Writer and actor Anna Deavere Smith gives life to author Studs Terkel, convict Paulette Jenkins, a Korean shopkeeper and a bull rider, excerpts from her solo show “On the Road: A Search for American Character.”
Her work blurs the lines between theater and journalism, using text from real-life encounters to create uncanny portraits. She uses solo performance as a public medium to explore issues of race, identity and community in America. Inspired by Walt Whitman’s idea “to absorb America,” Deavere Smith began interviewing more than 2,000 people across the country some 20 years ago. Without props, sets or costumes, she translates those encounters into profound performances, each drawing verbatim from the original recorded interview.