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MICHAEL CUNNINGHAM is an American writer, best known for his 1998 novel “The Hours,” which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the PEN/Faulkner Award in 1999. Cunningham was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and grew up in Pasadena, California. He studied English literature at Stanford University, where he earned his degree. Later, at the University of Iowa, he received a Michener Fellowship and was awarded a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. While studying at Iowa, he had short stories published in the “Atlantic Monthly” and the “Paris Review.” His story “White Angel,” from his novel “A Home at the End of the World,” was included in “The Best American Short Stories, 1989,” published by Houghton Mifflin. In 1993 he received a Guggenheim Fellowship and in 1998 a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. In 1995 he was awarded the Whiting Writers’ Award. Cunningham has taught at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and in the creative writing MFA program at Brooklyn College. He also serves as professor of creative writing at Yale University. “The Hours” established Cunningham as a major force in American writing, and another novel, “Specimen Days,” was also well received by American critics. Cunningham has edited a book of poetry and prose by Walt Whitman, “Laws for Creations,” and has co-written, with Susan Minot, a screenplay adapted from Minot’s novel “Evening.” He was also a producer for the 2007 film “Evening,” which stars Glenn Close, Toni Collette, and Meryl Streep. www.michaelcunninghamwriter.com
CRAIG MARBERRY was born and raised in Chicago and went to high school in Gary, Indiana, where he wrote a weekly column for “Info,” the community newspaper. He attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, where he won the Charles E. Merrill fellowship to spend his junior year studying at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. He also won the school’s first annual essay contest and in 1981 was named Morehouse Man of the Year. After graduating with honors with a degree in English literature, he was awarded the Thomas J. Watson fellowship to conduct independent study of Third World media at the University of West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica. He then earned his Master’s from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Marberry, who has written for ‘The Washington Post” and “Essence” magazine, worked as a television reporter for six years before launching a video production business named Info Video, which he ran for twelve years. His clients included Nabisco, American Express, and Wachovia. When one of his clients needed still photographs for a publicity campaign, Marberry hired commercial photographer Michael Cunningham for the job. The two men had fallen out of touch for five years when, in the summer of 1998, Marberry heard that Cunningham was compiling a collection of photographs of African-American women wearing church hats. Immediately, Marberry contacted Cunningham and proposed that the two team up on the project. In June of 1999, Marberry began writing a book proposal for “Crowns: Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats” (Doubleday/November 2000). From the very beginning, Marberry believed his collection of oral histories would translate well to the stage. In November of 1999, a year before “Crowns” was published, he slipped a mock-up of the book to Emily Mann, the Tony award-winning artistic director of the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, New Jersey. After reviewing Marberry’s collection of narratives, Mann agreed that his work would work onstage. She commissioned actress/playwright Regina Taylor, perhaps best known for her starring role in the television series “I’ll Fly Away,” to write and direct the adaptation. The McCarter Theatre staged the world premiere of CROWNS on October 15, 2002. The play then debuted off-Broadway at the Second Stage Theatre in Manhattan on November 13, 2002. Taylor’s production set box-office records in nearly every city to which it traveled, including Chicago, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C., where it won the Helen Hayes Award (D.C.’s answer to the Tony Awards). Winning awards in each of the seven categories for which it was nominated, CROWNS also swept through the thirty-first Annual Vivian Robinson AUDELCO Awards for Excellence in Black Theatre. (CROWNS was awarded Best Musical Production of the Year, Outstanding Ensemble, Outstanding Lighting Design by Robert Perry, Outstanding Costume Design by Emilio Sosa, Outstanding Direction of a Musical by Regina Taylor, and Outstanding Musical Direction by Linda Twine.) In July of 2000, four months before “Crowns” was published, Marberry began working on his second book: “Spirit of Harlem: A Portrait of America’s Most Exciting Neighborhood” (Doubleday/December 2003). A year after he began his research and interviews, Marberry invited Cunningham to join the project. Marberry then persuaded the legendary photographer Gordon Parks, who began his illustrious career in Harlem, to pen the book’s foreword. The book won critical acclaim, including praise from “The Washington Post,” which made “Spirit of Harlem” an “Our Critics’ Picks of the Year” selection, describing it as a “fascinating survey of intriguing Harlemites.” Marberry began working on his third book in February of 2003. “Cuttin’ Up: Wit and Wisdom from Black Barber Shops” (Doubleday/May 2005) is his first solo project. In December of 2003, Marberry showed an excerpt of “Cuttin’ Up” to Molly Smith, Artistic Director of Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. Smith loved the idea and wasted no time. By the following spring, she was ready to adapt “Cuttin’ Up” for the stage. Smith approached the multi-talented playwright/director Charles Randolph-Wright—who starred in the original cast of DREAMGIRLS and wrote and directed the play BLUE, starring Tony award winner Phylicia Rashad. The Arena Stage presented the world premiere of Charles Randolph-Wright’s adaptation of “Cuttin’ Up” November 4, 2005, through January 1, 2006. The play opened to rave reviews. A popular college lecturer, Marberry has spoken at Barnard College, California Institute of Technology, Columbia University, Fayetteville State University, Fordham University, Morehouse College, North Carolina A&T State University, Roger Williams University, University of North Carolina Greensboro, and Winston-Salem State University, among others. (To book Craig Marberry for a speaking engagement, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.) Marberry resides in Greensboro, North Carolina.
REGINA TAYLOR is the author of OO-BLA-DEE, which received its world premiere at the Goodman Theatre in 1999 and later transferred to the La Jolla Playhouse. In April 2000, OO-BLA-DEE received the American Theatre Critics/Steinberg New Play Award. Ms. Taylor’s other projects include CROWNS, which premiered at McCarter Theatre in their 2002-2003 season, an adaptation of THE CHERRY ORCHARD for the Alliance Theatre, THE DREAMS OF SARAH BREEDLOVE, about famed black entrepreneur madam C.J. Walker, for the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, and the book for a musical of THE COLOR PURPLE, which is planned for a future Broadway production. Her play DROWNING CROW (an adaptation of Chekhov’s THE SEAGULL) was produced at the Goodman Theatre as part of the 2001 season. Ms. Taylor’s other writing credits include URBAN ZULU MAMBO, ESCAPE FROM PARADISE, WATERMELON RINDS, INSIDE THE BELLY OF THE BEAST, MUDTRACKS, BETWEEN THE LINES, and BEHIND EVERY GOOD MAN. Her acting credits include roles on Broadway, Off-Broadway, and in numerous regional theatres. Her film credits include “Clockers,” “Losing Isaiah,” “Lean on Me,” “A Family Thing,” “Courage Under Fire” (with Denzel Washington), and “The Negotiator” (with Samuel L. Jackson). Television credits include “Children of the Dust” with Sidney Poitier and “The Education of Max Bickford.” For her role as Lilly Harper on the television series “I’ll Fly Away,” Ms. Taylor won an NAACP Image Award and received the Golden Globe Award for Best Leading Dramatic Actress.