( 1951- )
Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Smith grew up in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood. She briefly pursued linguistics at a small women's school, Beaver College (now coed), before heading to San Francisco in search of Angela Davis and Jane Fonda: "I was looking for the revolution" ( Mason, 50), she explains. Acting classes at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco intervened, and by 1976 she had completed an MFA degree and obtained her Equity card. Smith moved to New York, taught acting at Carnegie Mellon, and acted in New York and San Francisco.
Her first professionally produced play, Aye Aye I'm Integrated, a monodrama, was produced by the Women's Project where Anna was a member of the Directors Forum, an arena in which she tried out her performances of interviews which catapulted her to national visibility. Her method of interviewing and then performing verbatim the words of the people interviewed started as a teaching device to help student actors get the words off the page. Intrigued with her findings, Smith began taping and performing her interviews under the umbrella title On the Road (to which she added A Search for American Character several years later) for specific groups, such as women in law for whom she presented her first public performance at their conference in 1985. Other early notable performances included two presentations at the Women in Theatre conferences, which sparked considerable debate and, subsequently, publication and scholarly analyses. Frequent invitations to colleges followed, where Smith typically interviewed a cross section of people around some social issue. The interviews on sexism led to the performance at Princeton University of Gender Bending: On the Road/Princeton.
An interview with composer and conductor Tania Leon led to a full-length