MacArthur Fellows Program

Suzan-Lori Parks

Playwright | Class of 2001

Portrait of Suzan-Lori Parks
Valencia, California
38 at time of award
Area of Focus
Theatrical Arts
Published October 1, 2001

About Suzan-Lori's Work

Suzan-Lori Parks is a playwright whose risk-taking, dramatic presentations reflect and refract social imagery from American culture and history. By creating compelling stories and characters that dramatize the complex influences that form both individual and collective identity, her explorations challenge us to reconsider our perceptions of others and ourselves. In Venus (1997), Parks ignores the common conventions of stage realism to call attention to the ambivalent depiction of racism, sexism, and economic oppression seen in postbellum U.S. theatrical productions. By contrast, In the Blood (1999) presents us with a meditation on social responsibility and the treatment of the most indigent. These and other works are characterized by her signature use of provocative stagecraft, gritty colloquialisms, and wordplay inspired by the looped and spiraling forms of jazz.


Suzan-Lori Parks received a B.A. (1985) from Mount Holyoke College. She is the author of numerous plays, including The Sinner’s Place (1985), Betting on the Dust Commander (1988), Devotees in the Garden of Love (1992), The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World (1992), The America Play (1993), In the Blood (1999), Topdog/Underdog (2001) and 365 Days/365 Plays (2005). She was the director of the Audrey Skirball-Kenis Theater Projects Writing for Performance Program at CalArts (2000-2004).

Last updated January 1, 2006.

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