Theatre legend Marshall W. Mason retiring from Arizona State University
TEMPE, Ariz. – It was the final curtain call at Arizona State University for legendary theatre director Marshall W. Mason when he directed the Herberger Mainstage Theatre production of Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, on Feb. 28. Mason, 64, ends another chapter in his decades-long theatre career when he retires from the ASU faculty in May, after 10 years of teaching acting and directing.
Since 1964, Mason has enjoyed a legendary career that garnered him five Tony award nominations for best director and five Obie awards. Four of the plays he directed on Broadway won Tony awards and the American Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundations named him one of the 21 most influential and innovative directors of the 20th century. As founding artistic director of New York’s famed Circle Repertory Theatre, Mason and his playwright partner Lanford Wilson helped establish lyric realism as a primary style in contemporary theatre. He helped nurture the careers of William Hurt, Jeff Daniels, Kathy Bates, Christopher Reeve, Swoosie Kurtz and Debra Monk, to name a few. He spent eight years in Hollywood, going from one film project to another, all without fruition. In 1994, Mason joined the faculty of the ASU Department of Theatre in the Herberger College of Fine Arts.
“I never thought I would teach,” says Mason. “Since coming to the university, I’ve learned to love teaching. I’ve had some wonderful students and I hope they’ve learned as much from me as I’ve learned from them.”
During his 10 years at ASU, Mason taught more than 500 students and also was the artistic director of the 2003-04 Herberger Mainstage Theatre season, which he offered in repertory. The Cherry Orchard played in rep. with Lanford Wilson’s Fifth of July, directed by Mason’s life partner and fellow professor Daniel Irvine. Both are retiring in May and moving to Mazatlan, Mexico, but also will regularly spend time in New York.
In addition to teaching, Mason will be remembered locally for his acclaimed productions of Long Day’s Journey into Night, for the Arizona Theater Company and King Lear at ASU.
“Since the word got out that I’m retiring,” Mason said, “I’ve been flooded with job offers.” He is booked to direct Six Degrees of Separation and Edward Albee’s The Goat at Milwaukee Rep, and A Member of the Wedding at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C.
Although Mason plans to write his memoirs and direct plays during his retirement, he cautiously says that he doesn’t want to work all of the time. “I want to spend a good deal of time on my hobby, painting.”
In addition to living in Mexico and New York, Mason says he expects “to spend summers in Crete. Who wouldn’t relish such a schedule?”
The Department of Theatre in the Herberger College of Fine Arts at ASU provides a comprehensive range of courses in performance; directing and stage management; scenography; playwriting; history, theory and criticism; film studies; and theatre for youth. Its Theatre for Youth program is nationally ranked in the top 3 and its creative writing/playwriting program is ranked 15th among public institutions by U.S.News & World Report. To learn more about the Department of Theatre, visit http://theatre.asu.edu.