Letters to a Young Artist

Anna Deavere Smith, Author . Anchor $13 (227p) ISBN 978-1-4000-3238-9

Actor and playwright Smith casts her reflections on the creative process, the artist's life and the acting profession as a series of brief letters addressed to a fictitious teenager. Defining artist broadly, Smith (Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 ) shares advice not only from painters, dancers, writers and actors but from a bull rider, a boxer and a dentist. Her advice is often directly practical: how to deal with stage fright, face an audition, even keep well ("Stay hydrated"). Smith treats concerns of the spirit as well: how to cope with disappointment, depression and feeling alienated. The letters have the immediacy of a genuine correspondence, replying to an imagined request for information ("How did you find your mentors?"), remembering a special moment ("It was summer the first time I moved to New York") and reporting on the present ("I just got a call from my agent saying there's a job for me on a television show"). What emerges most persuasively is Smith's sense of the complex interrelationship between one's art and one's everyday life. With a pithiness that wards away the preachy, Smith succeeds in conveying the pain, the joy and the effort that characterize a life on the stage and in the world. (Feb. 7)

Reviewed on: 11/07/2005
Release date: 01/01/2006
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