By Chuck Ross
PBS will tape a production by an artist who is truly an American treasure for its Great Performances series.
The artist is Anna Deavere Smith, who is a two-time Tony Award nominee, a one-time finalist for a Pulitzer Prize in Drama, and a recipient of a MacArthur Foundation "Genius" grant.
The work they will be taping is "Let Me Down Easy," which the PBS release describes as a "production exploring the health care system and the way our bodies carry us through life."
Now, that may not sound like the most compelling of material, but trust me, as someone who has seen a number of Smith’s one-woman shows (but not this one), it’s bound to be spellbinding. Over the years PBS has aired two other Smith performances.
The release says, "In her signature style of interviewing an eclectic range of people (for ‘Let Me Down Easy,’ over 300 on three continents), then performing as the interviewee in their own words, Smith creates an indelible gallery of 20 portraits, from a rodeo bull rider to a New Orleans doctor, as well as boldface names like former Texas Governor Ann Richards, legendary cyclist Lance Armstrong, and former supermodel Lauren Hutton."
The release continures, " ‘Let Me Down Easy’ was inspired by work she did at Yale School of Medicine, where she was visiting professor. Bill Moyers dedicated a full hour segment to profiling Ms. Smith and ‘Let Me Down Easy.’"
Finally, the announcement noted, "NBC’s ‘Today’ raved, ‘Run–do not walk–to see this play! Watching Anna Deavere Smith on stage is magical. One minute you are laughing, the next you are crying. It is truly brilliant and stunning.’ Variety heralded the work as ‘a totally vital piece of theater, mixing a standup comic’s instincts with a great reporter’s keen eye.’ It was named one of Entertainment Weekly’s Top 10 of 2009."
The show will be aired during the 2011-2012 season