POUGHKEEPSIE, NY—Named one of Time magazines “100 Innovators for the Next New Wave,” playwright Suzan-Lori Parks will speak at Vassar College on Monday, April 6. The program, free and open to the public, will begin at 6pm in the second floor of the Students’ Building. A question-and-answer session will follow the hour-long lecture.
Parks is the first African American woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize in Drama for Topdog/Underdog and is a recipient of a MacArthur Award. She has said of her presentations: “My lectures aren’t your typical writer-behind-the-podium evening – audiences call them ‘the Suzan-Lori Parks show.’” Her talks are part performance, part storytelling and always high energy, with an inspired sense of humor.
“This is an opportunity for the Vassar campus to witness an innovator who has redefined the playground rhetoric ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never harm me.’ Her words do hurt. They hurt, in a good way. They inspire, they mould, they force their way out and sometimes they’re made of syllables we can’t even comprehend,” explained Amielle La' Michel Major, class of 2011, coordinator of the program.
Time magazine wrote that her “dislocating stage devices, stark but poetic language, and fiercely idiosyncratic images transform her work into something haunting and marvelous.” Parks is the author of numerous plays and screenplays as well as a novel Getting Mother’s Body, set in the west Texas of her youth. In addition to her writing projects, Parks will direct the Broadway revival of August Wilson’s Fences in 2009.
Her project 365Days/365Plays was produced in over 700 theaters worldwide, creating one of the largest grassroots collaborations in theater history in 2007. Her other plays include In the Blood (2000 Pulitzer Prize finalist), Venus (1996 OBIE Award), The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World, Imperceptible Mutabilities in the Third Kingdom (1990 OBIE Award for Best New American Play), and The America Play. Parks’s has written screenplays for Spike Lee, Brad Pitt, Denzel Washington, and adapted Zora Neale Hurston’s classic novel Their Eyes Were Watching God for ABC’s Oprah Winfrey Presents.
In November 2008, Parks became the first recipient of the master writer chair at the Public Theater, a three-year residency in which she will also be a visiting arts professor in dramatic writing at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. In addition, she has taught at California Institute of the Arts and Yale School of Drama.
Holding honorary doctorates from Brown University, among others, Parks credits her writing teacher and mentor, James Baldwin, for starting her on the path of playwriting. One of the first to recognize Parks’s writing skills, Baldwin declared her “an astonishing and beautiful creature who may become one of the most valuable artists of our time.”
The program is presented by the Vassar Black Students Union with the support from the Vassar Student Association, Helicon, VICE, Strong, FMLA, and Campus Activities.
Individuals with disabilities requiring accommodations or information on accessibility should contact Campus Activities Office at (845) 437-5370. Without sufficient notice, appropriate space and/or assistance may not be available. Directions to the Vassar campus are available at www.vassar.edu/directions.
Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.