Anna Deavere Smith: Crossing the Lines

Anna Deavere Smith: Crossing the Lines Photo/ Foto: Marlène Ramírez Cancio

Crossing the Lines

A performance about race and identity in the Americas, Anna Deavere Smith experiments with a translated performance, moving between English and Spanish to convey a series of portraits of representing identities in crisis. In this performance, Smith draws from her well-known works, such as Fires in the Mirror: Crown Heights, Brooklyn and Other Identities, while also conjuring other personalities both known and unknown.  Beginning the performance in the role of the author Studs Terkel, Smith goes on to explain that it was a quote from Walt Whitman, about wanting to be absorbed by America, which insired her to journey across the country and gather stories. She also details how she came to perform as the Hemipsheric Institutes 3rd Encuentro at the insistance of Diana Taylor.  Smith reveals that the experience of performing at the Encuentro helped her realize that there are many Americas and, much like the name of ther performance, the lines of Nations must be crossed as well.  Smith poses the questions, when you translate words do you translate experiences?  The experiences she brings to the stage would seem to offer a resounding yes as an answer.  As Smith states, she's been walking in words in order to have the experiences of those words.  This performance, she states, is the begining of a journey of walking in America.


As an actor, playwright and teacher, Anna Deavere Smith has built a remarkably wide-ranging and respected career. Ms. Smith--whose work explores the American character and our multifaceted national identity--has been acclaimed by the media, critics and audiences across the country. The Macarthur Foundation awarded Smith a prestigious fellowship in 1996, saying she 'has created a new form of theater --a blend of theatrical art, social commentary, journalism and intimate reverie'. Looking at controversial events from multiple points of view, Ms. Smith's work combines the journalistic technique of interviewing her subjects with the art of interpreting their words through her performance. Ms. Smith founded and directed the Institute on the Arts & Civic Dialogue, a three-year experiment that was held for three summers (1998- 2000), at Harvard University. Ms. Smith is a tenured professor in the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, with an additional affiliation at the New York University School of Law.


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Additional Info

  • Title: Crossing the lines
  • Holdings: video (HIDVL)
  • Duration: 01:58:09
  • Language: English
  • Date: 14 July 2002
  • Location: Performed at Centro Cultural de la Universidad Católica del Perú in Lima, Peru, on July 14, 2002, as part of the Third Annual Hemispheric Institute Seminar entitled Globalization, Migration and the Public Sphere.
  • Type-Format: performance
  • Cast: Anna Deavere Smith, protagonist; Renato Rosaldo, narrator; Carmen Oquendo Villar, Sebastián Calderón, Oliva Pratt Rosaldo, assistants.
  • Credits: Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics, producer; Anna Deavere Smith, creator, director; Nadia Baram, videographer; Raúl Gallego, videographer