Suzan-Lori Parks, the award-winning playwright who made history in 2002 as the first African-American woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize in Drama for her play Topdog/Underdog, has been named the recipient of the 2018 Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award.
Administered by The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust, the “Mimi” Awards are presented annually to honor the work of American playwrights. The Distinguished Playwright Award and Steinberg Playwright Awards are presented in alternating years to recognize established playwrights whose body of work has made significant contributions to the American theatre, as well as up-and-coming American playwrights and the promise they hold for the future of American theatre.
The recipient of the Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award receives a cash award of $200,000. Parks will be presented with the honor at the 11th Annual “Mimi” Awards on December 3 at Lincoln Center Theatre. Along with a monetary award, playwrights receive “The Mimi,” a statuette designed by David Rockwell, Tony Award-nominated scenic designer and architect.
“What an honor! What joy! Thank you for your encouragement and support! The Steinberg Awards honor the most awesome playwrights. I’m thrilled to be included,” Parks said in a statement.
“Suzan-Lori Parks is one of the great writers of our time. Her fearless experimentation, her refusal to be confined by any categories or boundaries, her dazzling linguistic prowess and her joyous embrace of the struggle have made her an inspiration and role model for countless other artists. Her great subject is freedom, a freedom exemplified in her forms and her content,” said Advisory Committee Member and Public Theater Artistic Director Oskar Eustis. “She has also defied Fitzgerald’s dictum that American artists have no second acts: in her maturity she is writing with a boldness and originality that amazes. She is a most fitting recipient of the Steinberg Award.”
Parks made her Broadway debut in 2002 with her Pulitzer-winning Topdog/Underdog, which had its world premiere at the Public Theater in 2001. Her next work was the ambitious dramatic undertaking, 365 Days/365 Plays, in which she wrote a short play every day of the year, having them premiere at various places by the graces of various theatre companies across the globe. She authored a new Broadway adaptation of The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, which starred Audra McDonald and Norm Lewis, which won the 2012 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical. Her works also include Father Comes Home From The Wars (parts 1,2&3) (Pulitzer Prize Finalist), as well as In The Blood (Pulitzer Prize finalist), Fucking A, and The Death of The Last Black Man In The Whole Entire World aka The Negro Book Of The Dead. She is a MacArthur “Genius Grant” prize recipient, and has also receieved The Gish Prize for Excellence in the Arts. Parks is The Public Theater's Master Writer Chair, where she performs Watch Me Work, a weekly writing class free of charge and open to all.
Her upcoming projects include a film adaptation of Richard Wright’s Native Son, (directed by Rashid Johnson) and The United States vs Billie Holiday, (directed by Lee Daniels.) She’s at work on a stage-musical adaptation of the film The Harder They Come, and two new stage plays, one of them: White Noise, which will receive its world premiere at the Public Theater in early 2019 under the direction of Oskar Eustis.
The 2018 Advisory Committee is comprised of Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director, Public Theatre; Sarah Lunnie, Literary Director, Playwrights Horizons; Lynne Meadow, Artistic Director, Manhattan Theatre Club; Hana S. Sharif, Associate Artistic Director, Baltimore Center Stage; Molly Smith, Artistic Director, Arena Stage; Kent Thompson, Theatre Director, Producer and Author; and Les Waters, Theatre Director.
Past recipients include:
· Ayad Akhtar and Lucas Hnath, Steinberg Playwright Awards, 2017
· Sarah Ruhl, Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Awards, 2016
· Branden Jacobs-Jenkins and Dominique Morisseau, Steinberg Playwright Awards, 2015
· Stephen Adly Guirgis, Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award, 2014
· Annie Baker and Rajiv Joseph, Steinberg Playwright Awards, 2013
· David Henry Hwang, Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award, 2012
· Lisa D’Amour and Melissa James Gibson, Steinberg Playwright Awards, 2011
· Lynn Nottage, Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award, 2010
· David Adjmi, Tarell Alvin McCraney and Bruce Norris, Steinberg Playwright Awards, 2009
· Tony Kushner, Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award, 2008
Parks discusses her work on Porgy and Bess below: