RENOWNED PLAYWRIGHT ANNA DEAVERE SMITH TO PRESENT NEW WORK INSPIRED BY SUPREME COURT JUSTICE SANDRA DAY O’CONNOR
“The Arizona Project” has been developed through Future Arts Research, a groundbreaking artist research program at Arizona State University
Debut Performances at the Herberger Theater in Phoenix, November 5, 7 and 8 2008
Premium Seating & VIP Post Show Reception – $100
General admission – $25
Student admission – $7
PHOENIX, September 12, 2008 — Award-winning playwright and performer Anna Deavere Smith will debut a new work this November exploring women’s relationships to justice and the law. The Arizona Project is a one-woman play commissioned by Bruce Ferguson, Director of Future Arts Research (F.A.R.), a groundbreaking new artist-driven research program at Arizona State University in Phoenix. Smith is among the artists inaugurating the F.A.R. program, which launched in 2008. The Arizona Project was inspired by an ongoing series of initiatives of the advocacy group Arizona Lawyers Honoring Justice O’Connor.
As in her well known previous works, Smith presents several interwoven monologues in this one-woman performance, drawing verbatim from a series of interviews she conducted over the course of three weeks in 2008. Her work honors the 2006 naming of Arizona State University’s law school for retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor–the first U.S. law school to be named for a woman.
“Anna Deavere Smith’s incisive, passionate work overlaps multiple genres, including documentary film, journalism, and biography, thus making The Arizona Project an exciting contribution to the inaugural year of F.A.R.,” said Program Director Bruce Ferguson. “Anna’s interdisciplinary approach parallels that of F.A.R., which re-envisions the traditional artist residency as an opportunity for participants to work with multiple departments throughout the university.”
The Arizona Project presents the stories of Justice O’Connor, as well as those of more than 30 women with relationships to the American judicial system, including prison system employees, incarcerated women, female lawyers, activists and others. Without identifying a specific social agenda, The Arizona Project touches upon several contemporary issues through these diverse personal stories, including immigration, domestic violence, and the challenges faced by women living on Native American reservations.
The naming of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at ASU honors Justice O’Connor’s career-long dedication to public service, her intellectual vigor and her sense of fair-mindedness. During the course of her career O’Connor served in all three branches of the Arizona State government, including two terms in the Senate, one as Majority Leader. In 1981 she became the first woman ever to serve on the United States Supreme Court. Her appointment by President Ronald Regan marked a profound shift in the types of professional opportunities available to women on the national stage. During her tenure, O’Connor helped define the balance of power on many of the issues of broadest concern to the nation, including abortion, affirmative action, the death penalty and religion. She retired from the Supreme Court after 24 years of service in 2005.
About Anna Deavere Smith
Writer, performer and teacher Anna Deavere Smith has been a noted figure in American theater for almost two decades. Throughout the course of her career, she has earned acclaim for her investigations of American identities, as well as for her singular performance style. Through the use of social commentary and stimulation of public dialogue, Smith’s work extends beyond the traditional boundaries of the performing arts.
A recipient of the 1996 MacArthur Fellowship, Smith’s best known works include Fires in the Mirror, examining the racial tension between blacks and Jews which culminated in the 1991 riots in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. She received a Drama Desk Award and a Pulitzer Prize nomination for this work. In Twilight: Los Angeles 1992, Smith examined the civil unrest which resulted from the Rodney King verdict in Los Angeles. She also received a Drama Desk award for this work, as well as two Tony Award nominations. Her most recent work, Let Me Down Easy, explores the fragility and resilience of the human body.
Smith has appeared in several films, including Philadelphia and The American President, and has recurring roles on The West Wing and The Practice. She can be seen Spring 2009 in the film Rachael Getting Married with Anne Hathaway. She is also the author of two books, Talk to Me: Travels in Media and Politics (2001), and Letters to a Young Artist: Straight-up Advice on Making a Life in the Arts-For Actors, Performers, Writers, and Artists of Every Kind (2006). She is a tenured professor at the Tisch School of Arts at New York University and teaches courses on the art of listening at the NYU School of Law. She has also taught at Stanford University and the Yale School of Medicine.
A groundbreaking artist-driven research program based in downtown Phoenix, F.A.R. (Future Arts Research) will host 20—24 leading national and international artists, critics and scholars each year. Working with an applied-research methodology, participants will collaborate with various departments within the university and work closely with the surrounding community to explore new concepts, test new ideas, and present the results of their research. F.A.R. is an initiative of the university president’s office, independent of the ASU’s Herberger College of the Arts. In its first phase, F.A.R. participants will focus on three areas important to Phoenix: new technologies in the arts; desert aesthetics; and issues of justice and human rights.
“The Arizona Project” will be presented in three performances on November 5, 7 and 8 at the Herberger Theater in Phoenix. Ticket sales begin Sept 29, 2008.