Yale Helps Launch 365 Days/365 Plays by Suzan-Lori Parks
Yale will help set the stage, November 13–15, for an event a recent New Yorker article described as “the largest theatre collaboration ever”: Suzan Lori Parks’s ambitious “365 Days/365 Plays.”
The Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright has written a play for every day between November 13, 2006 and November 12, 2007 to be performed concurrently on stages in more than 30 cities across the country. Yale’s World Performance Project, which promotes a synergy of diverse performance genres, is a producer of the “play-a-day” venture and responsible for staging the plays that will be performed at Yale on November 13, 14 and 15. Performers are Yale students and faculty members, including poet and professor Elizabeth Alexander of the African American Studies department. The plays will be performed in Nick Chapel, Trumbull College, 241 Elm St., 7 p.m.
Parks has written nine full-length plays, including “Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World,” “Venus” and “Topdog/Underdog,” for which she won the Pulitzer. She has received grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ford Foundation and the Guggenheim Foundation, among others. She was given a MacArthur Foundation Award (often referred to as the “genius” award) in 2001.
Emily Coates, the artistic director of the WPP, is co-staging the first week of Parks’ plays at Yale with Bronwen MacArthur. On any given week, 16 venues—from established university and repertory companies to ad hoc community theater groups—will offer 16 different renditions of the week’s plays, according to Coates. The discretion of how to stage the text provided by Parks is left to the production team at each individual venue. Coates, a Yale College alumna who teaches in the Theater Studies department at Yale, and MacArthur are both professional dancers. Together, they have created a dance theater version of Parks’ texts. The same plays, Coates says, might be set to music, staged as an informal reading, read on the subway at noon, or even performed in the basin of an abandoned swimming pool, in other productions.
Well over 600 companies are participating in the event, and certain venues have been designated “hub theaters,” responsible for coordinating the different productions within their region. Along with Long Wharf Theater and Perishable Theater in Providence, RI, the World Performance Project at Yale is a partner in the hub for the Northeast network of theaters.
Yale has also been selected as a “launch” site, that is, one of seven theaters nationwide that will mount a special premiere event during the first week of the year-long cycle. On November 14, the second of “365 Days / 365 Plays,” the Charles C. and Dorathea S. Dilley Professor of Theater and English, Joseph Roach, will conduct a live interview on the Yale campus with Parks and producer Bonnie Metzgar. An Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Distinguished Achievement Award won by Roach earlier this year helps support WWP and the 365 Plays project. The interview will be aired live at 7 p.m. on the WPP website.
“Suzan-Lori Parks has created a year’s worth of plays, which rival in scope the great medieval cycle dramas, but she is giving them to us as a magnificent gift—for now, for here, for everybody,” Roach says.
The plays, the video of which will also be accessible online, are free and open to the public. Those wishing to attend the live performances should make reservations online at The World Performance Project web site, and arrive at the York Street gate of Trumbull College no later than 6:45 p.m.