Mason, Marshall W.
- Existence: 1940
Marshall W. Mason was born February 24, 1940, at Amarillo, Texas, the son of Marvin and Lorine Mason. Mason spent part of his childhood in Luling, Texas, but returned to Amarillo in time for his high school education at Amarillo High School. He became involved in theatrical productions during his secondary school years and won regional Best Actor recognition as a freshman for playing the part of Robert in a production of Antic Spring. Mason then attended Northwestern University, acting in many plays (The Queen and the Rebels, A New Way to Pay Old Debts, Waiting for Godot, A Servant of Two Masters, Legend of Lovers, The Cherry Orchard, Oedipus Rex, Saint Joan, The Rivals, King Lear) and directing others (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Bridge at Rio Campana, The Wild Duck). While at Northwestern, Mason was a student of the renowned teacher Alvina Krause. And his association with Krause extended beyond Evanston, to her well-known summer teaching and performance program at The Playhouse in Eagle Mere, Pennsylvania. At Eagles Mere, Mason both acted in and directed many plays. Krause was to become a very influential presence in Mason’s life, encouraging him to pursue a career as a stage director, something he did with great success. He graduated from Northwestern’s School of Speech, taking his Bachelor of Science degree in 1961.
Upon graduation from Northwestern, Mason moved to New York City, where he began working in the off-off-Broadway theater movement in venues such as Caffe Cino, La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club, and the Judson Poets Theater. With other Northwestern alumni, he formed the short-lived troupe Northwestern Productions. In 1969 Mason became the founding artistic director of the Circle Repertory Company, a platform which became famous as an engine of development of new creative talent and of American plays. He served as artistic director of that enterprise from 1969 through 1987. During that tenure and beyond, Mason worked very closely with Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lanford Wilson, a personal collaboration that eventually lasted for more than 40 years and resulted in over 60 stagings of Wilson’s plays. After leaving Circle Repertory Company, Mason served as a professor at Arizona State University for ten years, from 1994 to 2004. He directed plays at important regional theaters throughout the United States.
During his career Mason directed over 40 off-Broadway productions and a dozen plays on Broadway. This work earned him five Tony nominations for best director: Knock Knock by Jules Feiffer, Talley’s Folly (New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize), Fifth of July and Angels Fall by Lanford Wilson, and As Is by William M. Hoffman (Drama Desk Award for Best Play). Four of Mason’s productions received Tony Awards, besides garnering 24 Tony nominations. He is the recipient of five Obie Awards for Outstanding Direction and a sixth Obie for Sustained Achievement. Mason has been honored with the 1977 Margo Jones Award for discovering and nourishing new talent and for cultivating new writers. He received the 1979 Theatre World Award and the 1996 Erwin Piscator Award. In 1999, Mason took the Mr. Abbott Special Millennium Award as one of the century’s most innovative and influential directors of the century. He was elected to the Theater Hall of Fame in 2014, received the 2015 Artistic Achievement Award from the New York Innovative Theater Foundation, and was presented in 2016 with the Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement. Mason was the chief drama critic for the Phoenix, Arizona publication New Times in 1994-1995 and was honored with the 1995 Phoenix Press Club Award for his commentary on the performing arts. He also is the author of Creating Life on Stage: A Director's Approach to Working with Actors (Heinemann Press, 2006) and The Transcendent Years: Circle Repertory Company & the 1960s (Goodreads Press, 2018).
Marshall married his life partner and fellow director Daniel Irvine on July 25, 2011, in New York City, one day after same-sex marriages became legal in the State of New York.