Anna Deavere Smith : Bullseye with Jesse Thorn Anna Deavere Smith is one of the most accomplished people in American theater. She's an incredible actor, playwright and scholar. But, Anna's also a trailblazer. Plays like Fires in the Mirror and Let Me Down Easy have pushed the boundaries of traditional theater. But Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 is perhaps the most exemplary of her work. Anna interviewed over 300 people about the Rodney King beating and its aftermath. And she turned their words into a play where she acted every part. 30 years ago, that show premiered at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. Now, the show is back at the Mark Taper Forum for a second run. It's been revised for a group of five people of different ages, genders and races. This week on Bullseye, Anna Deavere Smith joins us to talk about the revised production of Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992. Plus, what it's like to revisit such an iconic piece after so many years.

Anna Deavere Smith

Anna Deavere Smith

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Anna Deavere Smith attends the Center Theatre Group Hosts Opening Night Performance Of "Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992" at Mark Taper Forum on March 15, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Unique Nicole/Getty Images) Unique Nicole/Getty Images hide caption

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Anna Deavere Smith attends the Center Theatre Group Hosts Opening Night Performance Of "Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992" at Mark Taper Forum on March 15, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Unique Nicole/Getty Images)

Unique Nicole/Getty Images

CW: This interview includes discussions of police violence.

Anna Deavere Smith is one of the most accomplished people in American theater. She's an incredible actor, playwright and scholar.

But, Anna's also a trailblazer.

In many ways, her works have created a new form of theater. Fires in the Mirror and Let Me Down Easy are two of over a dozen of her one-person plays that have pushed the boundaries of traditional theater.

Like much of Anna's work, these productions are like documentaries. Their goal is to recreate a moment in time in all of its complexity.

But unlike a documentary, the main goal of Anna's productions aren't just to relay facts and information. Her work is about finding moments that are bigger than life itself.

The way Anna does this is simple but nothing less than amazing: She has real conversations with real people. She collects their stories and presents her findings on stage. And for a huge part of Anna's career, she's done all of this by herself.

Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 is perhaps the most exemplary of her works.

It's a production about one of the most important moments in Los Angeles history: the protests that erupted in 1992 after four police officers were found not-guilty of assaulting 26-year-old Rodney King.

Anna interviewed over 300 people about the Rodney King beating and its aftermath—police, bystanders, jurors. They were Angelenos of all backgrounds. And she turned their words, verbatim, into a play. It premiered at the Mark Taper Forum in 1993.

In the original production, Anna played every part. She represented each person as closely as she could. Every lilt and hitch in a person's voice was studied and replicated on-stage. It's one of the most remarkable theater productions of all time.

Now, 30 years later, Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 has returned to the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles.

This time around, it isn't a solo act. The show's been revised for a cast of five. They're people of different ages, genders and races. And they're all playing a few of the characters Anna played 30 years ago.

This week on Bullseye, Anna Deavere Smith joins us to talk about the revised production of Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992. Plus, what it's like to revisit such an iconic piece after so many years.

Twilight: Los Angeles 1992 is now playing at the Mark Taper Forum. You can find tickets to the show and more information about the production here.