Anna Deavere Smith (Doctor of Humane Letters)

Anna Deveare Smith receives an honorary degree from Dartmouth
Anna Deavere Smith is awarded an honorary degree at Dartmouth’s commencement ceremony. (Photo by Robert Gill)

ANNA DEAVERE SMITH, as an award-winning actress, playwright, and professor, you enlighten, inspire, and ignite audiences worldwide.

You invented a new style of theater, pounding the pavement like a reporter to capture the extraordinary stories of ordinary people through hundreds of in-depth interviews. In re-enacting their words on stage, you shed light on controversial issues through a diversity of human perspectives that cause us to think and, often, to think again.

In 1993, you took on the tensions between the Black and Jewish communities that led to the 1991 riots in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, in the Pulitzer Prize-nominated Fires in the Mirror. You went on to explore the 1992 L.A. riots in the Tony-nominated Twilight the following year. Your brilliant portrayals earned you two Obie Awards and back-to-back Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Solo Performance, among numerous other accolades.

Your ability to fully embody your characters, each one as distinct and authentic as the next, truly sets you apart. It’s no surprise that you routinely perform barefoot on stage, preferring to inhabit the skin of your subjects and not just walk in their shoes.

As a professor, you commit to the art of teaching as much as you do to the art of acting, helping aspiring artists achieve their full creative potential. 

For your evocative body of work as both actress and storyteller, for your contributions to the national dialogue on important social issues, and for your commitment to cultivating the next generation of dramatic and performing arts talent, Dartmouth is proud to award you the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.

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