- “Early on in my work, I wanted to use my body as the evidence that a human being can
take on the identity of another. I think we all have immense potential for compassion as
individuals. But that gets stopped when we take on fixed positions.”
- On the Road: A Search for American Character
-Long-term project (1982-today)
- “Character lives in language. If you say a word often enough, it becomes you.”
- “Becoming” a character through impersonation
- Mimicry/mimesis - “imitation”
Racially divided community of Crown Heights, Brooklyn (90% African-
American/Afro-Carribean, 10% Lubavitcher), Tensions on both sides
August, 1991*, Crown Heights, Brooklyn: Two deaths: Gavin Cato & Yankel
Performance meets journalism, 26 interview subjects, Varying degrees of
closeness to the incident, Arranged to spiral closer and closer to those touched
directly by the violence, No ultimate statement of truth or fact, Words as
information, words as poetry
Every performance is a new interpretation
Majority of each character only has one excerpt from their interview- Reverend Al
Sharpton has more than one
Written in 1992- Anna Deavere Smith interviewed a wide variety of people who
had some theme connection to the shooting in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. One
young black child, Gavin Cato, was hit by the car of a Jewish leader in the
community, and a few hours later a young Jewish boy, Yankel Rosenbaum, was
stabbed to death by blacks.
This play is set up in interview form. The interviews are not in chronological
order. All characters in the play are played by Smith.
Crown Heights, Brooklyn
There is no main character. The characters all have small monologues with
varying degree of knowledge of the event- some speak twice- that come from real
interviews with these real people.
Interview form- real words, real pauses, real ‘um’. Words as information, words
There are not many props. You can always tell by the scene where the person is.
The costumes were evident in creating a vision of the character.
1993- PBS video production Directed for television by George C. Wolfe
Smith wanted to be able to share a story and prove that it’s still unending and
never answered. She wanted to leave the interviewee speechless.