An artistic convergence is happening for the fourth and final speaker to be announced for the 2013-14 season of Babel, the Just Buffalo lecture series that brings celebrated writers to a local audience.
Suzan-Lori Parks, whose play “Topdog/Underdog” won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for drama, will be speaking at 8 p.m. March 11, 2014, on the stage at Kleinhans Music Hall. At the same time, a mile away at Shea’s Performing Arts Center, “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess” will be opening a six-day run. Parks wrote the adaptation for the new, Tony Award-winning version of the classic 1935 opera.
Just Buffalo Artistic Director Barbara Cole said the timing is a happy coincidence – her group gives authors a range of dates that are available and they narrow the time down from there. Her main goal, she said, was to have an African-American writer in the Babel mix this season.
“It was a real priority for me, and it was very exciting to learn we could get [Parks],” Cole said. “Suzan-Lori Parks is so dynamic onstage, the way she can motivate a community. Everyone just raves and raves about her.”
Parks will be only the second playwright to appear in the Babel series, since Ariel Dorfman came to Buffalo for the inaugural season in 2007. “Topdog/Underdog” will be the featured text for her appearance.
“We’ve only featured a play [Dorfman’s ‘Death and the Maiden’] once before for Babel,” Cole said. “We have such a strong theater community in Buffalo, and [‘Topdog’] is a challenging text – I think it can be part of a crucial conversation.”
The play, about two brothers who have almost nothing left but each other, has been presented on area stages by Ujima Theatre Company in 2005 and at the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., in 2011.
Parks, who was a writing student of James Baldwin, teaches at New York University.
Previously announced writers in the 2013-14 are poet Richard Blanco, the author “Directions to the Beach of the Dead” who was heard by millions at the second presidential inauguration of Barack Obama, coming on Oct. 22; Amy Tan, internationally famous author of “The Joy Luck Club,” Nov. 22; and Abraham Verghese, a physician born in Ethiopia and whose parents were from India, whose novel “Cutting for Stone” stayed on best-seller lists for months, coming April 8, 2014.