Suzan-Lori Parks

06.21.2007 - By Women in Literature (Audio)

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The most exciting and acclaimed playwright in American drama today, Suzan-Lori Parks is the first African American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Audiences across the country relish her rich blend of fantasy, humor, history and legend, bursting with the music and wordplay of African American vernacular speech. The powerful theatricality of her work forces audiences to re-examine their thinking about race, sex, family, society and life itself. Her plays, Imperceptible Mutabilities in the Third Kingdom and Venus, both won Off-Broadway's Obie Awards for Best Play. In Topdog/Underdog, written in only three days, two brothers named Lincoln and Booth work their way through a dense undergrowth of family grievances, until their names take on an awful relevance. A sensation at the Public Theatre in 2001, it moved to Broadway the following year, bringing the playwright a MacArthur Foundation "Genius Grant" and the Pulitzer Prize. Another writer might have choked on the expectations raised by her success; Parks responded by writing one short play every day for a year. The resulting work, 365 Plays/365 Days, has been produced by a network of 700 theaters around the world, in venues ranging from street corners to opera houses. It is the largest grassroots collaboration in theater history. How does she explain her extraordinary productivity? "Discipline," she says, "is just an extension of the love you have for yourself."

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