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Theater Community Focuses on Babel Author Suzan-Lori Parks

Suzan-Lori Parks

In just a few short weeks, Just Buffalo Literary Center will welcome Suzan-Lori Parks as the next speaker in the BABEL series. The first African-American woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize in Drama, Parks is only the second playwright to be featured in the BABEL line-up. (The first was Ariel Dorfman back in 2007.) In anticipation of Parks’s visit, the theater community is getting in on the BABEL excitement with a series of events which will give WNYers the opportunity to see some of the most innovative dramatic works of our time on the stage.

First, on Monday, February 24 at 7pm, Torn Space Theater will host a staged reading of Suzan-Lori Parks’s The America Play at the Adam Mickiewicz Dramatic Circle (612 Fillmore Ave., Buffalo). The cast (developed in collaboration with Ujima Company) includes Lorna Hill, Willie Judson, Dudney Joseph, and Danica Riddick. The evening also includes a preview of Torn Space’s production of Mud by María Irene Fornés later in March. Dan Shanahan, co-founder of Torn Space says the event “will showcase two of the most prominent female playwrights of their generation…a terrific opportunity for Western New York to experience Park’s mastery of language and Fornés’s elegant construction of the stage image.”

Tickets can be purchased online at for just $10 for general admission and $5 for Torn Space members.

For die-hard readers, Just Buffalo’s BABEL @ Betty’s book discussion will be held on Monday, March 3 at 7pm at Betty’s (370 Virginia Street). The discussion—which pays particular attention to Topdog/Underdog, the play that earned Parks the Pulitzer—will be led by Lindsay Brandon Hunter, assistant professor of theater at UB. In addition to her scholarly research, Hunter also boasts impressive performance credits including work with Annex Theatre (Seattle), the Asolo Repertory Theatre (Sarasota), iO West (Los Angeles), and the New York Neo-Futurists, where she remains a company member.

Doors open at 6:30pm and $10 (or only $5 for Just Buffalo members and BABEL subscribers) buys you Betty’s food and fine wine along with even finer conversation.

Then, on Friday, March 7 at 7:30pm, Ujima Company will bring Topdog/Underdog to life at Ujima’s TheaterLoft space (545 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo) with a staged reading featuring Amilcar Hill and Preach Freedom, the stars of Ujima’s 2005 production. General admission tickets ($10) can be purchased online at or by phone at 883-0380.

Rahwa Ghirmatzion, Ujima’s executive director, emphasizes what an exciting reunion this will be: “Amilcar Hill played the gut-wrenching Booth to Preach Freedom’s Lincoln in Ujima’s 2005 production of Topdog/Underdog to packed audiences.”

Finally, on Saturday, March 8, the students at Buffalo Seminary will offer a 2pm matinee and 7pm evening performance of selections from Parks’s 365 Days/365 Plays. With a cast of 20, this ambitious production should offer additional insights into the playwright that Tony Kushner named “one of the most important dramatists America has produced.”

For more information about Suzan-Lori Parks or Just Buffalo Literary Center’s BABEL series, visit

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