Humanities › Literature Fires in the Mirror: Crown Heights, Brooklyn and Other Identities A Full Length Play by Anna Deavere Smith Share Flipboard Email Print Slaven Vlasic / Getty Images Literature Plays & Drama Basics & Advice Playwrights Play & Drama Reviews Monologues Improvisation Games and Activities Best Sellers Classic Literature Poetry Quotations Shakespeare Short Stories Children's Books By Rosalind Flynn Theater Education Expert Ph.D., Educational Drama, University of Maryland B.A., Drama, The Catholic University of America Rosalind Flynn, Ph.D., is the director of the Master of Arts in Theatre Education degree program at The Catholic University of America. our editorial process Rosalind Flynn Updated March 18, 2017 In 1991 a young black boy, Gavin Cato was crushed when a Hasidic Jewish man drove his car onto a curb. Confusion and passions get in the way of the bystanders, family and media in search of the truth of the situation. Later that same day, a group of malcontent black men find a Hasidic Jewish man in another part of the town and stab him multiple times. The man, Yankel Rosenbaum from Australia, later died from his wounds. These events ignited long-held racist beliefs in both the Hasidic Jewish community and the Black community of the Crown Heights neighborhood and surrounding areas. Playwright Anna Deavere Smith was inspired by these events and she gathered interviews from every person who would grant her one. She recorded and compiled the interviews and created monologues taken verbatim from the interviewee’s words. The result was Fires in the Mirror, a play containing the voices of 26 characters delivered via 29 monologues. Performer Anna Deavere Smith then used her own script and performed all 26 characters. She recreated the voices, mannerisms, and physicality of everyone from a Lubavitcher pre-school teacher to poet and playwright Ntozake Shange to Reverend Al Sharpton. (Click here to view the PBS production of her play in full make up and costumes.) In this play, Smith examines the cultural positions of both communities as well as public figures’ responses and the effects of the resulting riots on the neighborhood and families of those involved. Smith took it upon herself to hold up a mirror to her audience and let them see the reflection of another person’s experience and the collective perspectives communicated through her achingly honest play. She wrote a similar play that explores the aftermath of riots entitled Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992. Both plays are examples of a genre of theater called Verbatim Theater. Production Details Set: Bare stage with the ability for projected images Time: 1991 Cast size: This play was originally written to be performed by one woman, but the publisher indicates that flexible casting is an option. Content Issues: Language, Culture, Anger Roles Ntozake Shange - Playwright, poet, and novelistAnonymous Lubavitcher WomanGeorge C. Wolfe - Playwright, director and producing director of the New York Shakespeare Fesitival.Aaron M. Bernstein - Physicist at MITAnonymous GirlReverend Al SharptonRivkah SiegalAngela Davis - Professor in the History of Consciousness Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz.Monique “Big Mo” Matthews- L.A. rapperLeonard Jeffries- Professor of African American Studies at City University of New YorkLetty Cottin Pogrebin - Author of Deborah, Golda, and Me, Being Female and Jewish in America, and founding editor of Ms. MagazineMinister Conrad MohammedRobert Sherman- Director and Mayor of the City of New York’s Increase the Peace CorpsRabbi Joseph SpielmanThe Reverend Cannon Doctor Heron SamAnonymous Young Man #1Michael S. Miller - Executive Director at the Jewish Community Relations CouncilHenry RiceNorman Rosenbaum - Brother of Yankel Rosenbaum, a barrister from AustraliaAnonymous Young Man #2Sonny CarsonRabbi Shea HechtRichard Green - Director, Crown Heights Youth Collective, co-director Project CURE, a Black-Hasidic basketball team formed after the riotsRoslyn MalamudReuven OstrovCarmel Cato - Father of Gavin Cato, Crown Heights resident, originally from Guyana Production rights for Fires in the Mirror: Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and Other Identities are held by Dramatists Play Service, Inc.