Willamette to host Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright

Willamette University will host Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks at 7 p.m. Nov. 15 in the university’s Smith Auditorium as part of the Atkinson Lecture Series. Doors open at 6 p.m., and a book-signing will follow the lecture and discussion.

General admission seating is $20. A limited number of tickets will be available Nov. 1 at 8 a.m. at the information desk within the Putnam University Center. Any tickets remaining after campus distribution will be released Nov. 14.

With a unique sense of humor and occasionally a guitar, Parks makes an insightful and enthusiastic presentation about issues that writers face, the process of becoming a writer and following one’s creative voice. Parks’ talks are part performance, part storytelling and are always high energy. 

Named one of Time magazine’s “100 Innovators for the Next New Wave,” Parks is one of the most acclaimed playwrights in American drama today. She is the first African American woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize in Drama, which she won for the Broadway hit “Topdog/Underdog,” and her story is featured in the PBS film "The Topdog Diaries."

Parks teaches at New York University, serves The Public Theatre as their Master Writer Chair and is at work on her second novel. She previously taught at California Institute of the Arts and Yale School of Drama.

In 2007, her project “365Days/365Plays” was produced in more than 700 theaters worldwide, creating one of the largest grassroots collaborations in theater history. Her plays include “Topdog/Underdog,” “The Book Of Grace,” 2000 Pulitzer Prize finalist “In the Blood,” 1996 Obie Award-winner “Venus,” 1990 Obie Award-winner “Imperceptible Mutabilities in the Third Kingdom” and many more.

A 2001 MacArthur Fellow, Parks has earned grants from 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 recipient of a Lila-Wallace Reader's Digest Award, a 1996 CalArts Alpert Award in the Arts, a Guggenheim fellowship, and she is an alumna of New Dramatists.

James Baldwin, Parks’ writing teacher and mentor, calls her “an astonishing and beautiful creature who may become one of the most valuable artists of our time.”