This afternoon I attended a SAG Indie panel with Suzan-Lori Parks at the American Pavilion. Parks is in Cannes promoting The Making of Plus One, which she is starring in.
Not only is Parks one of my favorite playwrights but she is also an alumna of Mount Holyoke, where I currently attend college. The discussion was very informal – Parks began by sharing her quesadilla with the students. Then every student introduced themselves and their interests in the film industry. We discussed Mount Holyoke and she loved that there is now a film major at Mount Holyoke. Ironically there was also a UMass and Smith student in attendance so there was a ton of Five College pride – and competition – in the room.
Parks discussed at great length her writing process (to always be writing), her favorite playwrights (too many to name) and her advice to aspiring screenwriters. Her main advice was to always be writing but know when it is someone elses turn – a director or producer – to take over the creative process.
Writers are often told to only write about what they know, which translates into writing about yourself. Parks however advised to ignore that and to just write about what you want.
Her anecdotes about James Baldwin (who mentored her while she was student at Mount Holyoke), and Spike Lee I was excited to learn that her next work Father Comes Home From the Wars is premiering off-Broadway in the next few weeks.
It was a great opportunity to meet Suzan-Lori Parks and to learn about her creative process. The informal conversation was a one in a lifetime chance – much like attending the Cannes Film Festival – to meet and chat with a reknowned playwright. And the quesadilla was pretty tasty as well.