In an extraordinary solo performance, Anna Deavere Smith draws upon 250 interviews and plays 19 separate individuals to examine the US’s ‘school-to-prison-pipeline’.
ANNA DEAVERE SMITH
Notes from the Field is an arresting documentary solo performance that examines what has been dubbed the US ‘school-to-prison pipeline’. Drawing on interviews with more than 250 individuals living and working within the ‘pipeline’, actor Anna Deavere Smith investigates a broken justice system that pushes children, predominantly from poorer communities, out of the classroom – and directly into incarceration.
Deavere Smith shines an uncompromising light on a lost generation of US youth, on nursery children put in handcuffs for throwing tantrums, on high school kids arrested for juvenile pranks. And on how they later contribute to America’s status as the developed country with the highest incarceration rate in the world.
Following in-depth personal interviews with students, teachers, judges, inmates, politicians and protesters right across America, Deavere Smith plays 19 separate individuals, using a dazzling command of voices and mannerisms to convey their powerful stories: of shattered families, inescapable poverty, police brutality – and a fragile balance of despair and hope.
Anna Deavere Smith has been called one of the most provocative theatre artists of our times. She works across film, television and theatre, playing National Security Advisor Nancy McNally in The West Wing, and in 1996 was awarded the MacArthur Fellowship ‘genius grant’. She has been creating solo plays based on conversations with people from all over America for 40 years. Her previous solo theatre works have tackled the 1992 Los Angeles riots, the 2015 death of Freddie Gray at the hands of Baltimore police officers, and the killing of nine African-American church-goers in Charleston that same year.
With live music from bassist Marcus Shelby, and a restless backdrop of news footage and mobile phone videos, Notes from the Field is an urgent and inspiring experience. It will leave you angry, galvanised – and also full of hope.
Contains strong language.
Originally produced by American Repertory Theater.
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