Anna Deavere Smith Named Barnard Graduation Speaker; Didion Honored

News   Anna Deavere Smith Named Barnard Graduation Speaker; Didion Honored
 
Anna Deavere Smith, the famed actress, playwright and professor, will be the commencement speaker for Barnard College's Class of 2007 in Manhattan on May 15 and will be among the recipients of the Barnard Medal of Distinction at the ceremony.
Anna Deavere Smith
Anna Deavere Smith

Also receiving the medal will be Joan Didion, whose first play, The Year of Magical Thinking, adapted from her memoir, just opened on Broadway.

Another recipient is the Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who has mentored his research assistant Winter Miller as she has written her play In Darfur, which is getting a developmental production at the Public Theater beginning April 13.

The ceremony will take place at 2:30 PM on Barnard's Lehman Lawn in upper Manhattan.

Smith is known for her groundbreaking one-woman documentary plays Fires in the Mirror and Twilight: Los Angeles 1992, for which she conducted interviews about controversial topics and then portrayed her interviewees, speaking their words, in her performance.

Smith also played National Security Advisor Nancy McNally on NBC's "The West Wing" and co-starred in the CBS drama "Presidio Med." She has also appeared in the films "The Human Stain," "Philadelphia," "Dave" and "The American President" and on TV's "The Practice." Smith is a tenured professor at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University and is affiliated with the NYU School of Law, where she teaches a course on "The Art of Listening." She is the author of several books, and in 1998, in association with the Ford Foundation, she founded the Institute on the Arts & Civic Dialogue at Harvard (now at New York University).

Didion is the author of five novels and eight books of nonfiction, and wrote screenplays with her late husband, John Gregory Dunne, whose death is one of the topics of The Year of Magical Thinking, along with the death of her daughter Quintana. The play is directed by David Hare and stars Vanessa Redgrave at the Booth Theatre.

The other recipients of the Barnard Medal of Distinction will be Mary Patterson McPherson, the vice president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and former president of Bryn Mawr College; and Muriel Petioni, a physician and Harlem community activist.

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