THE SUZAN LORI PARKS SHOW | FEB 24, 2016
On Wednesday, February 24, 2016, Parks delivered the 2016 David P. Gardner Lecture in the Humanities and Fine Arts at the University of Utah’s Kingsbury Hall. “The Suzan-Lori Parks Show” was part lecture, part performance, and part “consciousness raising of the collective unconscious.” Parks took the stage for 50 minutes, followed by a Q&A and a book signing co-hosted by The King’s English Book Shop. Approximately 500 community and campus members attended the event, including students fromWest High School, playwrights from Salt Lake Acting Company’s Playwrights’ Lab, and undergraduate students from the University of Utah’s MUSE Project, Humanities House, and Department of Theatre.
Suggestions from Parks
Parks was introduced by Raymond Tymas-Jones, Associate Vice President for the Arts and Dean of the College of Fine Arts, who detailed Parks’ extensive awards and accolades. Parks paused briefly before performing to reflect on the semantic impact of the “U of U.” Similar to being the “It of It,” she pondered. And this phrase encapsulated her overall message, which she delivered in stories, gestures, song, and what she called “suggestions,” such as “listen to your own voice,” explore your “far out ideas,” “make your own luck,” “practice radical inclusion,” “keep the drama on the stage” and “grow your own grit.” She also spoke about her relationship to her mentor James Baldwin and the importance of trying to commit to her craft every day. When asked about the impact of success, she stressed “holding onto the hands of the people who have come before you,” thinking about “the path you are making for others to follow,” and recognizing that you have been “summoned to spread love, kindness, compassion, and enthusiasm.”
A Workshop with Parks
On the morning of February 25, Parks attended breakfast with University of Utah Department of Theatre faculty and later conducted a workshop for 30 undergraduate students on location at the Tanner Humanities Center. She answered questions about her plays, her creative processes and practices, and the congruency between her written work and her public performances. She also offered advice for saying “yes” to difficulty, risk, and challenge and showing up regularly for one’s creative practices. She closed by inviting participants to join “Watch Me Work,” conversations about creativity and an actual work session that she hosts on the mezzanine of The Public Theater in New York City and via webcast and twitter.
About Suzan-Lori Parks
Named one of TIME magazine’s “100 Innovators for the Next New Wave,” Suzan-Lori Parks is one of the most exciting and acclaimed playwrights in American drama today. She is the first African-American woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize in Drama for the Broadway hit Topdog/ Underdog and is 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 the recipient of a Lila-Wallace Reader’s Digest Award, a CalArts/Alpert Award in the Arts (Drama) for 1996, a Guggenheim Foundation Grant and and is an alumnae of New Drama- tists. Her work is the subject of the PBS film “The Topdog Diaries.”
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