Notes from the Field: Doing Time in Education
A.R.T. Season
August 20 - September 17, 2016

Created, written, and performed by Anna Deavere Smith
Music composed and performed by Marcus Shelby
Directed by Leonard Foglia

Urgent and inspiring, Notes from the Field: Doing Time in Education outlines the civil rights crisis currently erupting at the intersection between America’s education system and its mass incarceration epidemic. In act one, Anna Deavere Smith introduces the students, parents, teachers, and administrators caught in America’s school-to-prison “pipeline” through her trademark portrait performances.  

A leader in national conversations on race and justice, Smith (Fires in the MirrorTwilight: Los Angeles, 1992Let Me Down Easy; “Nurse Jackie”) now asks audiences to talk back. In the tradition of call and response, a second act before a final coda performance invites audiences to reflect on how we might begin to collectively move forward from difficult histories and devastating social policies.

@americanrep   #NotesFromTheField

See what audiences are saying about Notes from the Field: Doing Time in Education:


Education & Access Initiatives
Cambridge Community Foundation
Grayson Family Foundation
Marcia Head
Panta Rhea Foundation 

Anna Deavere Smith Pipeline Project
Lead support for the Anna Deavere Smith School-to-Prison Pipeline Project is provided by the Ford Foundation. Major support is provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; Panta Rhea Foundation; The Atlantic Philanthropies, a limited life foundation; The California Endowment; NoVo Foundation; Open Society Foundations; Poss Family Foundation; and The Charles Evans Hughes Memorial Foundation.

Additional support is provided by Agnes Gund, Suzanne Farver Advised Fund at Aspen Community Foundation, Alexandra & Paul Herzan, Ellen & Bob Peck, Daryl Roth, Jordan Roth & Richie Jackson, Robert & Laura Sillerman, Mr. and Mrs. Robert K. Steel, Michael Margitich, Mike & Jackie Bezos, Jeremy Smith, The Crown Family, David & Susan Rockefeller, Melva Bucksbaum & Raymond Learsy, Cultures of Resistance Network Foundation, Robert J. Caruso & The Kantian Foundation, the Mimi & Peter Haas Fund, Louise Grunwald, Nancy & Morris W. Offit, Roger & Vicki Sant, and several anonymous donors.

Special thanks to the Office of the Provost and the Institute on the Arts and Civic Dialogue, New York University. The Pipeline Project is a sponsored project of the New York Foundation for the Arts.












Creative team
Writer, Performer Anna Deavere Smith
Composer, Performer Marcus Shelby
Director Leonard Foglia
Set Design Riccardo Hernandez
Costume Design Ann Hould-Ward
Lighting Design Howell Binkley
Sound Design Dan Moses Schreier
Projection Design Elaine McCarthy
Dialect Coach Amy Stoller
Movement Coach Michael Leon Thomas
Dramaturg Alisa Solomon
Production Stage Manager Taylor Brennan
Additional staff
Assistant Stage Manager Andrea Jess Berkey
Associate Movement Coach Michael Bentt
Assistant Director Kimiko Matsuda-Lawrence
Artistic Associate/The Pipeline Project

Kimber Riddle

Director of Interviewee Relations/Onstage Assistant

Daniel Rattner

Associate Costume Design

Christoper Vergara

Associate Lighting Design

Catherine Clark

Associate Sound Design

Joshua Reid

Assistant Sound Design

Peter Gangi

Assistant Projection Design

Maxwell Bowman

Projection Programmer

Paul Vershbow

Special Assistant to Anna Deavere Smith

David Lockard

Text Coordinator

Zoë Norman-Hunt

Act II Staff
Act II Manager

Kayhan Irani

Pipeline Staff Team Leader/Act II Facilitator Manager

Stephanie Schneider

Act II Facilitator Trainer

Lizzy Cooper Davis

Act II Facilitator Manager

Pablo Hernandez Basulto

Conversation Hosts

For a complete list of Act II Conversation Hosts and their bios, click here

Food for Act II contributed in part by Curate Snacks and by Whole Foods Market - Fresh Pond.


Once again she unpacks some of the most unpleasant realities of American life, ones we would rather not face—racism, inequality, educational failure, the school-to-prison pipeline, poverty, the tragic waste of human lives. In this extraordinary telling, these issues are exposed as a complex nest of interrelated problems. More

“Notes from the Field” homes in on what some call the school-to-prison pipeline: the syndrome in which poor, usually minority youths are disproportionately punished, even in pre-school, then shunted into the juvenile justice system and often into a lifetime of ins and outs at the Big House. More

From the classrooms to the streets, from the glorious memories of Selma to shocking cellphone video that captures a school officer tossing a student around a classroom, here's the raw stuff of actual and urgent crisis. More

A superbly conceived and delivered, and very moving, inquiry into racism, schools and incarceration. More

When you listen to Anna Deavere Smith, you don't just hear Anna Deavere Smith. The renowned playwright and actor builds her scripts from transcribed interviews with dozens of real people. More

What if the talkback were truly part of the show itself, and not an epilogue? That’s the model Anna Deavere Smith works with in “Notes From the Field: Doing Time in Education,” a show that the actress/theater-maker seems to view more as an exercise in citizenship than simple, sit-and-applaud entertainment. More

The school-to-prison pipeline. A country’s complex relationship with law enforcement. An educational system that too often deserves an “F.” These may be the lead topics from this morning’s talk shows and the headlines from today’s newspapers, but they’re also the recurring themes in Anna Deavere Smith’s Notes from the Field: Doing Time in Education. More

Actress, playwright, and teacher Anna Deavere Smith—as well known for her work on camera (Nurse Jackie, The West Wing) as she is for her searing, docu-style plays (Let Me Down Easy, Twilight: Los Angeles)—is bringing her latest experiment to the American Repertory Theater. More

Writer, performer and professor Anna Deavere Smith says the U.S. is on the verge of a new civil rights movement. And, she says, the theater might help get people involved. More


Press Releases

The American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) at Harvard University, under the leadership of Artistic Director Diane Paulus and Executive Director Diane Quinn, presents the New England premiere of Notes from the Field: Doing Time in Education; created, written, and performed by Anna Deavere Smith, with music composed and performed by Marcus Shelby, directed by Leonard Foglia.

Inspired by the show to learn more about, or get involved in addressing the issues raised by the play? Visit (and contribute to) this guide to local resources and organizations.


Click here to read the show's program.

Click here to read more about the show in our fall Guide

Click here to find engaging resources and materials on the school-to-prison pipeline in the Notes from the Field Toolkit.

Click here to learn more about donating a book to Massachusetts Department of Youth Services.


Read these blog posts to learn more about the production: 


Digging Up the Pipeline

by Dramaturg Alisa Solomon


Toward Empathetic Imagination and Action

by Writer & Performer Anna Deavere Smith


A Note

by Composer & Performer Marcus Shelby

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Ticket prices

A.R.T. Subscribers, Members, and Student Members: Log into your account for discounts. Tickets from $25

Run time

Approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes, including one intermission.


64 Brattle St.
Cambridge, MA 02138

Tickets: 617.547.8300

Administrative Office: 617.495.2668


High-res image:
High-res image:
Venue Map

Need to know

There is no guarantee that standing room will be available for sold-out performances; however, if it becomes available a limited number of standing room tickets may be sold in person for select shows on the day of each show at 12 noon. The number of standing room tickets will not be known in advance of the ticket services office opening at 12PM. Please call our Ticket Services office with any ticket related questions at 617.547.8300. Hours are: Tuesday-Sunday, Noon-5PM.


Age Appropriateness

Recommended for grades 7 and up.
Prepared middle- and high- school students will be able to engage deeply with themes of incarceration, education, and advocacy. The performance contains occasional strong language and references to drug abuse. Due to the group discussion format of Act 2, teachers are advised to consult the A.R.T.’s online educational resources prior to your visit.

Audio Described

Sept. 15, 7:30PM & Sept. 17, 2PM

Open Captioning Open Captioned

Sept. 15, 7:30PM & Sept. 17, 2PM




Assistive Listening Devices
Large Print Programs


Each performance begins with a “radical welcome” offered by a different member of the greater Boston community.  For more information and a list of welcomers, click here

Performance sponsors:

Production Sponsors
The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard Kennedy School
Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University
Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University 


Production Support
Amy and Ed Brakeman (Umsizi Fund)
Poss Family Foundation
The artistic residency of Anna Deavere Smith is generously supported by Katie and Paul Buttenwieser.