Mitchell Artist Lecture: Suzan- Lori Parks

Suzan Lori Parks

This is week 4 of my Houston event series! Each week I attend an event that is uniquely Houston and cover it here on the blog.

This week, I once again combined my love of literature with my exploration of uniquely Houston events by attending the annual Mitchell Artist Lecture. This lecture is put on by the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts to celebrate and inspire artistic innovation, and it is hosted at the University of Houston’s Moore’s Opera House. This year the featured artist was Suzan-Lori Parks, the first African-American woman to win the Pulitzer prize in drama.

Although I didn’t get any pictures because the lecture was a closed event, I have to say that I was absolutely awe-struck and inspired by Suzan-Lori Parks. The series is advertised as a lecture, but I don’t think Suzan-Lori Parks has ever given what I would consider a “lecture” in her life. Instead, her speech was a performance. She played and sang songs she has written for her recent plays and made elaborate sound effects she made to indicate forwarding and rewinding through her points.

Suzan-Lori framed the narrative of her life experience with “one million suggestions,” hence the necessitation of the fast-forwarding sound effects. Some of the suggestions she shared were on the surface level, but most were suggestions which I felt were applicable to myself as a young writer, but also to anyone with an idea and a dream.

As someone who is invested in spreading an appreciation for literature, one thing in particular that Suzan-Lori said stood out to me, and that is that you don’t have to “get” literature to love it. She admits that she did not understand Virginia Woolf’s famous “Into the Lighthouse” upon her first perusal, but that she somehow still fell head-over-heels in love with the novel. I find this particularly engaging of an idea, because I think that nobody can ever really have an encompassing grasp on literature, because everyone has a different lens from which to view it. Don’t be afraid to not “get” something. Embrace the not getting. Moreover, never be afraid to love something fiercely solely because you cannot fully understand it.

As a closing note, and as Suzan-Lori Parks would say, I encourage you to not forget to always entertain your far-out ideas. Sit these ideas down and let them have their say in your life.

I highly recommend reading Suzan- Lori’s work, and if you ever get the chance, to see it performed live. She is an incredible thinker, and an incredible performer. Most of all, attending Suzan- Lori Parks’ lecture reminded me that I choose to be a writer. I choose it every single day.

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