From the most exciting individual in American theater” (Newsweek), here is Anna Deavere Smith’s brass tacks advice to aspiring artists of all stripes. In vividly anecdotal letters to the young BZ, she addresses the full spectrum of issues that people starting out will face: from questions of confidence, discipline, and self-esteem, to fame, failure, and fear, to staying healthy, presenting yourself effectively, building a diverse social and professional network, and using your art to promote social change. At once inspiring and no-nonsense, Letters to a Young Artist will challenge you, motivate you, and set you on a course to pursue your art without compromise.
Actor and playwright Smith casts her reflections on the creative process, the artist's life and the acting profession as a series of brief letters addressed to a fictitious teenager. Defining artist broadly, Smith (Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992) shares advice not only from painters, dancers, writers and actors but from a bull rider, a boxer and a dentist. Her advice is often directly practical: how to deal with stage fright, face an audition, even keep well ("Stay hydrated"). Smith treats concerns of the spirit as well: how to cope with disappointment, depression and feeling alienated. The letters have the immediacy of a genuine correspondence, replying to an imagined request for information ("How did you find your mentors?"), remembering a special moment ("It was summer the first time I moved to New York") and reporting on the present ("I just got a call from my agent saying there's a job for me on a television show"). What emerges most persuasively is Smith's sense of the complex interrelationship between one's art and one's everyday life. With a pithiness that wards away the preachy, Smith succeeds in conveying the pain, the joy and the effort that characterize a life on the stage and in the world.