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sdane's picture

At the beginning of her essay Anna Devere Smith explains that when she started her project she was “not as interested in performance” as she was in language.  This immediately struck me because I’ve always considered speech and the use of language to be a type of performance in and of itself.  Language goes beyond words – we express ourselves through intonation, body movement, pitch, and facial expression.  We are always theatrical when we talk.  We are performing.  The dichotomy Smith initially presents between the actor and the character is therefore confusing to me because I really do think that we are all playacting ourselves in everyday life.  She goes on to explain that “the act of speech, then, does become performance” in reference to seasoned interview subjects who spit out sound bites with ease.  But we’re all acting all the time, and the types of criticism Smith encountered during her performances of “On the Road” are censures that most people have encountered at sometime in our life.  We are all characters of ourselves which is why its possible for everyday people to be “not black enough” or “too Jewish” in our speech and affectation even when we’re not standing on a stage.