Award-winning actress and writer Anna Deavere Smith has long found San Francisco to be an ideal place to share knowledge and opinions about art, life and culture.
This weekend, the American Conservatory Theater alumnus appears in “An Evening With Anna Deavere Smith,” part of a conversation series presented by Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.
She says, “San Francisco is home to me because that's where I got the 'lights' switched on. I ended up, by accident, at ACT [in the '70s] and I ended up, 'by accident,' getting accepted into the program. So, I have a lot of love in my heart for The City and what it did to me. And I want people to get turned on to their creativity.”
Smith, joined by Steven Anthony Jones, artistic director of the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, headlines the fourth forum in the series, which features talks with artists, activists and “thought-leaders of national prominence.”
“What my work has always been dedicated to is trying to use art to impact the world around me, to cause people to think about things a little bit differently,” Smith says. “I feel that there's a whole generation of people, even among artists, who have a different idea of what they want to do with their skill set and the impact they want to have.”
Smith has made an impact in many areas. In addition to TV and film acting (“The American President,” “Rachel Getting Married,” “The West Wing,” “Nurse Jackie”), writing and teaching, her stage work is heralded for its depth and inventiveness, as it blends theater, social commentary and journalism.
Among her many notable productions was “Let Me Down Easy,” which tackled the issue of health care. The show, in which she played all of the characters (based on real people), ran at New York's Second Stage Theater as well as Berkeley Repertory Theatre in 2011.
On Saturday, Deavere Smith hopes to take opportunities that creative people explore and put them to use for the “bigger public” – people who are working in companies, politics or individuals who want to make a change.
“Or even somebody who wants to relate differently with their own family,” she adds. “I want to take what I know about communicating and share it with others.”
IF YOU GO
An Evening With Anna Deavere Smith
- Where: Lam Research Theater, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission St., S.F.
- When: 8 p.m. Saturday
- Tickets: $25 to $30
- Contact: (415) 978-2787, www.ybca.org