Anna Deavere Smith Tackles School-to-Prison Pipeline in New Solo Show

News   Anna Deavere Smith Tackles School-to-Prison Pipeline in New Solo Show
 
Playwright, actor and educator Anna Deavere Smith, whose earlier works have explored racial tensions, law enforcement and deficiencies in the healthcare system, now turns her attention to the "school-to-prison pipeline," where children from poor communities in the U.S. are pushed into the criminal justice system.

Notes from the Field: Doing Time in Education The California Chapter is a one-woman show created, written and performed by Smith. It began performances July 11 at California's Berkeley Repertory Theatre and continues through Aug. 2.

Anna Deavere Smith in <i>Notes from the Field: Doing Time in Education The California Chapter</i>
Anna Deavere Smith in Notes from the Field: Doing Time in Education The California Chapter Photo by Kevin Berne

The term "the school-to-prison pipeline" concerns the national social trend by which children are pushed out of the classroom and funneled into juvenile centers and prisons, creating what Smith coins "a lost generation of youth from poor communities." The trend is garnering greater currency and is now a focal point of Obama's second term, in attempting to reverse the pattern and give these children the benefit of a greater education.

In Smith's solo play, she performs portraits woven together from the interviews she conducted with nearly 150 individuals in Northern California and across the nation, affected by the pipeline’s consequences. In her second act, she engages the audience into being active agents of change. 

The show features music composed and performed by bassist and jazz musician Marcus Shelby with direction by Leah C. Gardiner.

Smith is not one to shy away from politically charged topics in her solo works. In Let Me Down Easy, which played a critically acclaimed run Off-Broadway in 2009, she examined the U.S. healthcare system. In Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992, she looked at the racial tensions behind the riots prompted by Rodney King's 1992 trial. "Because I'm a dramatist, I like moments when there's something unsettled," Smith told the L.A. Times in a recent interview. "I'm in this business of looking at conflict. Conflict is never absent. It's just that when it gets exposed, more people are concerned about it."

For more information and to purchase tickets to Notes from the Field: Doing Time in Education The California Chapter, visit BerkeleyRep.

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