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University of Iowa News Release


Feb. 7, 2011

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks to lecture Feb. 16

parksSuzan-Lori Parks, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of "Topdog/Underdog," will speak at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 16 at the Englert Theater.

The free lecture is presented by the University of Iowa Lecture Committee. Her talk will blend energy, performance and storytelling with an inspired sense of humor.

Named one of TIME magazine's "100 Innovators for the Next New Wave," Parks is the first African-American woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize in Drama for the Broadway hit "Topdog/Underdog."

She is a MacArthur "Genius" Award recipient and has been awarded grants by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ford Foundation and many more.

Her work is the subject of the PBS Film "The Topdog Diaries." 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 "In the Blood" (2000 Pulitzer Prize finalist) "Venus" (1996 OBIE Award), "The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World," and many others.

Parks has a leading acting role in "The Making of Plus One," which recently premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. She's written screenplays for Brad Pitt, Denzel Washington, as well as "Girl 6" for Spike Lee. And she adapted Zora Neale Hurston's classic novel "Their Eyes Were Watching God," which premiered on ABC's "Oprah Winfrey Presents."

Parks' 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. Her Ray Charles musical, "Unchain My Heart," is scheduled to premiere on Broadway this spring.

Parks has taught at California Institute of the Arts and Yale School of Drama.  Holding honorary doctorates from Brown University, among others, Suzan-Lori credits her writing teacher and mentor, James Baldwin, for starting her on the path of playwriting. One of the first to recognize Parks' writing skills, Baldwin declared Parks "an astonishing and beautiful creature who may become one of the most valuable artists of our time."

For more information on the UI Lecture Committee, see

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Zakir Durumeric, University Lecture Committee, 319-384-3535,; George McCrory, University News Services, 319-384-0012,