Suzan-Lori Parks

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Suzan-Lori Parks
SuzanLoriParksByEricSchwabel.jpg
Born Susan-Lori Parks
(1963-05-10) 10 May 1963 (age 51)
Fort Knox, Kentucky, USA
Occupation Playwright, screenwriter
Nationality United States
Spouse Paul Oscher (2001-present)
Information
Magnum opus Topdog/Underdog
Awards Pulitzer Prize for Drama (2002)

Suzan-Lori Parks (born 10 May 1963) is an African-American playwright and screenwriter. She received the MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Grant in 2001, and the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for her play Topdog/Underdog.

Biography[edit]

Early years[edit]

Parks was born in Fort Knox, Kentucky into a military family. She spent part of her childhood in West Germany and "attended German high school instead of the English-speaking school for military children. The experience, in addition to teaching her the fundamentals of language, showed Parks what it feels like to be neither white nor black, but simply foreign."[1]

She eventually returned to the United States and graduated from The John Carroll School in 1981.[2] She later attended and graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 1985 with a B.A. in English and German literature (cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) and later spent a year studying acting at Drama Studio London.[3]

Parks noted in an interview that her name is spelled with a "Z" as the result of a misprint early in her career:

When I was doing one of my first plays in the East Village, we had fliers printed up and they spelled my name wrong. I was devastated. But the director said, 'Just keep it, honey, and it will be fine.' And it was.[4]

Career[edit]

Parks would credit the impact of Mount Holyoke on her career later in life.[5] While she was an undergraduate, her Mount Holyoke English professor Mary McHenry introduced Parks to Five Colleges faculty member James Baldwin.[6] Parks began to take classes with Baldwin and, at his behest, began to write plays.[6] Parks also noted that she was inspired by Wendy Wasserstein, a 1971 Mount Holyoke graduate who won the Pulitzer in 1989 for her play The Heidi Chronicles.[5] Parks also credited another Mount Holyoke professor, Leah Blatt Glasser, with her success.[7]

Parks' first screenplay was for Spike Lee's 1996 film, Girl 6. She later worked in conjunction with Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Productions on screenplays for Their Eyes Were Watching God (2005) and the 2007 film, The Great Debaters (with Robert Eisele).[8][9]

Parks' plays include Imperceptible Mutabilities in the Third Kingdom, The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World, The America Play (the opening scene of which inspired Topdog/Underdog), Venus (about Saartjie Baartman), In The Blood and Fucking A (which are both a retelling of Nathaniel Hawthorne's 1850 novel The Scarlet Letter).

In 2000, Parks received the PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award for a playwright in mid-career.

Her 2001 play, Topdog/Underdog (a play about family identity, fraternal interdependence, and the struggles of everyday African-American life), won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2002.

In October 2014, The Public Theater presented the world premiere of Father Comes Home From The Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3), written by Parks and directed by Jo Bonney. The cast featured Sterling K. Brown, Louis Cancelmi, Peter Jay Fernandez, Jeremie Harris, Russell G. Jones, Jenny Jules, Ken Marks, Jacob Ming-Trent, Tonye Patano and Julian Rozzell Jr.[10]

She teaches playwriting at Tisch School of the Arts in the Rita & Burton Goldberg Department of Dramatic Writing.

Personal life[edit]

Parks is married to blues musician Paul Oscher.[11]

Work[edit]

Plays[edit]

Screenplays[edit]

Essays[edit]

Books[edit]

  • Parks, Suzan-Lori (2003). Getting Mother's Body: A Novel (First ed.). New York: Random House. ISBN 1-4000-6022-2. 

Awards and nominations[edit]

Awards
Nominations
  • 2000 Pulitzer Prize Drama – In The Blood
  • 2002 Drama Desk Award Outstanding New Play – Topdog/Underdog
  • 2002 Tony Award for Best Play – Topdog/Underdog

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Suzan-Lori Parks (Archived from Jan 2010)
  2. ^ "Connections" (PDF). John Carroll School. Spring 2007. p. 4. 
  3. ^ "Suzan-Lori Parks '85 Took Her Cue from Five College Professor James Baldwin". Mount Holyoke College. 
  4. ^ "A moment with Suzan-Lori Parks, playwright", The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, May 26, 2003.
  5. ^ a b "Suzan-Lori Parks '85 Wins Pulitzer Prize for Drama". College Street Journal. April 12, 2002. 
  6. ^ a b "Suzan-Lori Parks Interview". Academy of Achievement. June 22, 2007. 
  7. ^ "In the News: Traditions and communications". College Street Journal. May 24, 1996. 
  8. ^ 'Debaters' makes its case
  9. ^ Harris, Dana and Brodesser, Claude (2004). "Back-to-back helming: Washington to take 2 gigs," Variety September 29, 2004. Retrieved December 16, 2007.
  10. ^ Chang, Lia. "Opening Night Photos: Father Comes Home From the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3) by Suzan-Lori Parks at The Public Theater". BackstagePasswithLiaChang.com, October 29, 2014
  11. ^ Suzan-Lori Parks and Paul Oscher
  12. ^ Chang, Lia. "Opening Night Photos: Father Comes Home From the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3) by Suzan-Lori Parks at The Public Theater". BackstagePasswithLiaChang.com, October 29, 2014

References[edit]

External links[edit]