May 10, 1963
Fort Knox, Kentucky, United States
|Spouse||Paul Oscher (2001-present)|
|Awards||Pulitzer Prize for Drama (2002)|
Suzan-Lori Parks (born May 10, 1963) is an American playwright and screenwriter. She started her career in the 1980's after graduating in 1985 from Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts as a member of Phi Beta Kappa. As a student earning her Undergraduate degree, she studied under James Baldwin who encouraged her image of becoming a playwright. Suzan-Lori Parks continued her research in London at the Drama Studio, pursuing her passion.
Since completing the Drama Studio, Suzan-Lori Parks has received 11 awards, being the first female African-American to receive the Pulitzer Prize for her play Topdog/Underdog in 2002. She has also received a number of grants including the MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Grant in 2001.
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."
She eventually returned to the United States and graduated from The John Carroll School in 1981. 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.
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.
Parks credits the impact of Mount Holyoke on her career later in life. While she was an undergraduate, her Mount Holyoke English professor Mary McHenry introduced Parks to Five Colleges faculty member James Baldwin. Parks began to take classes with Baldwin and, at his behest, began to write plays. 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. Parks also credited another Mount Holyoke professor, Leah Blatt Glasser, with her success.
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).
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.
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. The play was a finalist for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize, Drama. Parks won the 2015 Obie Award for Playwriting.
She teaches playwriting at Tisch School of the Arts in the Rita & Burton Goldberg Department of Dramatic Writing.
- Suzan-Lori Parks (May 2003). "Suzan-Lori Parks's Aha! Moment". O. Archived from the original on 2008-01-13. Retrieved 2008-12-25.
- Suzan-Lori Parks (27 May 2001). "Commencement Speech to the Mount Holyoke College Class of 2001". Mount Holyoke College. Retrieved 2008-12-25.
- Parks, Suzan-Lori (2003). Getting Mother's Body: A Novel (First ed.). New York: Random House. ISBN 1-4000-6022-2.
Awards and nominations
- 1990 Obie Award Best New American Play – Imperceptible Mutabilities in the Third Kingdom
- 1992 Whiting Writers' Award
- 1995 Lila-Wallace Reader's Digest Award
- 1996 Obie Award for Playwriting – Venus
- 2000 Guggenheim Fellowship Playwriting
- 2001 MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Grant
- 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Drama – Topdog/Underdog
- 2006 Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts from the Council for the Arts
- 2007 Academy of Achievement Golden Plate Award
- 2008 NAACP Theatre Award - Ray Charles Live! A New Musical
- 2015 Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired by American History - "Father Comes Home From the Wars, Parts 1, 2 & 3"
- 2000 Pulitzer Prize Drama Finalist – In The Blood
- 2002 Drama Desk Award Outstanding New Play – Topdog/Underdog
- 2002 Tony Award for Best Play – Topdog/Underdog
- 2015 Pulitzer Prize Drama Finalist - "Father Comes Home From the Wars, Parts 1, 2 & 3"
- "Suzan-Lori Parks Biography". biography.com. Retrieved July 30, 2015.
- Suzan-Lori Parks (Archived from Jan 2010)
- "Connections" (PDF). John Carroll School. Spring 2007. p. 4.
- "Suzan-Lori Parks '85 Took Her Cue from Five College Professor James Baldwin". Mount Holyoke College.
- "A moment with Suzan-Lori Parks, playwright", The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, May 26, 2003.
- "Suzan-Lori Parks '85 Wins Pulitzer Prize for Drama". College Street Journal. April 12, 2002.
- "Suzan-Lori Parks Interview". Academy of Achievement. June 22, 2007.
- "In the News: Traditions and communications". College Street Journal. May 24, 1996.
- 'Debaters' makes its case
- Harris, Dana and Brodesser, Claude (2004). "Back-to-back helming: Washington to take 2 gigs," Variety September 29, 2004. Retrieved December 16, 2007.
- "Pulitzer Prize, Drama" pulitzer.org, accessed April 21, 2015
- "Finalists, 2015" pulitzer.org, accessed April 21, 2015
- Hetrick, Adam. "Obie Winners Announced! 'Hamilton' Is Best New American Theatre Work", playbill.com, May 18, 2015
- Suzan-Lori Parks and Paul Oscher
- Als, Hilton. "The Show-Woman: Suzan-Lori Parks's Idea for the Largest Theatre Collaboration Ever, The New Yorker magazine, October 30, 2006.
- Baym, Nina (ed.) "Suzan-Lori Parks." In The Norton Anthology of American Literature, 6th edition, Vol. E. New York, W.W. Norton and Co., 2003: 2606-2607.
- Collins, Ken and Victor Wishna. "Suzan-Lori Parks." In In Their Company: Portraits of American Playwrights. New York: Umbrage Editions, 2006: 186-189.
- NPR interviews. "Suzan-Lori Parks".
- "In Dialogue: The Imperceptible Mutabilities of Susan-Lori Parks in 365 Plays And As Many Days Across The Whole Kingdom" interview by Barbara Cassidy, The Brooklyn Rail, November 2006.
- Suzan-Lori Parks at the Internet Broadway Database
- Suzan-Lori Parks at the Internet Movie Database
- Suzan-Lori Parks at the Internet Off-Broadway Database
- Suzan-Lori Parks - Encyclopædia Britannica
- Voices from the Gaps Biography - University of Minnesota
- Women of Color Women of Words Biography - Rutgers University
- Suzan-Lori Parks '85 Visits MHC (March 2007)