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, screenwriter and novelist. Her 2001 play Topdog/Underdog won her the Pulitzer Prize in 2002; Parks is the first African American woman to achieve this honor.
Early life and academics
Parks was born in Fort Knox, Kentucky on May 10, 1963; she grew up with two siblings in a military family. Parks enjoyed writing poems and songs and even created a newspaper with her brother, called the "Daily Daily". In 1974 her father, a career officer in the United States Army, was stationed in West Germany where she attended middle school and attended German high school. The experience showed her "what it feels like to be neither white nor black, but simply foreign". After returning to the United States Parks lived and attended school in six states, including Vermont. She graduated high school at The John Carroll School in 1981 while her father was stationed in Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.  
Parks attended and graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 1985 with a B.A. in English and German literature while a member of Phi Beta Kappa. She studied under James Baldwin, who encouraged her to become a playwright. James Baldwin describes Parks during this time as, "an utterly astounding and beautiful creature who may become one of the most valuable artists of our time."  Suzan-Lori Parks continued studying a year in acting at Drama Studio London in order to better understand the stage.
Parks credits the impact of Mount Holyoke on her career later in life. Since acting at 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, the same year as the production of her play "Topdog/Underdog".
While she was an undergraduate, her Mount Holyoke English professor Mary McHenry introduced Parks to 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 with Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Productions on screenplays for Their Eyes Were Watching God (2005) and The Great Debaters (2007).
- 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 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"
- 2015 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize
- 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"
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.
She teaches playwriting at Tisch School of the Arts in the Rita & Burton Goldberg Department of Dramatic Writing.
- "Suzan-Lori Parks Biography". biography.com. Retrieved July 30, 2015.
- "Suzan-Lori Parks Biography". Academy of Achievement A Museum of Living History. Academy of Achievement. November 11, 2013. Retrieved August 3, 2015.
- Suzan-Lori Parks (Archived from Jan 2010)
- "Connections" (PDF). John Carroll School. Spring 2007. p. 4.
- "Biography Page for Suzan-Lori Parks". The History Makers. The History Makers. November 21, 2006. Retrieved August 5, 2015.
- Als, Hilton (October 30, 2006). "The Show-Woman". The New Yorker. Retrieved January 28, 2016.
- "Suzan-Lori Parks Biography". biography.com. biography.com. Retrieved 14 August 2015.
- "Suzan-Lori Parks '85 Took Her Cue from Five College Professor James Baldwin". Mount Holyoke College. Archived from the original on July 13, 2010. Retrieved August 13, 2015.
- "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.
- Piepenburg, Erik (14 October 2015). "Suzan-Lori Parks Is Awarded the Gish Prize". New York Times. Retrieved 14 October 2015.
- Suzan-Lori Parks and Paul Oscher
- "A moment with Suzan-Lori Parks, playwright", The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, May 26, 2003.
- 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 - The Whiting Foundation
- 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)