Anna Deavere Smith — actress, playwright, and New York University professor — has been awarded the prestigious 2013 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, which comes with a $300,000 prize, one of the largest in the arts.
The 19-year-old award is named after the sisters and actresses who got their start during the dawn of film back in the 1910s. Past recipients include Robert Redford, writer Chinua Achibe, and filmmaker Ingmar Bergman. It’s given to “a man or woman who has made an outstanding contribution to the beauty of the world and to mankind’s enjoyment and understanding of life.”
Smith is known for her work in Rent, the cable program Nurse Jackie, and the network show The West Wing. She’s also made a name for what the New York Times calls “socially conscious” one-woman shows, such as Twilight: Los Angeles, about the violence after the Rodney King verdict. Smith also has a namesake program, Anna Deavere Smith Works, that cultivates the arts and social change. Smith was chosen from a list of 30 finalists, according to IndieWire.