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LIVE from the NYPL: Sarah Lewis | Anna Deavere Smith


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Sarah Lewis in 7 Words*: "Looking for what we fail to see."

Anna Deavere Smith in 7 Words*: "Actress, dramatist, Baltimore bred, appreciation for failure."

* Great people in 7 Words:


Is failure a gift to the creative process? Sarah Lewis investigates the importance of grit and perseverance in her new book The Rise, in conversation with actress and playwright Anna Deavere Smith.

Sarah Lewis has served on President Obama’s Arts Policy Committee, been selected for Oprah’s “Power List,” and is a faculty member at Yale University, School of Art in the MFA program. She graduated from Harvard, Oxford, and will receive her Ph.D. from Yale in March 2014. Her nonfiction debut, The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery (Simon & Schuster, translation rights in 6 countries to date), is an atlas of stories of innovation, discovery, and the creative progress spurred on by advantages gleaned from the improbable, the unlikely, even failure. Her essays on contemporary art have been published widely. Her second book Black Sea, Black Atlantic: Frederick Douglass, The Circassian Beauties, and American Racial Formation in the Wake of the Civil War is under contract with Harvard University Press for release in 2015. She has held positions at both the Tate Modern and the Museum of Modern Art, New York. She is currently a board member of The Andy Warhol for the Visual Arts, the CUNY Graduate Center, and The Brearley School. She lives in New York City.

Anna Deavere Smith, actress and playwright, is said to have created a new form of theater. Prizes include the National Humanities Medal presented by President Obama, a MacArthur fellowship, the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Award, two Tony nominations, two Obies and others. She was runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize for her play Fires in the Mirror. She has created over 15 one-person shows based on hundreds of interviews, most of which deal with social issues. Twilight: Los Angeles, about the Los Angeles race riots of 1992, was performed around the country and on Broadway. Her most recent one-person show, Let Me Down Easy, focused on health care in the US. Three of her plays have been broadcast on American Playhouse and Great Performances (PBS). In popular culture you have seen her in Nurse Jackie, The West Wing, The American President, Rachel Getting Married, Philadelphia, others. Books include Letters to a Young Artist and Talk to Me: Listening Between the Lines. She is founder and director of ADS Works at the Aspen Institute and the Institute on the Arts and Civic Dialogue at New York University. She has received several honorary degrees: among them those from Juilliard, the University of Pennsylvania, Spelman, Williams, Northwestern, and Radcliffe. She serves on the boards of the Museum of Modern Art, the Aspen Institute and Grace Cathedral, San Francisco. She is University Professor at New York University.

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A note to our patrons: LIVE from the NYPL programs begin promptly at 7p.m. We recommend arriving twenty minutes before the scheduled start time to get to your seats. In order to minimize disturbances to other audience members, we are unable to provide late seating. 

LIVE from the NYPL is made possible with generous support from Celeste Bartos, Mahnaz Ispahani Bartos and Adam Bartos, and the Margaret and Herman Sokol Public Education Endowment Fund.

Check out our LIVE Shorts here!