When Suzan-Lori Parks received a 2002 Pulitzer Prize for the play Topdog/Underdog, she became the first African American woman playwright to win the award. Born into a U.S. Army colonel’s family, Parks traveled extensively as a child, spending time in diverse places across the United States and in Germany. Parks graduated cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, from Mount Holyoke College in 1985, double majoring in English and German. She studied creative writing at Hampshire College with James Baldwin, who encouraged her development as a playwright, and she later spent a year in London studying acting.
Parks works as the director of the Audrey Skirball-Kenis Theater Project’s writing for performance program at California Institute of the Arts. She has won awards from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation. She also won a “genius grant” from the MacArthur Foundation in 2001, and several of her plays have received the Obie Award and nominations for the Tony Award. In 2001, she married Paul Oscher, a blues musician.
In 1989, at the age of twenty-six, Parks was hailed by critics as one of the most promising young playwrights. Her twelve plays over seventeen years set the stage for Parks to become the most prolific African American female playwright since Alice Childress. Parks’s plays are positioned toward global audiences while still addressing the distinct concerns of African American culture. Her use of adaptation, her uncompromising critique of social ills, her manipulation of history, her revisionist linguistic and vernacular...
(The entire section is 671 words.)