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For the 3rd Time in 4 Years, the Prestigious Gish Prize Goes to an African American Artist – Suzan-Lori Parks

For the 3rd Time in 4 Years, the Prestigious Gish Prize Goes to an African American Artist - Suzan-Lori Parks

Pulitzer Prize-winning and Tony Award-nominated playwright Suzan-Lori Parks has been announced as the recipient of this year’s Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, one of the largest prizes awarded in the field of the arts, which comes with a $300,000 cash award.

Now in its 22nd year, the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize was established by actress Lillian Gish (star of dozens of films spanning 75 years, including D. W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation”), and is awarded to “a man or woman who has made an outstanding contribution to the beauty of the world and to mankind’s enjoyment and understanding of life,” says the prize foundation’s website.

This marks the 3rd time in 4 years that the award has gone to a recipient of African descent. In 2013, filmmaker Spike Lee was honored with the prize for his “brilliance and unwavering courage in using film to challenge conventional thinking, and for the passion for justice he feels in his soul;” and the year before that, in 2012, actress Anna Deavere Smith was the recipient for “using her position as an artist and educator to address social issues of the day.”

Last year, 2014, artist, designer and environmentalist Maya Ying Lin was the honoree. 

In the press release announcing the award, the Gish Prize Trust said Ms. Parks was selected this year because her work “challenges contemporary conceptions of race, sexuality, family and society, and is distinguished by its striking wordplay, vibrant wit and uninhibited style.” 

As for her reactions to being this year’s honoree, Parks described the experience as “brilliantly trippy.” 

She will receive the award in a ceremony on November 30 at the Public Theater. The evening will include a performance of an excerpt from her Pulitzer Prize-winning play, “Topdog/Underdog,” with actors Brandon J. Dirden and Jason Dirden, and a musical performance by Ms. Parks and the musician Steven Bargonetti.

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