BERKELEY (KCBS) — A woman who has been hailed as the most exciting person in theater will wrap up a Bay Area run this week at Berkeley Repertory Theatre.

Anna Deavere Smith plays more than twenty characters in her play, Let Me Down Easy.

In it, she explores the nation’s health care crisis and politics through language and performance.

KCBS’ Rebecca Corral Reports:

Smith created the show by interviewing hundreds of people — much as she’s concocted her other 18 plays which are part of a series called “On the Road — A Search for American Character.”

“For house arrest I interviewed over 500 people. For my play about the Los Angeles riots, I interviewed over 300 people,” she said. “I pick people because they are so rich in their thoughts and ideas and speaking that I learn something every single night.”

In addition to consuming news like a journalist, Smith admits she has a lot to learn from other’s style of interviewing.

Smith claimed she learned a lot from Studs Terkel, “a great Chicago radio man” and noted the interview between the playwright Lorraine Hansberry and Mike Wallace as great.

Old-time television legends Johnny Carson and Dick Cavett were also sources of inspiration for Smith’s craft

“I learned a lot from those light hearted interviews. They’re very informative,” she said.

Her one-woman shows are essentially based on reality, a trend that has exploded and carried over relatively recently on TV.

“I think it should cause to wonder what is so mesmerizing about real people, when ever since Brando, we’ve been trying to be more true [theme-based] in popular culture,” Smith added.

As for her own satisfaction, Smith said she’s attained that for the moment and is looking forward to returning to her role as a hospital administrator on the Showtime series Nurse Jackie.

She says her future plans include traveling somewhere far away, staring at art and communing with nature.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved)


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