BOONE — The Schaefer Center Presents performing arts series, presented by Appalachian State University’s Office of Arts and Cultural Programs, kicks off its Spring 2021 virtual season with “An Evening with Anna Deavere Smith: Reclaiming Grace in the Face of Adversity,” Thursday, Feb. 4, at 8 p.m.

This one-time livestream event with celebrated playwright, actor, educator Smith features moderation from the Schaefer Center stage by Dr. Paulette Marty, Professor of Theatre Arts at Appalachian State University. Ms. Smith will begin the evening with a storytelling presentation live from her home in New York City. An interactive Q&A session will follow the performance. The event is free, but registration is required. The event is supported in part by the Hughlene Bostian Frank Visiting Writers Series at App State.

“Reclaiming Grace in the Face of Adversity” was developed following research for Smith’s play Let Me Down Easy, wherein the playwright interviewed people in the U.S. and abroad who demonstrated grace in the face of dramatic challenges. Smith observed that, while we live in a winner-take-all society, part of our potential as humans is our potential for compassion and our resilience in the face of adversity. This storytelling speech celebrates the resilience of the human spirit, the power of empathy, the strength of imagination, and hope.

Smith uses her singular brand of theatre to explore issues of community, character, and diversity in America. The MacArthur Foundation honored her with the “Genius” Fellowship for creating “a new form of theatre — a blend of theatrical art, social commentary, journalism and intimate reverie.”

“I’m so grateful to have the chance to talk to one of my heroes,” says Marty, who has taught Smith’s work in her classrooms for decades and as a result, approaches the event with a unique frame of reference. “Her thought-provoking, moving plays are great fodder for class discussions about the power and function of the arts in society. Watching Smith’s plays has changed the way I think about current events. Because the characters in her plays offer many different perspectives on an issue, they have inspired me to wonder how unheard people have been affected by events in the news. Reading a news story, I’ll ask myself, ‘How must her parents feel right now?’ or ‘What happened to the people who witnessed this?’ or ‘What’s it like for him to be alone in that place?. I trace those questions back to hearing about people’s experiences in her plays.”

The Q&A session between Smith and Marty will follow the presentation of Reclaiming Grace in the Face of Adversity. Viewers are encouraged to put questions into the chat for Smith to address if time permits at the end of the regularly scheduled discussion. The virtual event is free of charge, but advance registration is required. All registrants will receive a link to access the event both the day before and one hour prior to the performance.

As a complimentary companion piece to Smith’s appearance with the performing arts series, the acclaimed film adaption of Smith’s Tony-nominated play “Twilight: Los Angeles” is available to view at any time now through Feb. 4. The film tackles issues of race and social inequality that have become touchstones of her work.

The Schaefer Center Presents spring 2021 virtual season

Events are free; advance registration is required at theschaefercenter.org. All registrants will receive a link to access the event both the day before and one hour prior to the performance.

Coming Soon

Feb. 25 at 8 p.m. BalletX

This specially curated pre-recorded production of one of the country’s most celebrated contemporary dance companies includes a recorded introduction by BalletX co-founder Christine Cox, the BalletX 15th Anniversary Season documentary, and mixed rep selections “Increasing” and “Fancy Me.”

Mar. 11 at 8 p.m. Steep Canyon Rangers

A livestream event brought to you straight from the stage of the Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts. Asheville’s own Steep Canyon Rangers are Grammy winners, perennial Billboard chart-toppers and frequent collaborators of the renowned banjoist and comedian, Steve Martin.

Mar. 25 at 8 p.m. Best of the Appalachian Dance Ensemble

This digital compilation, a best-of showcase of student performances in App State’s Dept. of Theatre & Dance, features works from faculty choreographers.

“The Schaefer Center Presents” is a series offering campus and community audiences a diverse array of music, dance and theatre programming designed to enrich the cultural landscape of the Appalachian State University campus and surrounding area. By creating memorable performance experiences and related educational and outreach activities, the series promotes the power and excitement of the live performance experience; provides a “window on the world” through the artistry of nationally and internationally renowned artists; and showcases some of the finest artists of our nation and our region. Musical events range from symphony orchestra and chamber music performances to jazz, folk, traditional, international, and popular artists. Theatre productions run the gamut from serious drama to musical comedy. Dance performances offer an equally wide array of styles, from ballet to modern dance to international companies representing cultural traditions from around the world. For more information, visit http://theschaefercenter.org.

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