In the year 2002, dramatist Suzan-Lori Parks had a slight problem. Not yet 40 years old, she'd already published 11 plays, with a novel on the way—Getting Mother's Body. She'd worked on screenplays for Spike Lee and Oprah, and in 2002, she had become the first black woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for drama, with the searing psychological thriller Topdog/Underdog. What was left for her to do?
The answer was simple: Write more. A lot more. Starting in November of 2002, Parks started writing. She wrote about the death of Johnny Cash, and about pregnant women and soup; she wrote from the windows of airplanes, and she wrote from her gut. And in the end, she wrote one play a day for an entire year.
Three years later, 365 Days/365 Plays was launched on November 13, 2006. Participating cities organized coalitions of 52 theaters, one for each week of the year. The theaters will take turns putting on one play a day for the duration of their given week. In this way, come November 12, 2007, all over the country, 365 Days/365 Plays will turn into 365 Days/365 Premieres.
It is doubtful that the overall quality of the hastily scribbled works in 365 Days/365 Plays approaches Parks' more refined efforts, but quality is beside the point. Parks has loftier goals: to bring theater communities together and thrill the world with a year of spontaneous creation. Each play costs one dollar to license, and all must be performed for free. "If a theater has no money, they can read [a play] aloud at a bus stop," Parks said during a recent interview with Portland's KBOO.
Sadly, though New York, Chicago, Seattle, and many other places are doing 365 Days/365 Plays, Portland is not. But, Parks is coming to town this Thursday anyway, as part of Portland Arts & Lectures. I'm betting she tells us this: It's not too late. Theater companies of Portland: It's not too late to fork over a few bucks and perform some of these plays. Don't just do it because you want to; do it because you can.