Mary Schmidt Campbell, dean of the Tisch School of the Arts (TSOA), New York University, today announced that Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks has joined the faculty of the Tisch School as a visiting arts professor in the Rita and Burton Goldberg Department of Dramatic Writing. Parks’s three-year appointment at TSOA, effective November 1, is in conjunction with her new position in the Master Writer Chair at The Public Theater for the same period, and represents an innovative new arrangement between academia and the non-profit theater world.
Beginning fall 2009, Parks will teach one undergraduate playwriting course a semester in TSOA’s Department of Dramatic Writing in addition to her Chair position at The Public. Prior to that, she will take part in a series of colloquia, lectures, and presentations being planned at TSOA for the 2009 spring semester. Her faculty appointment has been made possible by funding from The Public Theater through a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation that supports playwriting organizations and theatres.
“We are delighted with the addition of the outstanding playwright Suzan-Lori Parks to the faculty of the Rita and Burton Goldberg Department of Dramatic Writing,” said Dean Campbell. “And we welcome her commitment and dedication as a prize winning author to the education of our undergraduate students. We also want to take this opportunity to thank The Public and its artistic director, Oskar Eustis, whose idea it was for this exciting joint venture between our two institutions. The support of playwrights and the development of new plays are crucial to the vibrancy of the American theatre and we are proud to be in the forefront of this effort with our unique collaboration.”
The Public Theater’s new Master Writer Chair provides an artistic home and support for established playwrights whose work has set the standard for the highest level of achievement in the theater. It is a full-salaried position that affords the writer the flexibility and freedom to pursue his or her artistic goals and endeavors.
“This appointment, thrilling in itself, will also help cement the ever deepening bonds between The Public and NYU, two downtown cultural organizations who share so many core values and purposes,” said Public Theater Artistic Director Oskar Eustis, who is also arts professor at the Tisch School with a joint appointment in the Goldberg Department of Dramatic Writing and the Department of Art and Public Policy.
Playwright, screenwriter, and novelist, Parks has numerous works to her credit. In 2002, she became the first African American woman playwright to win the Pulitzer Prize in Drama for her Broadway hit Topdog/Underdog. Among her many honors is a MacArthur “Genius” Award.
In 2007, her project 365Days/365Plays was produced in over 700 theaters worldwide, creating one of the largest grassroots collaborations in theater history. Her plays include Topdog/Underdog, In the Blood (2000 Pulitzer Prize finalist), Venus (1996 OBIE Award), The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World, Imperceptible Mutabilities in the Third Kingdom (1990 OBIE Award for Best New American Play), and The America Play.
In 1990, she wrote and directed her first film, Anemone Me, produced by Christine Vachon and Todd Haynes. Her first feature-length screenplay was Girl 6 written for Spike Lee. She’s also written screenplays for Brad Pitt, Denzel Washington, and Jodie Foster, and adapted Zora Neale Hurston’s classic novel Their Eyes Were Watching God which starred Halle Barry and premiered on ABC’s Oprah Winfrey Presents.
Parks co-authored the screenplay for The Great Debaters, starring Denzel Washington (December 2007 release). Her well-reviewed first novel Getting Mother’s Body (Random House, 2003) is set in the west Texas of her youth and follows the scrappy Beede family as they embark on a riotous road trip in hopes of recovering a fortune of jewels - rumored to be buried with a long-dead relative. Parks recently starred in The Making of Plus One, a “mockumentary” taking place during the Cannes Film Festival (2009 release). She is the author of Ray Charles Live!, a musical based on the life of Ray Charles that premiered at the Pasadena Playhouse. Parks will direct the Broadway revival of August Wilson’s Fences in 2009.
Parks has taught or worked as writer in residence at numerous institutions, including the California Institute of the Arts and Yale School of Drama, among others. She holds an honorary doctorate from Brown University and earned her B.A. (cum laude) from Mount Holyoke College.