By Carley Crain
Actor, playwright, National Humanities Medal recipient, journalist, and activist – Anna Deavere Smith can do it all. On Sept. 29 in the field house, Smith lectured, performed, and met with the Springfield College community to discuss her life as an artist in the entertainment industry.
Most known for her roles in Inventing Anna, The West Wing and Nurse Jackie, Smith’s expressive and powerful tone captivates audiences.
While many students and other Springfield community members know Smith primarily from one of her acting roles, students in English courses on campus, such as African American Literature II taught by Justine Dymond, know Smith’s most recent work, Notes From The Field, very well. Notes From The Field tackles the modern issues of police brutality and the school-to-prison pipeline in a series of monologues based on real-life stories.
To kick off the ninth annual Arts and Humanities Speaker Series, Rachel Rubinstein, the Dean of Arts and Sciences, introduced Smith to a packed and eager crowd. Before the evening lecture, Smith met with a handful of selected students for a more intimate conversation.
Smith’s dedication to activism, service, and social justice issues aligns well with Springfield’s mantra of spirit, mind and body. She made this a focal point of her speech, as well as the College’s focus on sports. Smith also connected with the specific audience she was talking to by keeping her energy high.
As she walked up to the podium to begin, Smith lightly chuckled and shouted, “You must be a sports school, you all know how to yell!”
Smith repeatedly stated during her lecture, “If you say a word enough it becomes you.”
She kept coming back to this phrase – and explained how racism is a set of behaviors that manifests over time if nothing is done to stop it.
Smith kept the tone of her speech upbeat for the entire hour, and would switch between speaking and performing. The audience’s eyes were glued to the stage and large screens for the entirety of her talk. The way Smith communicates is unlike any other speaker most students have experienced on campus.
“For me, being on stage and performing is a call to action for people who need to be more active. Performance has a way of knowing you,” Smith explained.
After her hour-long presentation, Smith answered questions from the audience and met with members of the Springfield College community to sign two of her books, Letters to a Young Artist and Talk to Me: Listening Between the Lines that were on sale.
Smith’s thought-provoking and powerful presentation left a lasting impression among the eager audience.
Photo Courtesy Springfield College