Photo credit: Eric SchwabelThe Department of English at the University of Minnesota is presenting a free Twin Cities appearance by playwright Suzan-Lori Parks, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Topdog/Underdog and the Obie Award-winning Venus. A month-long series of free public performances and discussions will frame Parks' visit, presented by the Departments of English and Theater in partnership with Frank Theatre and the Playwrights' Center. The Department of English at the University of Minnesota is presenting a free Twin Cities appearance by playwright Suzan-Lori Parks, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Topdog/Underdog and the Obie Award-winning Venus. A month-long series of free public performances and discussions will frame Parks' visit, presented by the Departments of English and Theater in partnership with Frank Theatre and the Playwrights' Center.
Photo: Suzan-Lori Parks. Credit: Stephanie Diani
Suzan-Lori Parks was born in 1964 in Fort Knox, Kentucky, the daughter of a Chicago-born Army lieutenant colonel and a west Texas native. Her father's postings kept her family moving, and she spent a fair amount of her childhood in Germany. Parks attended Mount Holyoke College and studied with James Baldwin, who was the first to suggest that she write plays. After graduating Phi Beta Kappa with majors in English and German literature, she studied acting at Drama Studio London.
In the late 1980s in New York, Parks began getting her plays produced, most notably Betting on the Dust Commander (1987); Imperceptible Mutabilities in the Third Kingdom (1989), which won an Obie Award; The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World (1990); The American Play (1994); and Venus (1996), which won another Obie Award. Her 1999 re-visioning of The Scarlet Letter, In the Blood, was short-listed for the Pulitzer Prize for drama. Her debut Broadway production debut of Topdog/Underdog won her the Pulitzer Prize. Parks has also been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and a MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant.
In 2002-2003 Parks wrote the short plays that make up 365 Days/365 Plays, which has been staged across the country for the past year in an unprecedented effort involving nearly 700 theaters. Parks has written one novel, Getting Mother's Body (2003), and her first feature film screenplay was Spike Lee's Girl 6 (1996). Oprah Winfrey asked her to adapt Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God for the 2005 ABC production.
Parks will read from her work on Wednesday, March 26 at 7:30 p.m. at the Ted Mann Concert Hall. On four Tuesday nights starting February 26 and ending April 1, Parks' work will be performed, discussed by directors of her plays, used as inspiration by Twin Cities writers and performers, and analyzed in terms of twentieth century African American theater by University scholars and Twin Cities writers and performers.
Visiting speakers for the series include director and Yale School of Drama professor Liz Diamond, who directed Parks' debuts up until Venus; and New York Public Theater Artistic Director Oskar Eustis, who has produced Parks' plays. Both Diamond and Eustis will present master classes in theater direction, which will be open to the public on a limited basis.
EventsTues. Feb. 26, 7:30 p.m.,: Rarig Center
Frank Theatre Presents Suzan-Lori Parks: Dramatic Monologues & Short Scenes. An evening of professional actors performing Parks' work. Curated by Frank Theatre artistic director Wendy Knox, director of the Frank's productions of The America Play and Venus. Featuring commentary by Liz Diamond, the first director of Parks' work and professor at the Yale School of Drama.
Tues. March 4, 7:30 p.m., Rarig Center
Suzan-Lori Parks: Directing Challenges and Discoveries. A discussion panel with directors and producers of Parks' work. Featuring Oskar Eustis, formerly with the Guthrie Theater and now artistic director of New York's Joseph Papp Public Theater; and Wendy Knox, who has directed th