The Humanities Initiative cannot be more excited to congratulate actress, playwright, and NYU University Professor Anna Deavere Smith on winning a 2012 National Humanities Medal this week from President Obama, for her years of engaging work in the theater and on the TV screen. She has devoted much of her career to discovering the American psyche through interviews, and relaying her findings through the theater. Her lifelong project On the Road: A Search for American Character has embodied this goal, in which she has interviewed varied people throughout the United States and later personified them herself. Deavere Smith has written numerous plays that center around these topics, including Fires in the Mirror (about the South Bronx and Brooklyn), and Twilight: Los Angeles (about the 1992 Los Angeles riots). Her performances on the television series The West Wing, as national security advisor Dr. Nancy McNally, and currently on Nurse Jackie as Gloria Alkalitus, have won her wide praise. She is also the author of two books.
Deavere Smith, in addition to the 2012 NEH Humanities Medal, is the winner of the 2013 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, has been nominated for Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize, and was one of the MacArthur Fellowship “genius award” recipients in 1996.
For more information, and to view all of this year’s Humanities Medal recipients, visit the National Endowment for the Humanities.
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