers, write about right now.
Over time, my students have gotten richer and more educated. Time
People in power have to be careful about what comes out of their mouth. They have to find exactly the right word that can't be attacked. Power
People who are sick, or who have been sick, or have come close to death have a lot to say - and they want you to hear it. Death
President Obama called for a 'we' nation in his Inauguration Address. Art convenes. It is not just inspirational. It is aspirational. It pricks the walls of our compartmentalized minds, opens our hearts and makes us brave. And that's what we need most in our country today. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
Probably the person who said the only color in Los Angeles is green was right.
Racism has been for everyone like a horrible, tragic car crash, and we've all been heavily sedated from it. If we don't come into consciousness of this tragedy, there's going to be a violent awakening we don't want. The question is, can we wake up?
Somehow we can't live outside the politics of race. There's something very deep in all of us, that is taught to us when we are very, very little. Which is the disrespect and fear of the other. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
Suddenly in high school, I'm in a predominantly Jewish atmosphere. Jewish people were my gate to white America.
That artists are called to be more responsible and 'true' is a tip of hat to their power. Power
The American idea is as promising, imaginative, and full of the unexpected as the land itself. The land represents freedom - the frontier, the ability to make a new future with your own bare hands. Future ;Freedom & Liberty
There's not a lot of flash about me.
To live your life well, and have respect for what came before or after - there's a strong respect for that in African culture. Life ;Respect
We owe the government taxes. We owe our creditors interest. What do these powers owe us? Government
We would like doctors to listen, but the fact is, we better be ready to be able to talk to them. You're going to have to be an active participant in that conversation, so I'd say the American people are going to need ways of stepping up to the conversation.
Well, the terrible thing right now, and I don't know the statistics, but there's a growing concern in some communities about how rapidly people are sent from school to jail, how quickly they're put into the criminal justice system. And of course the rapidly growing number of brown people, both men and women, in prison. And this is terrible. Women
What my work is, is my approach to it. It's the practice. And my work is about the effort that I make to get there. And I think if there's anything artistic, it's in that middle space. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
When I got out of acting school, I was lucky to have gotten any job at all. A lot of people hiring African American actresses - it was right after 'Roots,' and for society, not me, it was great. Nice richly dark-skinned people was the fashion, and I was not. Society
When you think about it, words can break your heart, or they can change your day.
You hang around actors, or dancers, the minute you sneeze, everybody has a remedy, and we're all on a million different kinds of diets, and different kinds of things that we do for exercise.
You know if we were to look back and how we were in 1955 living in Jim Crow, living in segregation, living in segregated schools, it's hard to believe that it was America, but it really was.
You know, all kinds of people inspire me.
You know, interesting minds usually do hold more than one idea at a time. Time
You know, real artists, we expose our flaws. We long for intimacy.