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Suzan-Lori Parks

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Information about Suzan-Lori Parks

Profile image of Suzan-Lori Parks

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
Occupation(s):
Playwright

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Purple
Favorite Food:
Chocolate
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Maui, Hawaii
Favorite Quote:
Lift As You Climb.

Birthplace

Born:
5/10/1963
Birth Location:
Fort Knox, Kentucky

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
Occupation(s):
Playwright

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Purple
Favorite Food:
Chocolate
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Maui, Hawaii
Favorite Quote:
Lift As You Climb.

Birthplace

Born:
5/10/1963
Birth Location:
Fort Knox
See how Suzan-Lori Parks is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Playwright Suzan-Lori Parks was born on May 10, 1963, in Fort Knox, Kentucky, to Francis McMillian Parks and Donald Parks, a colonel in the United States Army. As the child of a military officer, Parks spent some of her youth in German schools while her father was stationed in Europe. She attended college at Mount Holyoke College and studied fiction writing with James Baldwin, who recommended that she focus on writing for the theater. Parks began studying such playwrights as Ntozake Shange and Adrienne Kennedy, and she won honors for her experimental work The Sinner’s Place. Several of her early plays often addressed issues of race.

After graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Mount Holyoke College with her B.A. degree in English and German literature in 1985, Parks moved to London, where she began her career as a playwright. In 1987, her script Betting on the Dust Commander was produced in New York, and two years later, her play Imperceptible Mutabilities in the Third Kingdom was awarded an Obie Award for the best Off-Broadway play of 1989. In 1990, she also published The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole World. Parks’ script for The American Play was produced in 1994; it starred an Abraham Lincoln-obsessed character who works in a carnival dressed in whiteface.

In 2001, Parks’ play Topdog/Underdog was produced to critical acclaim. It followed the story of two brothers and their growing tension, and starred Jeffrey Wright and Don Cheadle (who would be replaced by Mos Def when the play hit Broadway). Parks was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for drama, the first African American woman to do so. The following year, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation awarded her a MacArthur Fellowship of $500,000, known as the “genius grant.” During 2003, Parks published her first novel, Getting Mother’s Body, an experimental retelling of Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. Parks also wrote screenplays for 1990’s Anemone Meand 1996’sGirl 6, directed by Spike Lee, as well as the radio plays “Pickling,” “Third Kingdom” and “Locomotive”.

Parks and her husband, blues musician Paul Oscher, live in Venice Beach, California. She works as a director at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia.

Suzan-Lori Parks was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on November 21, 2006.

See how Suzan-Lori Parks is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Suzan-Lori Parks' interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Suzan-Lori Parks talks about her parents and her mother's side of the family
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Suzan-Lori Parks discusses her mother's side of the family in West Texas
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Suzan-Lori Parks discusses her father's side of the family
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Suzan-Lori Parks describes her immediate family and having to move while her father served in the U.S. Army
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Suzan-Lori Parks talks about her mother's upbringing and her mother's family's educational background
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Suzan-Lori Parks describes her mother's family in West Texas, part 1
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Suzan-Lori Parks describes her mother's family in West Texas, part 2
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Suzan-Lori Parks describes her mother's family in West Texas, part 3
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Suzan-Lori Parks talks about her mother's education and how her parents met
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Suzan-Lori Parks describes her parents' marriage and her father's career in the U.S. Army
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Suzan-Lori Parks talks about her birth and various moves her family made during her early childhood
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Suzan-Lori Parks discusses her family's politics and the Civil Rights Movement
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Suzan-Lori Parks describes her mother's career
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Suzan-Lori Parks discusses her early education and the places she lived as a child
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Suzan-Lori Parks explains her parents' political views and values
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Suzan-Lori Parks talks about wanting to become a writer
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Suzan-Lori Parks discusses wanting to become a writer, part 1
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Suzan-Lori Parks discusses wanting to become a writer, part 2
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Suzan-Lori Parks describes herself as a student and her love of reading
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Suzan-Lori Parks discusses her first written works as an adult
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Suzan-Lori Parks explains her writing methods and ideology
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Suzan-Lori Parks talks about screen plays, writing commissioned works and her play, 365 Days, 365 Plays