Anna Deavere Smith's "Let Me Down Easy"
Production Announcement

Anna Deavere Smith’s latest one-woman production, Let Me Down Easy, will be videotaped at Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater by Great Performances in February for airing on PBS during the series’ 2011-2012 season. (Prior to the broadcast, Arena Stage will launch a national tour of the play which was originally presented at the Long Wharf Theatre and The American Repertory Theater. The current production originated at New York’s Second Stage Theatre where it enjoyed a successful run.)

Great Performances is a production of THIRTEEN for WNET, one of America’s most prolific and respected public media providers.

Called “the most exciting individual in American theater” by Newsweek magazine, Smith (Fires in the Mirror, Twilight: Los Angeles) turns on this occasion to matters of the human body: the healthcare system, and the resilience of the spirit.

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.

Anna Deavere Smith

Anna Deavere Smith

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.

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.

It has been said that Smith created a new form of theater. When granted the prestigious MacArthur Award, her work was described as “a blend of theatrical art, social commentary, journalism and intimate reverie.” She has performed in film and TV as well as on stage. She currently plays Gloria Akalitus on Showtime’s hit series Nurse Jackie. She’s probably most recognizable in popular culture as Nancy McNally, national security advisor on NBC’s former hit The West Wing.

Smith’s Twilight: Los Angeles played around the U.S. and on Broadway. It received two Tony nominations, an Obie, Drama Desk Award, the New York Drama Critics Circle’s Special Citation and numerous other honors.

She produced, wrote and performed the film version of Twilight for PBS. Another of her plays, Fires in the Mirror, examined a race riot in Crown Heights, Brooklyn (1991), when racial tensions between black and Jewish neighbors exploded. It received an Obie Award, numerous other awards and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. She performed the play around the U.S., in London and in Australia. The film version was also broadcast on PBS. 

Let Me Down Easy – helmed by theater and opera director Leonard Foglia — will be taped during its run in Arena Stage’s Kreeger Theater in Washington, D.C. It will be directed for television by veteran Matthew Diamond (Cyrano de Bergerac, From Broadway: Fosse, Swan Lake with American Ballet Theatre, all for Great Performances, and was nominated for an Oscar for the 1999 documentary Dancemaker).

After its Arena Stage run, the production will embark on a tour to include The Wexner Center for the Arts; Philadelphia Theatre Company; a collaborative presentation of  San Diego REPertory Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, and the Vantage Theatre; and Berkeley Repertory Theatre.

Great Performances is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, Vivian Milstein, the Irene Diamond Fund, the Starr Foundation, the Philip and Janice Levin Foundation and Joseph A. Wilson, with additional major support from the LuEsther T. Mertz Charitable Trust.

For Great Performances, Bill O’Donnell and Mitch Owgang are producers; O’Donnell is series producer; David Horn is executive producer.

  • Margaret

    Please let me know when “Let Me Down Easy” will air. Thank You.

  • Sheri Davis-Faulkner

    Please air this again.

  • kate

    when will Let Me Down Easy air?

  • david ernst

    Hi Kate,

    We anticipate that Let Me Down Easy will air Winter/Spring in 2012, but we’ll keep everyone informed when we get more info. Thanks for your question.

  • Leslie Carter

    Can we get any of her work on dvd from PBS?

  • Diane E

    Just saw Anna Deveare Smith in this production Live in Santa Monica and I am so blown away! I’m a long-time fan, and to see her finally LIVE was unbelievable. What an artist. Amazing.

  • Patience ecklund

    I live in Seattle and would love to see Let Me Down Easy live, but if it will not come to Seattle, will I be able to buy it on DVD or see it on a PBS Special?

    Thanks so much,

    Patience Ecklund

  • david ernst

    Yes Patience,

    Let Me Down Easy will be a PBS Special brought to you by GREAT PERFORMANCES in the upcoming 2011-2012 Season. We’ll let everyone know once it has a confirmed air date (as always is subject to your local listings). Thanks for your question.

    Best,
    GP Team

  • lynne sherman

    Will Let Me Down Easy be performed in New York City or San Francisco during 2011-2012?
    Where?

    Thank you very much.

  • david ernst

    Hi Lynne,

    The Great Performances production of Let Me Down Easy was filmed at Arena Stage in Washington, DC in early 2011. The play is currently being shown at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, click here to investigate further.

    Hope you find this information helpful.

    Best,
    GP Team

  • Crystal Bujol

    I see that you are going to let everyone know when this PBS special will be aired. However, how does one get on that “everyone” list in order to be notified? I sure want to be on that list!

    Blessings to you!

  • Wendy Gladstone

    Please notify me of performances or broadcasts of Anna Deavere Smith.

  • Kirk V

    I adore Anna Deavere Smith. I utilize her process and work in my Theatre Appreciation class that I teach and thoroughly enjoyed her “Let Me Down Easy” at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica this summer. Two questions -any further information about the exact date of her televised performance? And, is there a dvd of her seminal work Twilight: Los Angeles available for purchase? Thank you!

  • david ernst

    Hi Kirk,

    As of yet, our production of “Let Me Down Easy” has not received an airdate, but we’ll be sure to keep you (and everyone) posted when it’s ready to announce.

    As for a DVD of her previous work Twilight: Los Angeles, it appears that PBS has not made that program into DVD format (and perhaps doesn’t have the rights to do so). However, looking around amazon.com there seemed to be some old VHS versions available from third party sellers. Hope this info helps.

    Best,
    GP Team

  • david ernst

    Hi Kate,

    We’re happy to announce that Let Me Down Easy has received an airdate and is scheduled to air Friday, January 13th at 9:00pm. Please make sure to check your local listings. You can use this pbs.org schedule search to help find when it’s airing on your local station.

    Thanks for your interest in Let Me Down Easy and GREAT PERFORMANCES.

  • david ernst

    Hi Margaret,

    We’re happy to announce that Let Me Down Easy has received an airdate and is scheduled to air Friday, January 13th at 9:00pm. Please make sure to check your local listings. You can use this pbs.org schedule search to help find when it’s airing on your local station.

    Thanks for your interest in Let Me Down Easy and GREAT PERFORMANCES.

  • david ernst

    Hi Patience,

    We’re happy to announce that Let Me Down Easy has received an airdate and is scheduled to air Friday, January 13th at 9:00pm. Please make sure to check your local listings. You can use this pbs.org schedule search to help find when it’s airing on your local station.

    Thanks for your interest in Let Me Down Easy and GREAT PERFORMANCES.

  • david ernst

    Hi Kirk,

    We’re happy to announce that Let Me Down Easy has received an airdate and is scheduled to air Friday, January 13th at 9:00pm. Please make sure to check your local listings. You can use this pbs.org schedule search to help find when it’s airing on your local station.

    Thanks for your interest in Let Me Down Easy and GREAT PERFORMANCES.

  • Mamie

    I suppose it is likely that this will be blocked outside of the US because of copyright and I get that….but if even the slightest chance exists that this should be made available to those of us living outside of the United States, please please take it.

    As it turns out, there are very few broadcasters in the world that provide the quality of programming that GP offers.

  • Greg Hunicutt

    What a performance. I want to crawl to see it live (come to Seattle!!!).

  • S C Trostel

    Enjoyed seeing Let Me Down Easy in Austin in its early days and loved a second opportunity!! Tried to let friends know, but some missed it because my PBS alert was minute. Any idea about a repeat???

  • Annette Dumas

    I am also interested in a repeat performance. We missed the first hour – and watching it on the computer is just not so good. Any chance of a repeat????

  • Tawanda

    Please let me know about repeat airing and also how (where) does one watch this on the computer, if you don’t have access to cable/TV??

  • Liz dana

    I missed the airing on Jamuary 13, so please tell me if and when it will air again as I would like to watch it with a group of women who have expereinced a loss.

    I am sorry but one showing is not enough sometimes ,

  • J. P. Finerty

    I watched the PBS version of Anna Deveare Smith’s brilliant “Let Me Down Easy” both on TV and online video. Why was Eve Ensler not included? This was one of the most important sections of the performance. Very sad to see it missing. Censored?

  • Carol Fontein

    Shucks! I missed Let Me Down Easy on Jan 13th – how can I find out if/ when it will be re-broadcast? Thanks!

  • A. Christopher Hall

    Are DVD’s available for purchase of “Let Me Down Easy?
    Please respond via E-Mail!

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