Tuesday April 7, 2015

Perspectives on Peace

The final series event of the spring semester — 7 p.m. Saturday, April 11, in the Kennedy Union ballroom — features playwright, actor and professor Anna Deavere Smith and her brand of theater that highlights community, character and diversity in America.

Smith, who received a National Humanities Award from President Barack Obama in 2012, visited people across America using Walt Whitman's idea to "absorb America and inspiration" and performs vignettes of them to re-create a diversity of emotions and points of view on controversial issues. Smith's goal is to bring "people across the chasms" of what she calls the "complex identities of America."

Best known for crafting one-woman, multi-character plays about American social issues, the MacArthur Foundation honored Smith with the "Genius" Fellowship for creating "a new form of theatre — a blend of theatrical art, social commentary, journalism, and intimate reverie."

She also earned the 2013 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, one of the largest and most prestigious awards in the arts, and delivered the National Endowment for the Humanities' 2015 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities. The lecture is among the highest honors the federal government bestows for distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities.

Deavere Smith's talk is free and open to the public. Tickets are not required. Parking is available without a permit in B and C lots only. Parking in any other campus lot requires a permit.

"This year's series brings us a diverse group of scholars, activists and artists dedicated to a common theme — 'Perspectives on Peace,'" said Kathy Webb, University of Dayton dean of libraries and Speaker Series committee chair. "This semester’s speakers have been nationally recognized for their contributions to their fields. I am confident that their presence on campus will initiate purposeful and critical discussion within our community concerning faith, race relations and social justice. They each offer different perspectives that will engage our students, faculty, staff and community in harmony with the mission of the University of Dayton."

This year's speakers included:

* Nicholas Basbanes, an acclaimed bibliophile whose most recent book, On Paper: The Everything of Its Two-Thousand-Year History, made the short list for the 2014 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction. His keynote address opened the Roesch Library exhibition of Imprints and Impressions: Highlights from the Rose Rare Book Collection.

* Sherman Alexie, Native American author, poet and filmmaker, winner of the National Book Award for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, and the PEN/Faulkner Award for his book of short stories, War Dances

* Sr. Jamie T. Phelps, O.P., discussing "The MLK Legacy and Its Contemporary Implications for the Social Justice Mission of the Local and Global Church." Phelps, the University's annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. commemorative speaker, is the former director of the Institute for Black Catholic Studies and the Katherine Drexel Professor of Systematic Theology at Xavier University of Louisiana. She also is a founding member of the Washington-based National Black Sisters' Conference and the Institute for Black Catholic Studies. 

* Sr. Helen Prejean discussing her ministry against the death penalty and her best-selling book, Dead Man Walking, which was made into a movie by the same title that received Academy Award nominations. 

For more information on the series, contact the University of Dayton's provost's office at 937-229-2245. For interviews, contact Shawn Robinson at 937-229-3391.

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