Suzan-Lori Parks’ Topdog/Underdog Comes Full Circle with Tony Award Win

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On Sunday night, former School of Theater faculty and 1996 Herb Alpert Award in Arts recipient Suzan-Lori Parks experienced a full-circle moment when her play Topdog/Underdog, which was nominated for Best Play in 2002, won Best Revival of a Play at the Broadway League and American Theatre Wing’s 76th Tony Awards. 

Topdog is about people who are living their lives,” Parks told actor Erich Bergen at the First Impressions Cam (watch below). “These guys, when you see them live their lives, we all feel seen and heard and allowed to just be. We couldn’t have had a better team, and it was so long in the making.”

The play follows brothers Lincoln and Booth—played by CalArts alum Corey Hawkins (Theater 07) and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, respectively—as they contemplate a return to their former card hustle to step away from their sole source of income, a whiteface Abraham Lincoln impersonator at the arcade. All the while, the brothers grapple with their fraught upbringing, poverty, and racism.

Topdog/Underdog premiered off-Broadway in 2001 at the Ambassador Theatre in New York City, starring Jeffrey Wright as Lincoln and CalArts alum and trustee Don Cheadle (Theater BFA 86) as Booth. When asked what it was like to revisit her play years later, Parks responded, “20 years ago, people in the Broadway community—when I would walk into a room, they would say, ‘Who’s that?’ I was a downtown artist—’Who’s that?’ And now I walk into a room and they say, ‘Oh, there she is.’ It’s very beautiful to be welcomed into this community.”

See the full list of winners at the official Tony Awards site.

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PUBLISHED BY Taya Zoormandan

As digital content and social media producer, Taya enjoys lifting up the stories and accomplishments of CalArts' students, alums, and faculty. She fancies herself a visual artist but is really more of an overzealous collector of art supplies.

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