Story posted September 20, 2007
A few months after becoming the first African American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in Theater, writer Suzan-Lori Parks had a notion. A rather ambitious notion.
"I get these notions all the time," she told the San Francisco Chronicle. "I think that's my job description — entertainer of notions.... 'Oh, I'm going to write a play a day for a whole year! It's going to be called 365 Days/365 Plays.' Ho, ho, ho, ho! I just kind of amuse myself by doing these things."
That amusing notion has resulted in what has been called the largest-scale theatrical collaboration in United States history. Nearly 700 theaters, more than 30 cities (including New York, Chicago and Los Angeles), 365 days, and, yes, 365 separate plays.
The Bowdoin College Department of Theater and Dance is among the project's collaborators, presenting seven very short plays during Week 49 in the premiere cycle during the third week in October.
But first, Parks will visit Bowdoin October 2 and 3 to give a public talk about the project and her career, and work with students and faculty.
Parks's public talk will be presented Tuesday, October 2, 2007, at 7:30 p.m. in Memorial Hall, Pickard Theater. Admission is free. Tickets are required and are available at the David Saul Smith Union information desk on the Bowdoin campus; or can be reserved by calling 207-725-3375 or picked up at the door.
With her unique sense of humor, she will discuss the process of becoming a writer, following one's creative voice, and current politics and the American theater, often offering a performance with guitar and voice.
Opening Pulitzer Prize winner Topdog/Underdog on Broadway and sitting down to write one play a day for a year are just two of Parks's many adventures in the world of writing. In addition to her numerous stage plays, she has also written the much-acclaimed novel Getting Mother's Body, and screenplays for Oprah Winfrey, Spike Lee, Brad Pitt, and Denzel Washington.
"I love my lecture tours," she told The New Yorker. "I get up on stage. I have my stack of books and a glass of water and a microphone. No podium, no distance between me and the audience, and I just talk to people and get all excited and tell a lot of jokes, and sing some songs, and read from my work and remind people how powerful they are and how beautiful they are."
Parks's creative writing teacher and mentor, James Baldwin, was among the first to recognize Parks's dramatic skills and declared that she "may become one of the most valuable artists of our time." After writing several well-received off Broadway plays, including In the Blood and The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World, Parks emerged onto the theatrical forefront in 2002 with Topdog/Underdog, a darkly comic two-man play thick with cultural allusions and electric dialogue. Her other plays include the Obie Award winning Imperceptible Mutabilities in the Third Kingdom (1990) and Venus (1996).
Suzan-Lori Parks is the recipient of grants from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts, and is the recipient of a MacArthur "Genius" grant. She has taught at the Yale School of Drama, CalArts, and the New School for Social Research.
Parks's Bowdoin visit is presented in part by the Office of the Dean of Academic Affairs as part of the series "Visual Culture in the 21st Century," a yearlong program of cross-disciplinary courses, public talks and performances, and departmental events exploring the vitality and importance of the visual arts. Learn more...
For more information call the Department of Theater and Dance at 207-725-3663.