NYC Gala Guest Speaker:
Suzan-Lori Parks '85
Pulitzer Prize-winning Playwright Topdog/Underdog
Named one of TIME magazine’s “100 Innovators for the Next New Wave,” Suzan-Lori Parks is one of the most exciting and acclaimed playwrights in American drama today. She is the first African American woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize in Drama for the Broadway hit Topdog/Underdog and is a MacArthur “Genius” Award recipient, among her many other honors. Parks has said of her presentations: “My lectures aren’t your typical writer-behind-the-podium evening – audiences call them ‘the Suzan-Lori Parks show.’” Her talks are part performance, part storytelling – always high energy, with an inspired sense of humor.
In 2007, her project 365Days/365Plays is being produced in over 700 theaters worldwide, creating one of the largest grassroots collaborations in theater history. Her numerous plays include Topdog/Underdog, In The Blood (2000 Pulitzer Prize finalist), Venus (1996 OBIE Award), The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World, Imperceptible Mutabilities in the Third Kingdom (1990 OBIE Award for Best New American Play), and The America Play. Her first feature-length screenplay was Girl 6 written for Spike Lee. She’s also written screenplays for Brad Pitt, Denzel Washington, and adapted Zora Neale Hurston’s classic novel Their Eyes Were Watching God which starred Halle Barry and premiered on ABC’s Oprah Winfrey Presents. Parks’s well-reviewed first novel Getting Mother’s Body (Random House, 2003) is set in the west Texas of her youth and follows the scrappy Beede family as they embark on a riotous road trip in hopes of recovering a fortune of jewels – rumored to be buried with a long-dead relative.
Parks has taught as several academic institutions including the Yale School of Drama. Currently she is writing her next novel and Ray Charles Live!, a musical based on the life of Ray Charles that will premiere at the Pasadena Playhouse (October 2007).
Holding honorary doctorates from Brown University, among others, Suzan-Lori credits her writing teacher and mentor, James Baldwin, for starting her on the path of playwrighting. One of the first to recognize Parks’s writing skills, Mr. Baldwin declared Parks “an astonishing and beautiful creature who may become one of the most valuable artists of our time.”
“Her dislocating stage devices, stark but poetic language
and fiercely idiosyncratic images transform her work
into something haunting and marvelous.”
— TIME magazine
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MHCs 2,200 students hail from 48 states and nearly 70 countries. Twenty percent are international citizens, and 28 percent of domestic students identify as African American, Asian American, Latina, Native American, or multiracial.