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Anna Deavere Smith tackles the school-to-prison pipeline

Anna Deavere Smith portrays Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in Notes from the Field: Doing Time in Education, The California Chapter


There’s a disturbing national trend many call the school-to-prison pipeline -- where students, often low-income children of color, are pushed out of school and into the criminal justice system. That’s the subject of actress and playwright Anna Deavere Smith’s new show at Berkeley Repertory Theater, “Notes From the Field: Doing Time in Education, the California Chapter”. The show uses Smith’s signature style of documentary theater, where she interviews people and then performs their words verbatim, using her acting skills to embody their voices and mannerisms.

She’s trying something new this time around: during the second act, the audience is randomly broken up into small groups to discuss the themes of the play and issues of race and inequality with facilitators from local arts education non-profit Youth Speaks. Anna Deavere Smith spoke with KALW’s Jen Chien about her new work, and what she hopes audiences will come away with.


And I kind of thought, is my job just to sort of elicit applause and if I'm lucky a standing ovation? How come nobody is coming backstage and saying "What can I do?" And that really bothered me.

To listen to the whole interview, click the audio player above.


Notes From the Field: Doing Time in Education, the California Chapter is playing at Berkeley Rep through August 2, 2015.