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PBS Presents Film Adaptation of Anna Deavere Smith’s Stage Drama on Los Angeles Riots After Rodney King Verdict

PBS Presents Film Adaptation of Anna Deavere Smith's Stage Drama on Los Angeles Riots After Rodney King Verdict

When Anna Deavere Smith’s drama “Twilight: Los Angeles” at the Mark Taper Forum, it made national news for its unique and unflinching look at the fallout from the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Not only did Smith capture the tumultuous aftermath of the Rodney King trial verdict, she created a searing, innovative and truly American piece of theater by exploring the riots from multiple points of view.

Now, on the 23rd anniversary of the Los Angeles riots, PBS’ “Great Performances” series presents a special broadcast of Marc LevinFriday, June 12 at 9 p.m. ET (check local listings). Prior to the screening, Smith will provide a new introduction to her landmark piece as its themes continue to reverberate powerfully within the context of today’s current events.

In her acclaimed one-woman show, later directed by George C. Wolfe on Broadway, Smith gives voice to 40 real-life “characters,” from a Korean grocer, to a Hollywood agent, and a juror. Not “mimicry” in the traditional sense, her performance is an account of what and how these people spoke to her in hundreds of interviews.

In this film adaptation, Smith’s virtuoso performance is interwoven with documentary interviews and footage of then contemporary Los Angeles.

Smith’s “Twilight: Los Angeles” originally aired on PBS in 2001, and again in 2012.

She has been credited with creating 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.” In 2012 President Obama presented Ms. Smith with the National Humanities medal at the White House.

Her play “Fires in the Mirror” examined the Crown Heights riots in 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. 

Developed for film and television and executive produced by Cherie Fortis, with cinematographer Maryse Alberti and Tony Award winning production designer Richard Hoover, “Twilight: Los Angeles” explores the lasting impact of the riots on our national conscience.

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

Visit Great Performances Online at for additional information about this and other programs.

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