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Black experience dramatized by Suzan-Lori Parks Feb. 15-17

Playwright to speak on her craft Feb. 21
Suzan-Lori Parks
Suzan-Lori Parks

Award-winning American playwright and screenwriter Suzan-Lori Parks will speak at MIT on Wednesday, Feb. 21 at 7 p.m. in a public conversation with Assistant Professor Jay Scheib of the Music and Theater Arts Section.

Recipient of the 2006-07 Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts, awarded yearly by the Council for the Arts at MIT to an artist for outstanding achievement in his/her own field, Parks will be a visiting artist at MIT from February 20-22, working with MIT faculty, staff, and students.

The February 21 talk will take place in the Broad Institute's Auditorium (Room NE30-1154). The event is free, and seating is first-come, first-served; no tickets or reservations are required. For more information, phone 617-253-2787.

Parks has received recent acclaim for her new play cycle, "365 Plays/365 Days" which opened Nov. 13, 2006 and is currently being performed through Nov. 12, 2007 in major cities and communities around the country.

Consisting of 365 plays of varying lengths (one to 10 minutes apiece) that Parks wrote, one each day for a year, "365" has been acclaimed for its "laugh-out-loud-funny expressions of id" and its range of subject matter: "miniature dramas about war and family, Johnny Cash and Barry White--whatever popped into her psyche on a given morning." (Atlanta Journal Constitution). Plays in the cycle are currently being performed in simultaneous and separate performances by over 600 theaters across the country, creating the largest theater collaboration in US history.

This will be Parks' second visit to MIT in the 2006-07 season. During her first visit, in October 2006, she accepted the $70,000 MIT McDermott Award in the Arts and gave a public talk sponsored by the Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies, during which she read from and discussed her work, including "365."

MIT Dramashop presents Parks play

As a prelude to Parks' MIT visit, MIT's Dramashop will stage one of her early works--the Obie-award winning play, "Imperceptible Mutabilities in the Third Kingdom," a quartet of thematically related scenes examining black experience from slavery to the present. The play will be staged at 8 p.m. in Kresge Little Theater from February 15-17. Tickets are $8 general admission, $6 for students. For information or reservations, call 617-253-2908 or e-mail

The play builds a mosaic of stories from a collective emotional memory of the traumas faced by Africans extracted into America, traveling through the lives of an enslaved mammy and her Anglo-Saxon brood of incestuous twins, prospective slaves being shipped across the Middle Passage, sisters and roaches crouched in present day New York City, and a World War II-era military family.

According to Associate Professor Thomas DeFrantz, director of Dramashop's production, the rarely performed play is a non-linear, non-narrative fantasia on themes of loss and memory, representation and identity, family and the individual. DeFrantz characterizes the works as "difficult to comprehend."

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