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Let Me Down Easy

Let Me Down Easy

Anna Deavere Smith


“An engrossing collection of testimonials about life, death, and the care of the ailing body . . . Continually engaging . . . Ms. Smith has created a vivid compendium of life experienced at its extremes, drawn about equally from the suffering and the ministering sides of the story.” —New York Times

“Each vignette—there are twenty in all—is rich enough for an entire play, which is probably the point: Every person contains multitudes.” —Variety

“Perpetually in search of the American character, Smith takes a slightly different tack this time in her work: Contemplating the thousand natural shocks that Shakespeare told us flesh is heir to, she ventures toward a secular definition of the human soul . . . What is Smith’s secret? The same as that of any great theater artist: She knows how to listen.” —Los Angeles Times

Compiled from dozens of interviews conducted by the author, Anna Deavere Smith’s Let Me Down Easy is a bracing, tender, melancholy, and triumphant exploration of death and dying. The speakers Smith inhabits include healthcare professionals, theologians, artists, athletes, and activists. They speak of the body as a battleground, a tool, a weapon, a joy, a burden. Smith’s great gift has always been her ability to break down her subjects’ defenses and present them in their full, complicated beauty. Whether channeling Lance Armstrong, Lauren Hutton, Peter Gomes, or others who are not in the public eye, Smith reminds us again and again that in learning to die we learn to live.

Anna Deavere Smith is an acclaimed actress, playwright, author, and teacher. Smith rose to prominence with her verbatim theater pieces Fires in the Mirror and Twilight: Los Angeles 1992. She is also known for her performances in the films The American President, Philadelphia, and Rachel Getting Married, and her recurring roles on TV’s black-ish, The West Wing, and Nurse Jackie. Smith is the recipient of the MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, two Tony nominations, and she was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama. She received the 2012 National Humanities Award from President Obama.

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