Suzan-Lori Parks

Arts Professor

Arts Professor Suzan-Lori Parks

Named one of TIME magazine’s “100 Innovators for the Next New Wave,” Suzan-Lori Parks 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. She has also been awarded grants by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the New York State Council on the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts. She is recipient of a Lila-Wallace Reader's Digest Award, a CalArts/Alpert Award in the Arts (Drama) for 1996, a Guggenheim Foundation Grant and is an alumnae of New Dramatists. Her work is the subject of the PBS Film "The Topdog Diaries.”   In 2007, her project 365Days/365Plays was produced in over 700 theaters worldwide, creating one of the largest grassroots collaborations in theater history.  Her plays include Topdog/Underdog, The Book Of Grace,  In the Blood (2000 Pulitzer Prize finalist), Venus (1996 OBIE Award),The Wars, Part 1: The Union of My Confederate Parts, The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World, Fucking A, Imperceptible Mutabilities in the Third Kingdom (1990 OBIE Award for Best New American Play), and The America Play.  Suzan-Lori has a leading acting role in The Making of Plus One  which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival.  She’s written screenplays for Brad Pitt, Denzel Washington, including Girl 6 written for Spike Lee, and adapted Zora Neale Hurston’s classic novel Their Eyes Were Watching God which premiered on ABC’s Oprah Winfrey Presents.  Parks’ 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. Her Ray Charles musical,Unchain My Heart is scheduled to premiere on Broadway within the coming year and this fall her revival of Porgy and Bess will premiere at Boston’s American Repertory Theatre.  Currently performing her experimental solo show, Watch Me Work, Suzan-Lori teaches at NYU, serves the Public Theatre as their Master Writer Chair and is at work on her second novel.

Having taught at California Institute of the Arts and Yale School of Drama and 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 playwriting.  One of the first to recognize Parks’ writing skills, Mr. Baldwin declared Parks “an astonishing and beautiful creature who may become one of the most valuable artists of our time.”