Named one of TIME magazine’s “100 Innovators for the Next New Wave,” in 2002 Suzan-Lori Parks became the first African American woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize in Drama for her Broadway hit Topdog/Underdog. 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 Mount Holyoke College and New Dramatists.
Her numerous plays include Father Comes Home From The Wars, The Book of Grace, Topdog/Underdog (2002 Pulitzer Prize), In the Blood (2000 Pulitzer Prize finalist), Venus (1996 OBIE Award), 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. In 2007 her 365 Plays/ 365 Days was produced in over 700 theaters worldwide, creating one of the largest grassroots collaborations in theater history. Her work is the subject of the PBS Film The Topdog Diaries.
Her first feature-length screenplay was Girl 6 written for Spike Lee. She’s also written screenplays for Brad Pitt, Denzel Washington, Jodi Foster and Oprah Winfrey, adapting Zora Neale Hurston’s classic novel Their Eyes Were Watching God which premiered on ABC’s Oprah Winfrey Presents. As a film actor Parks has appeared in the fictional-documentary …Plus One which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2009.
Suzan-Lori’s 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 current projects include her Ray Charles musical, Unchain My Heart, scheduled to premiere on Broadway, an adaptation of the classic opera Porgy and Bess, which opened in January 2012 and is currently running on Broadway, and her innovative performance piece Watch Me Work.
In November 2008 Suzan-Lori Parks became the first recipient of the Master Writer Chair at the Public Theater, and also serves as a visiting arts professor in dramatic writing at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
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 playwrighting. 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.”