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Mount Holyoke College News and Events College Street Journal Vista

SUMMER 2002 • VOLUME 7, NUMBER 1

  Suzan-Lori Parks '85 (bottom, third from right) with Mount Holyoke fans in New York City.
  Suzan-Lori Parks '85 (bottom, third from right) with Mount Holyoke fans in New York City.
"During the intermission of Suzan-Lori Parks’s play Topdog/Underdog in New York, a familiar figure waved at me across the theater. Elegant in a creamy long leather coat, it was the person I was looking for--the playwright herself," said Mount Holyoke English professor John Lemly. Parks, a former student of Lemly’s, had agreed to meet him, several other faculty members, and his Mount Holyoke modern drama class after the show. "We hugged, and Suzan-Lori introduced me to her producer, Carole Shorenstein Hays, who invited all twenty-four of us to join her later at a bistro," said Lemly. Thus began some enchanted evening.

Although the May 1 performance of Topdog/Underdog, the play that won Parks the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for drama, was just days before exams, students had snapped up tickets. After a van trip, they found themselves mesmerized by Parks’s story of the love and hate between two brothers named Lincoln and Booth. "By play’s end, we caught our breath, went out into the evening, and strolled down 46th Street--led by our hosts, two of the most creative women in theatre today. Hays, with a couple of Tony Awards to her credit, is currently producing four of Broadway’s new plays. Arm-in-arm, two students improvised rap songs to the May night," Lemly said.

The group was ushered into trendy B. Smith’s, where they dined as guests of Hays. Famed bluesman Paul Oscher, Parks’s husband, soon appeared with the Topdog cast in tow--Jeffrey Wright, who plays Lincoln, and Mos Def, who plays Booth. Def and Wright began chatting with students, and talk ranged widely--how the play had grown since last summer’s production at the Public Theatre; what Parks would wear to the Tony awards; her love for Mount Holyoke; and Oscher’s and Hays’s own extraordinary careers. At midnight, thoughts of unfinished papers and upcoming exams finally tore the group away.

Said Hilary M. Salmon ’03, "Suzan-Lori was incredibly gracious and quite down-to-earth. She made a concerted effort to talk to everyone and answer our questions. The day had clearly been a long one for her, but she was on her feet the whole time--smiling, talking, and snacking on appetizers with everyone. If I remember two things about the day, they are how superior the play was and how genuine I found Suzan-Lori to be. I left the city all the more proud to have her as part of Mount Holyoke’s legacy, and to be a part of that legacy myself."

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Copyright © 2002 Mount Holyoke College. This page created by Don St. John and maintained by Office of Communications. Last modified on August 9, 2002.

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