Anna Deavere Smith Residency at Georgetown University Includes Symposium, Staged Reading of “On Grace”

With collaborator cellist Joshua Roman, Smith leads week-long residency developing her latest work, culminating in staged reading March 18 followed by discussion with former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Washington, DC – Celebrated playwright and actress Anna Deavere Smith (“Let Me Down Easy,” “Twilight: Los Angeles,” “Nurse Jackie,” “The West Wing,”) will come to Georgetown University March 12-18, 2013 for a residency centered around the continued development of her work “On Grace.”

Public events during the residency include a free, but ticketed staged reading in Georgetown University’s Gaston Hall on Monday, March 18, 2013 at 7:30 p.m., followed by followed by a discussion between Smith and former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and a symposium “On Stage with ‘On Grace’: Religion, Redemption and Politics” on Tuesday, March 12 at 5:00 p.m. in the Davis Performing Arts Center’s Gonda Theatre with Smith, Professor E.J. Dionne, Imam Mohamed Majid, and Michael D. McCurry. Both events are free and open to the public. Details about locations and ticketing (required only for the staged reading) can be found here.

The Georgetown University residency is sponsored by the Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics, a joint initiative of the Theater and Performance Studies Program and the School of Foreign Service, co-directed by Professors Derek Goldman, Artistic Director of the Davis Performing Arts Center and Professor of Theater, and Cynthia Schneider, Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy.

“We are thrilled to launch the Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics with the residency of one of America’s greatest actor/activists Anna Deavere Smith, who embodies the intersection between performance, society and politics that is at the heart of the Lab’s mission,” commented Professor Schneider.

“The Lab is a natural outgrowth of our ongoing, intensive exploration of the intersection of theater and politics here at Georgetown. Bringing together artists, policymakers, scholars, and students, this “On Grace” residency epitomizes the Lab’s commitment to interdisciplinary engagement, and to developing and presenting impactful theatrical work which has the power to transform our understanding of the world around us.”

In “On Grace,” a work in progress, Anna Deavere Smith applies her distinctive approach to documentary theater to the concept of “grace, speaking in the voices of a variety of people she has interviewed on the subject. The interviewees range from the late Reverend Peter Gomes to Imam Faisil Abdul Rauf, to a survivor of the Rwandan genocide. Commissioned by Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, CA, where Smith served as their inaugural artist-in-residence, the work premiered there in February 2012.

Music plays a central role in “On Grace,” with Joshua Roman performing live onstage with Smith throughout the work. Dubbed a “Classical Rock Star,” Roman was named a 2011 TED Fellow for his creative initiatives on behalf of classical music, joining a select group of next generation innovators.

“On Grace” brings to life Anna Deavere Smith’s unique “blend of theatrical art, social commentary, journalism, and intimate reverie” that earned her a MacArthur “genius” award.

It joins Anna Deavere Smith’s series of one-woman shows interpreting events and issues in American life. Washington last saw Smith in “Let Me Down Easy” at Arena Stage, in which she looked at the complexities of health care and dying in America. In her ground-breaking Broadway show “Twilight: Los Angeles,” proclaimed “an American masterpiece” by Newsweek’s Jack Kroll, Smith explored the violent aftermath of the Rodney King verdict through the eyes and voices of everyone involved, from a teenager from South Central LA to the Mayor.

The March 18 staged reading of “On Grace” in Gaston Hall is free, but ticketed. The event will be followed by a reception in the Davis Performing Arts Center, main lobby. Due to high demand, tickets for On Grace are currently unavailable. Individuals can register on a list at to receive more information should additional seating or viewing options become available. The list is not a substitute for the standby line, which will also form on Monday, March 18 at 6:30 pm at Gaston Hall. All tickets unclaimed by 7:25 p.m. will be released to patrons on standby.

A related symposium, “On Stage with ‘On Grace’: Religion, Redemption and Politics,” will be held on Tuesday, March 12 at 5 p.m. in the Davis Performing Arts Center’s Gonda Theatre, featuring Anna Deavere Smith with E.J. Dionne, Professor in the Foundations of Democracy and Culture at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute; Imam Mohamed Majid, President, Islamic Society of North America; and Michael D. McCurry, Former White House and State Department Spokesperson. The panel will discuss the concept of “grace” as it is understood by different faiths, and as it operates — or doesn’t — in politics, and will take questions from the audience. The symposium is free and unticketed.

The Georgetown residency will also include Smith’s visit to Profs. Cynthia Schneider and Derek Goldman’s course “Culture and Diplomacy: Performance, Film, and Media,” as well as Roman’s cello workshop including students of the Georgetown University Music Program and members of the Kindler Cello Society of Washington on Wednesday, March 13 from 7:30-9:30 p.m. in the Davis Performing Arts Center’s Devine Studio Theatre, related to Roman’s recently completed ongoing video series called “The Popper Project.” Workshop participants will perform Popper études and other works, and the event will be open to the public for observation.

Gaston Hall in the Healy Building and the Davis Performing Arts Center, are located on Georgetown University’s main campus, located at 37th and O Streets, NW in Washington, DC. Visit or call 202-687-ARTS (2787) M-F 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

Professors Cynthia P. Schneider and Derek Goldman are available for interviews and to answer questions.

Media contact:
Laura Mertens

The LABORATORY FOR GLOBAL PERFORMANCE AND POLITICS AT GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY is a joint initiative of the Theater and Performance Studies Program and the School of Foreign Service. Led by Profs. Derek Goldman and Cynthia Schneider, the Laboratory leverages Georgetown University’s distinctive strengths in international relations and theatrical performance to develop new interdisciplinary approaches to studying the power of the performing arts to advance peace, social justice, and increased understanding and collaboration across peoples and cultures. In addition, the Lab is a generative creative space to foster, nurture and realize collaborative artistic projects that epitomize these goals. Finally, the Lab is a hub and a resource center that, in actual and virtual spaces, brings together an expansive global network of artists, policymakers, scholars, cultural organizations, embassies, faculty, and students.

ANNA DEAVERE SMITH is an actress and playwright who is said to have created a new form of theater. She has won numerous awards, among them two Tony nominations, a MacArthur fellowship, the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, and others. She was runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize for her play Fires in the Mirror. Her play “Let Me Down Easy,” toured the U.S. and was recently broadcast on PBS’s Great Performances. In popular culture you have seen her in “Nurse Jackie,” “The West Wing,” “The American President,” “Philadelphia,” others. Honorary degrees include those from Juilliard, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Northwestern, Haverford, and Radcliffe. She has served as Artist in Residence at several organizations as varied as MTV Networks and Grace Cathedral, San Francisco. She teaches at New York University and is the founding director of Anna Deavere Smith Works: A Place for Artistic Excellence and Social Change.

JOSHUA ROMAN, “a cellist of extraordinary technical and musical gifts” (San Francisco Chronicle), has earned national renown as a cellist for performing a wide range of repertoire with an absolute commitment to communicating the essence of the music at its most organic level. He’s also recognized as an accomplished curator and programmer, particularly in his work as Artistic Director of Seattle Town Hall’s TownMusic series, with a vision to engage and expand the classical music audience. For his ongoing creative initiatives on behalf of classical music, Roman was named a 2011 TED Fellow, joining a select group of next generation innovators of unusual accomplishments who show potential to positively affect the world.

In the 2012/13 season, Roman made his Los Angeles Philharmonic debut, performing Osvaldo Golijov’s Azul under conductor Marin Alsop. Other highlights include concerto performances with the New World Symphony, the Alabama Symphony, and the world premiere of a new cello concerto by Pulitzer Prize-winner Aaron Jay Kernis with the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra, as well as recitals in Vancouver, Chicago, Denver, and Seattle. Roman’s adventurous spirit has led to collaborations with artists outside of the music community, including his co-creation of On Grace with Anna Deveare Smith, a work for actor and cello which premiered in February 2012 at San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral.

The Oklahoma City native began playing the cello at the age of three on a quarter-size instrument, and gave his first public recital at age 10. Home-schooled until he was 16, Roman then pursued his musical studies at the Cleveland Institute of Music where he received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Cello Performance. He is grateful for the loan of an 1899 cello by Giulio Degani of Venice.