Anna Deavere Smith Live in Berkeley: Exploration of Aging, the Vulnerability of the Body, and the Resilience of the Spirit
On April 21st, Anna Deavere Smith, acclaimed actress, playwright and professor, will be back in the Bay Area to perform excepts from her powerful, one-woman show, Let Me Down Easy. Although perhaps best known for her leading roles in the West Wing and Nurse Jackie, Smith is the master of a unique approach to cultural commentary. Over the last 20 years, she has interviewed more than 2,000 people across America, using verbatim dialogue through solo performance to explore issues of race, identity, and community. Widely acclaimed by critics, she is said to have “created a new form of theater” and is hailed as the “most exciting individual in American theater,” by NewsWeek Magazine.
Smith will perform at the First Congregational Church of Berkeley, as the headliner of DayBreak Adult Care Centers’ fundraiser, An Evening of Community and Conversation. Smith will be taking guests on an exploration aging, the vulnerability of the body and the resilience of the human spirit. Based on interviews with an eclectic range of people, Smith will provoke profound thoughts on how we “value life and think about our mortality.” Says Smith: “Through feeling” — feeling the characters’ heartbreak, their hope, their resignation — “we deepen our understanding.”
“This event is the catalyst for a very important conversation about our healthcare system in America and how it effects the most vulnerable among us,” says DayBreak’s Executive Director, Ofra Paz. “Anna brings the everyday realities of our aging population to life, both their struggles and inspirational resilience. We could think of no one more fitting to present as our community assesses the growing needs of older adults in Alameda County and our organization kicks-off a new exciting initiative.”
A recent survey of older adults age 55+ conducted by Alameda County’s Social Services Agency reports that the top two concerns for over 60% of older adults in the county are having enough income to meet basic needs, and being able to stay in their current home as they age. These concerns fit right in line with the reported income distribution, hovering below $26,000/year for more than 50% of respondents and the finding that older adults in Alameda County are more likely to live alone as they age. The survey found that 49% of respondents age 85+ live alone versus only 36% in the 65-74 age range.
The survey findings validate a new initiative by DayBreak Adult Care Centers, which aims to redefine the future of aging in place. “As our population ages, the gap is growing ever wider, between available services and the need,” said Paz.
“We’re launching the Innovation Incubator in partnership with our five member organizations, with the goal of enabling older adults to remain at home as long as possible,” Paz adds. Relevant services will be taken from the idea stage to fully developed models that will be piloted and eventually offered throughout the adult care network. “Having the right Aging Suite of services tailored to their individual needs can play a powerful role in helping seniors age in place, both from a health and economic standpoint.”
Before the show, guests will enjoy a warm community and lively conversation, and indulge in fine local foods, premiere wines and exciting raffle prizes. To learn more and purchase your tickets today, visit www.daybreakcenters.org
GREAT PERFORMANCES EVENT DESCRIPTION: “Smith, through her chameleon-like virtuosity, creates an indelible gallery of portraits, from a rodeo bull rider to a prize fighter to a New Orleans doctor during Hurricane Katrina, as well as boldface names like former Texas Governor Ann Richards, legendary cyclist Lance Armstrong, network film critic Joel Siegel, and supermodel Lauren Hutton. She performs 19 characters in the course of an hour and thirty-five minutes. Their stories are alternately humorous and heart wrenching, and often a blend of both. Building upon each other with hypnotic force, her subjects recount personal encounters with the frailty of the human body, ranging from a mere brush with mortality, coping with an uncertain future in today’s medical establishment, to confronting an end of life transition. The testimony of health care professionals adds further texture to a vivid portrayal of the cultural and societal attitudes to matters of health.”
DAYBREAK ADULT CARE CENTERS is a non-profit network of Adult Day Service providers, with five member organizations and 12 Adult Care Centers located throughout Alameda County. These daytime centers offer frail elders and adults with disabilities a welcoming community and professional services that address their complex medical and cognitive needs, helping them maintain health and continue living at home.