The critically acclaimed actress, writer and author Anna Deavere Smith recently visited the capital as part of The Magic of Words, a New York University Abu Dhabi Institute event.
tabloid! caught up with Smith a few hours before she was due to perform. She spoke about her career, future plans and her impressions of the capital.
"This is the first time I come to Abu Dhabi, I arrived on Wednesday evening, but it feels as though I have been here for three months — the city is very intense, very rich.
"I would love to be able to do a show about Abu Dhabi, unfortunately I don't speak Arabic. I would love to learn to speak it, though. It's a much more expressive language than English and has such a breathy quality to it," Smith said.
Smith may be more well-known as Nancy McNally on The West Wing, among numerous other roles in both television and film, such as Carol in Rachel Getting Married (above). Her most recent role was in the dark comedy series Nurse Jackie. "Nurse Jackie is great, a lot of fun. Although I don't think that you would like to meet my character [Gloria Akalitus, a hospital administrator] in real life. But even though she lives by the rules, she has a soft heart," Smith said.
Smith performed an excerpt from her oft-praised performance piece On The Road: A Search For American Character, where she recreated interviews she conducted with people that she met on her journey to discover the different faces of America. "I've done thousands of interviews... I'm constantly remembering things, such as the time I spoke to an imam who explained to me how the call to prayer in Islam began.
"He told me that early Muslims didn't want to use a horn because that was what Jews used, and Christians used bells so in the end they settled on the human voice."
In addition to acting, Smith is also a professor at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, having received a honorary doctorate from the university in 1997.
"I hope to come back to the NYUAD campus in January 2011 and hold a symposium about art, how to make art, what is art utopia... I met a lot of artists [in the UAE] and I would love to learn more about how living here inspires them to create their pieces," Smith said.