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Black Theater: Anna Deavere Smith


Kimberlé W. Crenshaw


Angela Y. Davis

Gender/Women's Studies Pills


Intersectionality is a theoretical framework for understanding how aspects of one's social and political identities (gender, race, class, sexuality, ability, etc.) might combine to create unique modes of discrimination. It aims to broaden the agenda of the first waves of feminism, which largerly focused on the experiences of white, middle-class women.Intersectionality is used to describe the phenomenon of being impacted and oppressed by multiple sources, but only treated for one.Intersectionality ensures that feminism considers not only gender, but also combinations of various types of oppression that result in people's experiences of injustice. While the thoery began as an exploration of the oppression of women of color within society, today the analysis has expanded to include many more aspects of social identity.


Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw on Intersectionality

Verbatim Theater

  • A form of documentary theater/drama, investigative theater, theater of witness.
  • Based on the spoken words of real people (from recorded interviews).
  • Centrality of social and political crises to its content focus and aesthetic properties. > social function of theater.
  • Challenge to traditional playwrighting and acting, designed to keep the dialogue open.
  • Depiction of the community reaction > no master narrative.


Anna Deavere Smith(1950 —)

Anna Deavere Smith

  • Theater as an agent of social change, of discussion
  • A pioneer in verbatim theater: focus on contemporary issues from multiple points of view and are composed from excerpts of hundreds of interviews.
  • Plays and film adaptations
  • Acting style: balance of viewpoints,to make her audience think, and think politically > to "activate" the audience

"In Smith’s work the primacy of written, archival documents takes a backseat to artist-collected, interview-based materials. Smith also functions as performer, presenting painstakingly studied and faithfully rendered bodies and voices (across race, ethnicity, and gender) using her own body as tabula rasa, activating new questions about truth and authenticity."Jules Odendahl-James, American Theater

mortality. I’m trying to entertain you and to grab your attention by this thing that I’ve been able to do since I was a child, which is mimic, but do it in a very, very particular way now. I’m asking you to look at this very complex design of who we all are as individuals and as a society.

What I’m doing now is making portraits of people and trying to compose those portraits on large tapestries about civic events and social problems. I am trying to put a face on an abstract problem and get you to laugh and cry and feel about this thing that’s going on, whether it’s race relations or healthcare and

Anna Deavere Smith

  • Title: a vision of art as a site of reflection, where the passions and fires of a specific moment can be examined from a new angle, conteplated, understood
  • Identity (fluid) > individuals: mirrors, hair, race, rhytm
  • Views from religious and ethnic communities

Fires in the Mirror (1992)

  • Part of the project "On the Road: A Search for the American Character"
  • 1993 film version
  • Chronicles the Aug. 1991 Crown Heights riot in Brooklyn > racially divided neighborhood
  • Interviews to residents (including participants in the disturbances) and to leading politicians, writers, musicians, religious leaders, intellectuals > 26 people's voices, 29 monologues

"My sense is that American character lives not in one place or the other, but in the gaps between the places, and in our struggle to be together in our differences."Anna Deavere Smith, Fires in the Mirror, Introduction.

Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 (1994)

Fires in the Mirror: Crown Heights, Brooklyn and Other Identities (1992)