Identities in Motion Picture
Many scholars have engaged with Anna Deavere Smith’s Twilight: Los Angeles recognizing the significance of identity hybridity throughout her performances. Smith’s work allows her to focus on the interviews of multiple identities through the portrayal of her one black woman body. In my paper I will be focusing on five authors whose work connects theater and racism to create a conversation; such as Brustein’s and Stanley’s focus on Smith’s expressions and mannerism and O’Connor, Stanley, and Lavoie’s discussion on the hybridity of Smith’s performances. The authors are able to establish key component structures regarding Smith’s work, enhancing how we as the audience engage with history. The discussions among the authors allow Deavere’s work to expose the problems of our own society through the change in identity of different characters. Smith’s performances expand beyond her single voice, seen in each writing by the authors, creating an impact on those she interprets and those who view her work.
In the scholarly work by Robert Brustein, “P.C. –or not P.C.”, he discusses Anna Deveare Smith’s performances, showcasing the speciality of her work which comes from “her emphasis through gesture and intonation.” Smith changes characters through voices, outfits, and identities; allowing the audience to see first hand how the riots personally affected each character. Smith’s mannerisms are also referenced, in the scholarly article of Teaching Politics of Identity in a Post Identity Age: Anna Deavere Smith’s Twilight by Sandra Kumamoto Stanley. She states that Smith’s work, “involves specific identities, through the switching of characters and conducting broad interviews to create stereotypes.” Both Brustein and Stanley interpret Smith’s work as she creates spaces for each interviewee to highlight their personality and opinions to given questions. Smith’s characters have an unique way they portray themselves, which creates a diversity in the roles she portrays. Deaver’s hybridity in her performances is seen through the use of her one body, but is capable of changing based on gender, class, race, economical and political status.
A ONE-WOMAN RIOT”: BROOKLYN 1991 & Los ANGELES 1992 by Jacqueline O’Connor, discusses Anna Deavere Smith’s portrayal of different bodies. O’Connor recognizes that “Smith’s performance structure is used to create a mosaic of voices” establishing a free and innovative representation of history in a new context. Each voice creates a new character revealing the struggles and truths of the issues happening within the world, which is seen in Smith’s performances with examples from Stanley’s work. As Stanley states, “Smith forms an identity in motion” around each character she resembles expanding on how each identity ties into her performance as a whole. Both O’Connor and Stanley discuss the hybridity of Smith’s work which allows her to transform multiple events from accounts of different people, into a cohesive accurate representation of what occurred from an unbiased perspective.
In the scholarly paper by Dusty Lavoie, No, Not That Twilight”: The comic critique of gendered/raced identity, politics, pedagogy, and performance, raises a similar point to Stanley’s paper regarding differring identities of gender, sex, class, race, and sexuality. Stanley argues that throughout Smith’s performances “she faces challenges regarding representation and performativity.” Lavoie establishes empathy and compassion for his students, as they both understand the struggle and rollercoaster of emotions while watching the beating of Rodney King. However, Lavoie stated “we have to watch this, because this is wrong” showing similarity to the point Stanley raises regarding “how community issues will reveal the true race relations beyond televised nationalism news. Lavoie and Stanley also share similar beliefs regarding the hybridity and use of interviews in Anna Deavres Smith’s work in Twilight: Los Angeles. Lavoie acknowledges that “Smith pulls off a sharp critique of some of the people she portrays and those she presents as they are through various interview footage” showing that she focuses on accurate imitation rather than typical stereotyping of each interviewee. Stanley also expresses a similar point as Smith’s work “is able to capture the natural mimic in body language and thoughts depicting the real traumatization of people within the communities.” Both Lavoie and Stanley assert the importance of live footage, from the news that Smith incorporated into her performance, with the interviews, enhancing Smith’s work to create change on the communal and national level.
Each of the authors discuss the hybridity of Smith’s work through the use of her single body, allowing readers to see that changes in identity can develop a cohesive performance. Smith’s performances in Twilight: Los Angeles expose the real problem of racism in the world expanding on the conversation of politics for audience members to see and understand on a deeper level. Smith uses incorporated dialogue from everyone in the community, avoiding bias from one sided interviews. Therefore, audience members can see how each of the interviews and televised news segments form a well-rounded performance to include all opinions and experiences. The scholarly authors create a conversation around racism and Smith’s performance enhancing how theatre is portrayed.
Brustein, Robert. 1994. “Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992.” New Republic 210 (May): 29.
Catanese, Brandi Wilkins. 2010. “Taking the Long View.” Theatre Journal 62 (4): 547–51.
Daniher, Colleen Kim. 2018. “On Teaching Kim’s Convenience: Asian American Studies, Asian
Canadian Studies, and the Politics of Race in Asian Canadian Theatre and Performance Studies.” Theatre Research in Canada 39 (1): 8–27. http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=131546158&site=ehost-live.
GRIFFITHS, JENNIFER L. ““I Have Never Seen a Movie Like That”: Traumatic Memory
and the “Acceleration of History” in Anna Deavere Smith’s Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992.” In Traumatic Possessions: The Body and Memory in African American Women’s Writing and Performance, 89-110. CHARLOTTESVILLE; LONDON: University of Virginia Press, 2009. Accessed November 6, 2020. http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt6wrqsg.10.
Klawans, Stuart. 2000. “Films.” Nation 271 (11): 42–44.
Lavoie, Dusty. 2010. “‘No, Not That Twilight’: The Comic Critique of Gendered/Raced Identity,
Politics, Pedagogy, and Performance.” Feminist Media Studies 10 (3): 364–67. http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=87819077&site=ehost-live.
McNamara, Kevin R. 2018. “Staging the Polis.” ELH85 (1): 253–81. doi:10.1353/elh.2018.0009.
O’Connor, Jacqueline. 2007. “‘A One-Woman Riot’: Brooklyn 1991 & Los Angeles 1992.”
Studies in the Literary Imagination 40 (2): 153–71. http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=33947686&site=ehost-live.
Stanley, Sandra Kumamoto. “Teaching the Politics of Identity in a Post-Identity Age:
Anna Deavere Smith’s “Twilight”.” MELUS 30, no. 2 (2005): 191-208. Accessed November 6, 2020. http://www.jstor.org/stable/30029855.
USA Today. 2020. “Making Waves.” Accessed November 13.
Weatherston, Rosemary. 2008. “‘The True Words of Real People’: Documenting the Myth of the
Real in Anna Deavere Smith’s Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992.” Ariel 39 (1/2): 189–216. http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=35776800&site=ehost-live.