July 29, 2014  

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Kolin Publishes New Book on African-American Playwright Suzan-Lori Parks

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Suzan-Lori Parks in Person: Interviews and Commentaries

Dr. Philip C. Kolin, University Distinguished Professor in the College of Arts and Letters at The University of Southern Mississippi, together with Harvey Young, professor of theatre at Northwestern University, has  just published Suzan-Lori Parks in Person: Interviews and Commentaries with Routledge, a widely  respected British press.

Parks is the first African-American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama--Topdog/Underdog (2001), a play about two brothers – Lincoln, who plays the dead president in an arcade show and is "assassinated" each night by patrons who pay to see his "act" and Booth, his younger sibling, who  actually shoots his older brother at the end of the play. Challenging the Lincoln mythos, Parks uses the American stage to rewrite history and insert a black presence in it.

The first part of Suzan-Lori Parks in Person includes 18 interviews culled from a wide variety of sources over three decades. Kolin and Young transcribed some of these interviews for the first time, and some of them were done expressly for this volume. 

Kolin interviewed Parks's longtime friend and director, Liz Diamond, head of the directing program at Yale University. He noted that "The interviews give us a privileged view into Parks's distinctive ideas about how theatre is made and how cultural memory plays a major role in that process."

The second half of Suzan-Lori in Person gathers numerous, critical commentaries from distinguished playwrights/directors/scholars/reviewers, including Richard Foreman, Jonathan Kalb, Robert Brustein and Beth Schachter.

A prolific writer and social commentator, Parks has transformed the American theatre with her gritty stage language and imagery in scores of plays that explore African American identity, gender, and politics. In 2006, she wrote a play every day for a year --365 Days/365 Plays-- from which "weeks of plays” were staged at 800 theatres across America and Europe. She also adapted the Gershwins' Porgy and Bess, collaborated on the opera Ray Charles Live!, wrote screenplays for Spike Lee and Danny Glover, and is an accomplished musician.

Kolin and Young also contribute a lengthy introduction "'Watch Me Work': Reflections on Suzan-Lori Parks's Canon." The title comes from Parks's description of performing her writing in the lobby of major theatres where her plays are being staged--the New York Public-- while audiences watch her and ask questions.

Drama scholar Soyica Colbert from Georgetown University declared that Suzan-Lori Parks in Person is “essential reading for anyone interested in the American theatre."

Kolin has published several books and  numerous articles on African American playwrights, including Parks, Adrienne Kennedy, Sonia Sanchez, and Ntozake Shange, and is an international  authority on the plays of Tennessee Williams. Kolin also edits the Southern Quarterly at Southern Miss.

Suzan-Lori Parks is available at www.routledge.com/u/suzan-loriparks. Learn more about Kolin’s work at http://www.usm.edu/english/faculty/philip-kolin.