Suzan-Lori Parks — a playwright whose future holds a possible Broadway transfer for Topdog/Underdog, the libretto for Disney's musical Hoopz, and heaps of money from the MacArthur Foundation — has another item on her to-do list. The dramatist is penning a new adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's Peer Gynt for the Public Theater. A spokesperson for the Public said the theatre hoped the new version would culminate in a production.
If it did, it would doubtless cost a pretty penny. Ibsen's sprawling work is seldom staged owing to its length, many scenes and locales and large cast. The play — Ibsen's second major work and quite different from the realist dramas for which he is known — follows the feckless and reckless title character in his partly surreal travels about the planet as he alternately searches for and flees from his identity and purpose in life. The work has typically confounded directors, who find its demands overwhelming. More, securing an actor up to the task of the lead role has proved daunting. The most recent production to reach New York was a Swedish venture by Ingmar Bergman which played the Brooklyn Academy of Music in the early '90s.
Parks is the author of In the Blood, The America Play, Venus and Topdog/Underdog, all of which were presented by the Public Theatre. The Public will mount her Fucking "A" later this season.
Parks selected as one of 23 MacArthur Fellows this year. All the winners get $500,000 (paid out over five years) with "no strings attached," according to the organization's website.
Founded to "improve the human condition," the John D. And Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation also gave fellowship grants to a psychologist, a conservationist, a physicist and a concert pianist. Anonymous nominators, who see candidates with "exceptional creativity," give recommendations to a 12-member selection committee, which then makes its own recommendations to the Foundation board. There are no interviews or applications to fill out for candidates. One day they simply get a phone call giving them the good news. The Foundation picked Parks for her ability to challenge "notions of the historical construction and context of the African-American experience"