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WINNING PLAYWRIGHT RELIED ON HARD WORK, NOT ADVICE.



Byline: Amy Raisin Staff Writer

VALENCIA - Suzan-Lori Parks heard it a number of times early in her career: Don't be a writer; you don't have it in you.

Now 38, the woman who spent her childhood on U.S. Army bases all over the world is an accomplished playwright, head of dramatic writing at the California Institute of the Arts California Institute of the Arts
 known as CalArts

U.S. private institution of higher learning in Valencia. Created in 1961 through the merger of two other art institutes, it was the first in the U.S.
 in Valencia and the recipient today of a $500,000 MacArthur Fellows grant.

``I'm hard-headed. I'm tenacious. And writing is really, really hard work,'' said Parks, a newlywed and director of a theater-projects writing program at CalArts.

She's tenacious - and entirely matter-of-fact about her success.

In a telephone interview Tuesday from her Venice apartment, Parks spoke briefly of her 15 plays and her current work on a Disney musical and a TV project for Oprah Winfrey “Oprah” redirects here. For the show, see The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Oprah Gail Winfrey (born January 29, 1954) is the American multiple-Emmy Award winning host of The Oprah Winfrey Show, the highest-rated talk show in television history.
.

Whether modest or still in shock about winning the prestigious John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, philanthropic institution founded 1978 by John D. MacArthur (1897–1978), owner of a prominent insurance company and other businesses, and his wife Catherine T.  award, Parks spent only a moment or two talking about the $500,000 no-strings-attached grant that she can use however she wishes over the next five years.

``As a winner of the grant, you have absolutely nothing to do with it,'' Parks said. ``I just found out Friday.''

There is no application process, and each winner is notified by a single telephone call,'' said Daniel Socolow, director of the MacArthur Fellows Program The MacArthur Fellows Program or MacArthur Fellowship (sometimes nicknamed the "genius grant") is an award given by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation each year to typically 20 to 40 citizens or residents of the U.S. . ``It is the first and only call we make to them, and it can be life-changing.''

Neither the 23 recipients this year - including writers, a psychologist, scientists, a pianist and a conservationist - nor nearly 600 previous winners applied or auditioned for the honor.

According to according to
prep.
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.

2. In keeping with: according to instructions.

3.
 Socolow, most of the foundation's funding supports the creative efforts of organizations and institutions, but a portion is set aside for individuals who have demonstrated leadership, initiative and creativity.

Susan Solt, dean of the theater department at CalArts, recognized those same qualities in Parks years ago and felt so passionate about bringing the playwright to her college that she pursued Parks to New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of
, where her 1999 play ``In the Blood'' was winning accolades.

``Suzan-Lori Parks' work was very critical in our curriculum for years,'' Solt said. ``She represented a new writer of extraordinary gifts and quality whose work we felt was essential to our program.

``We wanted her to come and train the young Suzan-Lori Parkses and create a program that was completely imagined by her,'' Solt said. ``I think (she) is the pre-eminent figure, playwright, creator, in the American theater
This article is about the military operations of WWII. For information about stage theater see Theater in the United States.


The American Theater
 today.''

Parks, a fan of the Greek classics and Shakespeare, considers herself a writer dedicated to helping young writers find the creativity, realism and truth in their lives.

``I used to teach at Yale. But for me, given the chance to run a program - designing it like I think it should be designed: not just writing, but acting, set design, puppetry puppetry

Art of creating and manipulating puppets in a theatrical show. Puppets are figures that are moved by human rather than mechanical aid. They may be controlled by one or several puppeteers, who are screened from the spectators.
, African dance The term African dance refers mainly to the dances of subsaharan and West Africa. The music and dances of northern Africa and the Sahara are generally more closely connected to those of the Near East. Also the dances of immigrants of European and Asian descent (e.g. , yoga - ... was an offer I couldn't refuse,'' she said.

So she moved from New York to a small apartment - ``knee-to-knee,'' as she calls it - where she lives with her husband of three months, Paul Oscher, a blues musician, and her white pit bull, Lambchop.

No stranger to awards - she won a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2000 and two Obie awards, in 1990 and 1996 - Parks says that African-American culture and experience are prevalent in her work, but calls it oversimplification o·ver·sim·pli·fy  
v. o·ver·sim·pli·fied, o·ver·sim·pli·fy·ing, o·ver·sim·pli·fies

v.tr.
To simplify to the point of causing misrepresentation, misconception, or error.

v.intr.
 to affix affix v. 1) to attach something to real estate in a permanent way, including planting trees and shrubs, constructing a building, or adding to existing improvements.  any label to her plays.

``Being African-American, I find myself most interested in African- American people,'' Parks said. ``But the African-American experience is really the American experience.

``It doesn't have to do with just ghetto and gang warfare. It's about people in dire straits with their backs to the wall.''

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(color in SAC edition only) Suzan-Lori Parks, head of dramatic writing at the CalArts Institute in Valencia, has won a $500,000 MacArthur prize.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 24, 2001
Words:634
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