Actress Anna Deavere Smith PVAMU’s Fall 2021 commencement speaker
Actor-writer Anna Deavere Smith attends a special screening of HBO Films' "Notes From The Field" at the Museum of Modern Art on Feb. 21, 2018 in New York.

Award-winning actress, playwright, and scholar Anna Deavere Smith, who has been credited with creating a new form of theater, will serve as the keynote speaker for Prairie View A&M University’s 26th Fall Commencement Convocation ceremony on Saturday, December 11.

The ceremony will be held on the main campus in the William “Billy” J. Knicks, Sr. Building at 9 a.m. for fall 2021 candidates for graduation.

Known for her keen ability to combine theater arts and journalism, Smith’s unique interpretation of “words through performance” has garnered critical acclaim from Time magazine, The New York Times, and the Critics’ Choice Awards. She brings to life characters who have found themselves in the midst of some of the most searing events of our times, such as the 1992 Los Angeles Riots and the Crown Heights riot. As the sole performer of multiple characters, she has captivated theatre audiences with her ability to embody a wide range of personalities and voices. Her art has won her a host of honors, including the Drama Desk Award, the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, and the National Humanities Medal. Her most recent original work, Notes from the Field, is a one-woman show that looks at the vulnerability of youth, the criminal justice system, and contemporary activism.

In addition to her work on stage, Smith has numerous film and television credits. She had recurring roles on The West WingThe Practice, and Nurse Jackie and has appeared in the movies PhiladelphiaDaveHuman StainThe American PresidentRent, and Rachel Getting Married.

Smith holds an appointment in the Department of Arts at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, where she is the founding director of the Institute on the Arts and Civic Dialogue. Prior to her appointment at NYU, she served on the faculties of the University of Southern California, Stanford University, and Carnegie Mellon University. She holds degrees from Arcadia University (BA) and the American Conservatory Theater (MFA).

PVAMU expects to award degrees to nearly 600 undergraduate and graduate students. Visit to learn more about the event.