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With a new one-woman play, Anna Deavere Smith continues her commitment “to showing people they can walk in someone else’s shoes”

Robin Hamilton | 9/3/2008, 5:47 a.m.
With a new one-woman play, Anna Deavere Smith continues her commitment “to showing people they can walk in someone...

Smith admits to taking the same approach in “Let Me Down Easy,” conducting a number of interviews and detailing the nuances of subjects’ speech or gestures.

“I got interested in the way people spoke, the noises they made,” she says. “I wanted to know, ‘What is the relation [between] the person and the noises they make?’ No one thumbprint is alike.”

The playwright admits that when she was younger, she loved to imitate different people, and was energized by various elements around her.

“When I was a little girl, I was a mimic,” she remembers. “I listened to jazz, I danced to speeches by FDR, I talked to hairdressers.”

While some may find her style off-putting, Smith says this is a journey she gladly takes. It is a departure from her most recent work on mainstream television, where she played national security advisor Nancy McNally from the popular show “The West Wing.” Does it bother her that more people may recognize her for that than for her emotionally charged one-woman plays?

“Some people don’t have a clue about what I do,” she says.

However, there are others who see these plays, and understand this side of her as well. Smith delights in that, too.

“I have dedicated my life to showing people they can walk in someone else’s shoes and bridge the divide of our differences,” she says.

Anna Deavere Smith’s “Let Me Down Easy” opens Sept. 12 and runs through Oct. 11 at the Loeb Drama Center, 64 Brattle Street, Cambridge. Tickets range from $39-$79. For show times, tickets and more information, visit www.amrep.org.