Suzan-Lori Parks: A Casebook

Suzan-Lori Parks: A Casebook

Suzan-Lori Parks: A Casebook

Suzan-Lori Parks: A Casebook


Suzan-Lori Parks confirmed herself as one of the most exciting and successful playwrights of her generation when her work Topdog/Underdog was awarded the 2002 Pulitzer Prize, making her the only African American woman to win the award.

Despite the cultural weight of this achievement, Parks remains difficult both to pigeonhole and to summarize.

This volume seeks to provide a context for her work, with essays from major and emerging scholars addressing the importance of factors such as gender, ethnicity, language and history in plays from her first major work, Imperceptible Mutabilities of the Third Kingdom to the 365 Days / 365 Plays project. Suzan-Lori Parks: A Casebook represents the first major study of this unique voice in contemporary drama.

Contributors: Leonard Berkman, Jason Bush, Shawn Marie-Garrett, Andrea Goto, Heidi Holder, Barbara Ozieblo, Kevin J. Wetmore Jr and Harvey Young.

Kevin J. Wetmore Jr is Professor of Theatre at Loyola Marymount University, as well as being a professional actor and director of the Comparative Drama Conference. He is the author of The Athenian Sun in an African Sky and Black Dionysus: Greek Tragedy and African American Theatre.

Alycia Smith-Howard- an Assistant Professor at New York University in the Gallatin School of Individualized Study, where she is the Artistic Director of the Gallatin Arts Festival and the Book Reviews Editor at the New England Theatre Journal. A Fellow of the Folger Shakespeare Library, her areas of specialization include Shakespeare, performance history, feminist theatre aesthetics and literature and drama of the south.


Many challenges await those who attempt to compile a casebook on SuzanLori Parks. More than one scholar has abandoned a critical analysis of her work because her most recent play does not fit into a preconceived notion or theory of what a ‘Suzan-Lori Parks play’ is. She is a playwright comparatively early in her career, having written for almost two decades and having created a significant body of work already, but with the promise of many projects to come. Nine major works have been published thus far, but as the title 365 Days/365 Plays suggests, the number of plays by Parks has just increased exponentially. Previous articles on her and her work have been fraught with errors: the year of her birth has been listed variously as 1964, 1965 and 1960 (for the record, it is 1963); some report that she attended Yale for playwriting (she did not – she taught there). In short, it is difficult to categorize, summarize, and sometimes even theorize Parks and her plays. But, as Parks herself writes in ‘Start Here’, the first play in 365 Days/365 Plays, one has to begin somewhere. This volume represents a beginning to the ever-evolving study of Parks’s works, even as Parks’s works are ever evolving.

Parks herself is known for her formula of ‘rep and rev’: repetition and revision. Do it again; do it differently. One might see ‘rev and rep’ as a form of signifyin(g), as defined by Henry Louis Gates. Gates himself coins the term ‘repetition and revision, or repetition with a signal difference’, which Parks then further paces down to ‘rep and rev’. The ‘trope of the talking book’ – the ‘double voiced texts that talk to other texts’ becomes apparent . . .

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