Playwright, performer and NYU professor Anna Deavere Smith wins prestigious George Polk Journalism Award, an honor generally reserved for career journalists


Anna Deavere Smith, a professor of Art and Public Policy at the NYU Tisch School of the Arts and an affiliated professor at the NYU School of Law, was named this year’s winner of the George Polk Career Award in Journalism. Smith – whose work as a playwright and actress explores the most pressing challenges to social justice and equity in contemporary life – is the first recipient of the award who has not engaged in traditional journalism. Previous winners include Bob Woodward, Walter Cronkite, Norman Mailer, and Diane Sawyer.

Smith’s unique and groundbreaking style of writing and performing incorporates verbatim field interviews to build a complex social commentary narrative around major events and social issues. “Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992,” her one-woman play about the Los Angeles riots in 1992, earned her a Tony nomination in 1994. Her most recent play, “Notes from the Field,” which ran Off-Broadway last fall, explores the school-to-prison pipeline and its link to childhood trauma.

In addition to her stage work, Smith has performed in film and television. She played the role of Nancy McNally, the National Security Advisor on NBC's former hit, The West Wing. She is also the recipient of the 1996 MacAurthur “genius” Fellowship. At the Tisch Department of Art & Public Policy, Smith teaches classes addressing performance and identities.

With the selection of Smith for the Polk Career Award, the award committee cited the “rigorous journalistic approach throughout her body of work.” She will be officially presented with the award at a private ceremony to be held at the Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan, April 6.

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