Renita Lewis with some of the artists leading the workshop This summer, with the help of many generous sponsors, I received a fabulous opportunity to go to San Francisco to attend an intensive acting and empathy workshop with Anna Deavere Smith, and a "power team" she put together that consisted of NYU and Julliard professors, an Alvin Ailey choreographer, an Alexander Technique teacher, and a dialect coach. The workshop included 39 other people from ALL walks of life with ages ranging from 21-68! Some of these people were professors at Ivy Leagues, some owned their own production companies, others just working actors (phenomenal actors, I might add), but all of them taught me something different about myself, and showed me another aspect of our art.

Participants in the Anna Deavere Smith workshopWe worked for 9 days straight from sunrise to sunset most days, and I was learning and enjoying EVERY SECOND OF IT. Anna's work is based on interviews, so most of our work focused on learning how to listen and empathize with everyone around us -- loved ones, strangers, or characters we play or write about. Towards the end of the workshop, we did an exercise Anna called a "Soul Shower," as a result of which I truly grasped and understood on a deeper level the true power of Presence. I realize now I can't adequately describe in words all that I got from these experiences -- but what I can say is that I left California with a type of freedom I've NEVER experienced before. I could go on and on, but it would be so much better if all our actors and directors could take part of these workshops in the future!

 -- Renita Lewis