Marshall W. Mason

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Marshall W. Mason
Marshall W. Mason, director.jpg
Born (1940-02-24) February 24, 1940 (age 78)
Amarillo, Texas
Nationality American
Occupation Director

Marshall W. Mason (born February 24, 1940) is an American theater director, educator and author.[1] He was the founder and for eighteen years, artistic director of the Circle Repertory Company in New York City (1969-1987).[2]

Born in Amarillo, Texas, Mason graduated in 1961 with a B.S. in theater from Northwestern University, where he directed Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at the age of 19, winning his first award for directing.[3] Upon graduating, he relocated to Manhattan, where he began working in the off-off-Broadway theater scene in such venues as Caffe Cino,[4] the La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club, and Judson Poets Theatre. He made his off-Broadway debut in 1964 with a revival of the Henrik Ibsen play Little Eyolf.[5][6] His Broadway debut was on February 24, 1976 with Jules Feiffer´s Knock Knock. In 2016, Mason received the Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theater.

Work with Lanford Wilson[edit]

In 1965 he directed Balm in Gilead,[7] his first collaboration with playwright Lanford Wilson. Since then he directed more than sixty productions of Wilson's plays, which Playbill has identified as the longest collaboration between a playwright and director in the history of the American theater. Among these are The Hot l Baltimore (1973), for which he won his first Obie Award for Distinguished Direction, Fifth of July (1978), Talley's Folly (1979), Angels Fall (1983),[8] Burn This (1987),[6] Redwood Curtain (1992), and Book of Days (2002).[9]


Mason has directed twelve productions on Broadway and has been nominated for the Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play five times.[10] His first Broadway production was the 1976 play Knock Knock by Jules Feiffer, for which he received his first Tony nomination. Additional Broadway credits include Albert Innaurato's Gemini (1977), Robert Clark and Sam Bobrick's Murder at the Howard Johnson's (1979), Wilsons' Fifth of July (1980), Talley's Folly (1980),[11] Angels Fall (1983),[12] Peter Nichols' Passion (1983), William M. Hoffman's As Is (Drama Desk Award for Best Play, 1985),[13] Wilson's Burn This (1988), Chekhov's The Seagull (1992), Rupert Holmes' Solitary Confinement (1992) and Wilson's Redwood Curtain (1992). From 1983 to 1986, Mason was president of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, a national labor union.[14]


Off-Broadway Mason was awarded five Obies for Outstanding Direction for The Hot l Baltimore (1973), the New York premiere of Tennessee Williams' Battle of Angels (1974), Wilson's The Mound Builders (1975), Jules Feiffer's Knock Knock (1976), Wilson's Serenading Louie (1976), and a sixth Obie Award for Sustained Achievement (1983).[6][15] Memorable off-Broadway productions he directed include Edward J. Moore's The Sea Horse (1974), Romulus Linney's Childe Byron (1981), Wilson's Talley & Son (1985), William Mastrosimone's Sunshine (1989), Larry Kramer's The Destiny of Me (1992), Wilson's Sympathetic Magic (1997) and Book of Days (2002).

Productions around the country and overseas[edit]

He has worked widely in regional theaters, including the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, the Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago, Arena Stage and Ford's Theater in Washington, D.C., the McCarter Theater in Princeton, the Hartford Stage Company, the Pittsburgh Public Theater, the Repertory Theater of St. Louis, the Cincinnati Playhouse, and the Milwaukee Rep. For one season (1988), he was Guest Artistic Director for the Ahmanson Theater of the Los Angeles Center Theater Group. In addition, he directed three productions in London and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the National Theatre of Japan in Tokyo.


For television, Mason directed William Inge’s Picnic, Lanford Wilson’s The Mound Builders and Fifth of July, and Robert Patrick’s Kennedy's Children. He received two Cable ACE Award nominations for his productions on Showtime.


On Broadway, Mason was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play five times.[16] Off-Broadway, he received five Obie Awards for Outstanding Direction of a play[6] and a sixth Obie for Sustained Achievement.[6][15] He is the recipient of the 1979 Theatre World Award,[17] and the 1977 Margo Jones Award[18] for his discovery and nurturing of new playwrights and actors in his work with the Circle Repertory Company. In 1999 he was recognized with a "Mr. Abbott Special Millennium Award" as one of the most innovative and influential directors of the twentieth century.[19] In 2014, he was elected to the Theater Hall of Fame.[20] He received the 2015 Artistic Achievement Award from the New York Innovative Theater Foundation. In 2016, Mason received the Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre.[21]

Teacher, author[edit]

Mason is Professor Emeritus of Theater at Arizona State University, where he taught for ten years,[10][22] and was honored with ASU’s 2001 Creative Activity Award. From 1994 to 1995 he was the chief drama critic for the Phoenix New Times, a weekly newspaper. He received the 1995 Phoenix Press Club Award for writing about the performing arts.[23] He is the author of the 2007 book Creating Life On Stage: A Director's Approach to Working with Actors,[3] and The Transcendent Years: Circle Repertory Theater and the '60s, published online at Kindle in 2016.

He is a member of the prestigious College of Fellows of the American Theatre at the Kennedy Center.[24]

Personal life[edit]

He divides his time between his homes in Mazatlán and Manhattan. On 25 July 2011, the first Monday after New York State enacted its marriage equality law, Mason married his companion of 37 years and fellow theater artist, Daniel Irvine.[25][26]

Additional directing credits[edit]


  1. ^ "Marquis Who's Who On Demand - Marshall W. Mason". Marquis Who's Who. Retrieved 15 October 2014. 
  2. ^ Williams, Philip Middleton. A Comfortable House: Lanford Wilson, Marshall W. Mason, and the Circle Repertory Theatre. McFarland & Company. 1 March 1993. ISBN 978-0899508368
  3. ^ a b Mason, Marshall W. (2007). Creating Life on Stage: A Director's Approach to Working with Actors (illustrated ed.). History Ink Books. ISBN 9780325009193. 
  4. ^ "Return to the Caffe Cino: A Collection of Plays and Memoirs", edited by Stephen Susoyev and George Birimisa
  5. ^ The New York Times, March 17, 1963
  6. ^ a b c d e "Lortel Archives: Marshall W. Mason". Lortel Archives. Retrieved 15 October 2014. 
  7. ^ Wilson, Lanford. Balm in Gilead and Other Plays. Hill & Wang. 1965. ASIN: B00ENTQ1YI
  8. ^ Guernsey, Otis L., Jr., editor. The Best Plays of 1982-1983, The Burns Mantle Theater Yearbook. Bookthrift Co. page 465. ISBN 978-0396082408
  9. ^ Bennetts, Leslie (October 11, 1987). "THEATER; Marshall Mason Explores A New Stage". The New York Times. 
  10. ^ a b "Theatre legend Marshall W. Mason retiring from Arizona State University". ASU Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. March 11, 2004. 
  11. ^ Kerr, Walter (February 21, 1980). "Stage: 'Talley's Folly' By Lanford Wilson" (PDF). The New York Times. 
  12. ^ Rich, Frank (October 18, 1982). "PLAY: 'ANGELS FALL,' LANDFORD WILSON'S APOCALYPSE". The New York Times. 
  13. ^ Rich, Frank (March 11, 1985). "STAGE: 'AS IS,' ABOUT AIDS, OPENS". The New York Times. 
  14. ^ [1]
  15. ^ a b New York Times. “Obie Awards Presented”. 24 May 1983
  16. ^ The Tony Award: A Complete Listing, ed. by Isabelle Stevenson, Heinemann, 1994
  17. ^ "Theatre World Award Recipients". Theatre World Awards. Retrieved 15 October 2014. 
  18. ^ "MARGO JONES AWARD RECIPIENTS". The Ohio State University. Retrieved 15 October 2014. 
  19. ^ "The Mr. Abbott Award". Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation. Archived from the original on January 10, 2012. Retrieved 15 October 2014. 
  20. ^ Gans, Andrew (September 30, 2014). "2014 Theater Hall of Fame Inductees Announced". Playbill. 
  21. ^ "The 2016 Tony Awards: Winners". Retrieved 2016-06-14. 
  22. ^ Ryder, David (October 18, 2001). "Ibsen Revenant: Arizona Theatre Company conjures a fluid new translation of 'Ghosts.'". Tucson Weekly. 
  23. ^ "New Times Sweeps Top Journalism Awards". Phoenix New Times. May 2, 1996. 
  24. ^ "THE COLLEGE OF FELLOWS OF THE AMERICAN THEATRE COLLEGE INDUCTEES 1965-2014". The College of Fellows of the American Theatre. Retrieved October 15, 2014. 
  25. ^ "Gay Couple Gets Surprise When Applying For Marriage License". CBS New York. Retrieved 16 October 2014. 
  26. ^ Staff (July 26, 2011). "Wed at last". New York Post. 

External links[edit]