SUZAN-LORI PARKS on academics, writing for Amazon, and James Baldwin
I've never understood why MacArthur Foundation gives grants to geniuses, shouldn't they give them to the rest of us shlubs who are lucky if we can write a legible grocery list, never mind, pen rapturous plays? Luckily for the rare geniuses, MacArthur Foundation insists on honoring them. Employee of the Month was thrilled to follow MacArthur's lead and honor Suzan-Lori Parks, a playwright, novelist and screenwriter, and interview her about her illustrious career.
Parks has repeatedly re-imaged playwriting, with plays like Top Dog/Underdog, which she won a Tony and Pulitzer, the first for an African-American female playwright. She also created 365 Plays/365 Days, which meant that she'd write a play a day and stage it. Her latest play, Father Comes Home From the Wars Parts 1, 2, and 3, had its debut at The Public Theater and then was equally heralded at The Mark Taper Forum. The Public Theater has been a home for Parks, who holds a chair there and teaches at NYU, but she will be starting up a new play at The Signature Theater in the fall of 2016. In our interview, which was recorded live at Joe's Pub, we spoke about her writing for Spike Lee and now Amazon, what's it like for her to be a subject of academic research, working with a set decorator and designer, her mentor James Baldwin, and the role of humor. Parks also sang live, as she often composes songs for her innovative, imaginative plays.