Larry Mantle |

The talents of Anna Deavere Smith

There are times that I look forward to an interview and it doesn’t pan out the way I’d hoped.  This seems more prone to happening with performers and artists whose communication comes out in their work, but not necessarily in words.

This morning’s conversation with Anna Deavere Smith is a prime example of the opposite – the performer who can bring it on the stage and thoroughly articulate the process.  I feel like I appreciate the performance all the more when I’ve heard the artist explain the process. 

I was most surprised when Smith said she was more focused on stage on the technique she was employing than the emotions of her characters (at least that’s how I heard it).  I had thought that the interior life of her characters would be up front.  Knowing that she’s concentrating on the complexity of moving from person to person in her one-woman show will enrich my experience in seeing her do it.

It was also fun to hear her briefly perform two deceased characters from the show – former Texas Governor Ann Richards and TV movie critic Joel Siegel.  Even without the ability to use her body to create them, Smith’s voice fully characterized the two.  What a talent.

Today is the 93rd birthday of former South African President Nelson Mandela.  Taking in all the coverage reminds me how much I would’ve liked to have interviewed him.  Though he’s written about much of his life, it would be a thrill to talk with him about the details.