Bruce Mason

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Bruce Mason
Born(1921-09-28)28 September 1921
Wellington, New Zealand
Died31 December 1982(1982-12-31) (aged 61)
Wellington, New Zealand
OccupationPlaywright, actor, critic, fiction writer
NationalityNew Zealander
SpouseDiana Manby Shaw (1922-2007) married 1945

Bruce Edward George Mason, CBE (28 September 1921 – 31 December 1982) was a significant playwright in New Zealand who wrote 34 plays and influenced the cultural landscape of the country through his contribution to theatre. In 1980, he was awarded the prestigious CBE.[1] The Bruce Mason Award, one of the most important playwrighting accolades in New Zealand, is named in his honour.[2] Mason was also an actor, critic, and fiction writer.[3]

Mason's most well known play is The End of the Golden Weather, a classic work in New Zealand theatre which was made into a feature film directed by Ian Mune in 1991. Another significant play is The Pohutukawa Tree written during the 1950s and 1960s. The Pohutukawa Tree was Mason's first major success and explored Māori and Pākehā themes, a common thread in most of his works. Theatre was an avenue for Mason to highlight social and political issues in New Zealand society.[1] He translated Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard for radio in 1960. His works of solo theatre was collected under the title Bruce Mason Solo (1981) and included The End of the Golden Weather. Published in 1987 was The Healing Arch, a cycle of five plays, including The Pohutukawa Tree and Hongi which focus on Māori culture post European contact.


Mason was born in Wellington, the country's capital. At the age of 5, his family moved to Takapuna. He attended Victoria University College where he took part in drama. In 1945, he graduated with a B.A. He served in the New Zealand Army (1941–1943) and the Naval Volunteer Reserve (1943–1945). He later worked for the New Zealand Forest Service (1951–1957).[1] He edited the Māori news magazine Te Ao Hou (1960–1961), a culturally significant publication. He was a co-founder of Downstage Theatre, New Zealand's first professional theatre in 1964 and wrote a weekly column Music on the Air for the New Zealand Listener from 1964 to 1969. In 1977, he was awarded an honorary degree by Victoria University. He was also a theatre critic for the capital's newspapers from the 1950s to the 1980s.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Mason met his wife Diana while studying at Victoria University College in 1939. A noted obstetrician specialising in women's health, she shared his interest in the arts. They had three children, Belinda, Julian and Rebecca.


Bruce Mason died in 1982 from cancer. His wife Diana Mason died in June 2007, nearly 25 years after her husband's death.


Mason's plays are studied at schools and universities. The Bruce Mason Centre, a major arts and theatre venue in Auckland is also named after him. The centre was opened in 1996 and contains a 1164-seat auditorium. The Promenade Cafe displays Bruce Mason memorabilia, including his original desk and typewriter.[4]

In 2009, The Pohutukawa Tree was staged by Auckland Theatre Company, directed by Colin McColl and starring Rena Owen and Stuart Devenie.


  • The Evening Paper 1953
  • The Bonds of Love 1953
  • The Verdict 1955
  • Birds in the Wilderness 1957
  • The End of the Golden Weather (first performed in 1959)
  • The Pohutukawa Tree 1960, revised 1963 (first performed at a theatre workshop in 1957)
  • The Light Enlarging 1963
  • We Don't Want Your Sort Here 1963
  • To Russia with Love 1965
  • The Waters of Silence 1965
  • The Hand on the Rail 1967
  • Swan Song 1967
  • Hongi 1968, published 1974
  • Awatea 1969
  • Zero In 1970
  • Not Christmas, but Guy Fawkes 1976
  • Courting Blackbird 1976
  • Blood of the Lamb 1981


  1. ^ a b c d "Bruce Mason, from The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature edited by Roger Robinson and Nelson Wattie (1998)". New Zealand Book Council. Retrieved 17 November 2009.
  2. ^ "Bruce Mason Award". Playmarket, New Zealand Playwrights' Agency. Archived from the original on 2 December 2009. Retrieved 17 November 2009.
  3. ^ Dictionary of New Zealand Biography - Mason, Bruce Edward George
  4. ^ Bruce Mason Centre Archived 1 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine

External links[edit]