The primary Stages Off-Broadway Oral history Project

Celebrating the visionaries who created New York's vibrant Off- and Off-Off-Broadway theater.

Marshall W. Mason

Marshall W. Mason

Founder and Artistic Director of Circle Repertory Company
Born on Saturday, February 24, 1940

Interviewed on: Thursday, May 21, 2015
Location: Primary Stages Offices
Interviewed by: Casey Childs
Interview #41
"Directing is a pragmatic art… under the circumstances what can I do?"
Marshall W. Mason Highlights
Video Length: 6 minutes, 7 seconds
Marshall W. Mason Interview Part 1
Video Length: 2 hours, 24 minutes
Marshall W. Mason Interview Part 2
Video Length: 2 hours, 16 minutes

Marshall W. Mason is a director and founder of the Circle Repertory Company. He is the 2016 Tony Award winner for Lifetime Achievement in the Theater and a member of the Theater Hall of Fame. A graduate of Northwestern, where he studied under the tutelage of Alvina Krause, he moved to New York City as a young director in 1961. He quickly found his way to Caffe Cino, seeing shows and meeting Joe Cino, Robert Patrick, and Lanford Wilson, among many others. Mason’s direction of Lanford Wilson’s BALM IN GILEAD at La MaMa in 1965 was the first full length Off-Off-Broadway production, and it sparked the longest collaboration between a director and playwright in American theatre history. In 1969, they went on to create the Circle Repertory Company (originally called Circle Theater Company) with Rob Thirkield and Tanya Berezin as Co-Founders. Mason served as the Artistic Director of Circle Rep for 18 years. The company birthed the careers of some of America’s great actors, as well as premieres by some of the greatest American playwrights. His select Off-Off-Broadway credits include: THE HAUNTED HOST (1964), BALM IN GILEAD (1965), THE GINGHAM DOG (1968), and THREE SISTERS (1970). His select Off-Broadway credits include: HOME FREE! (1965), THE HOT l BALTIMORE (1973), THE SEA HORSE (1974), BATTLE OF ANGELS (1974), THE MOUND BUILDERS (1975), KNOCK KNOCK (1976), SERENADING LOUIE (1976), and THE DESTINY OF ME (1992). His select Broadway credits include: Knock Knock (1976), Gemini (1977), Fifth of July (1980), Talley’s Folly (1980), Angels Fall (1983), As Is (1985), Burn This (1988), Redwood Curtain (1992), and The Seagull (1992). He won OBIE Awards for Best Direction for THE HOT l BALTIMORE, THE MOUND BUILDERS, BATTLE OF ANGELS, KNOCK KNOCK, and SERENADING LOUIE.

Born in Amarillo, Texas, Mason grew up in the small town of Luling, Texas, raised by his grandparents. He would play imagination games as a child, typically making them up with his best childhood friend. Although he did not see theatre as a child, he would listen to the radio and go to the double features on Saturdays at the movie theater, and he was deeply inspired by the work of Elia Kazan. From this small Texas town, he set out on the journey to leave his mark on the American theatre.

Mentioned in Interview

Elia Kazan, Alvina Krause, Doric Wilson, John Malkovich, Neil Flanagan, Michael Smith, Edward Albee, Lanford Wilson, Robert Patrick, Ellen Stewart, Andy Warhol, Sam Shepard, Tanya Berezin, Rob Thirkield, Trish Hawkins, Jules Feiffer, William Hurt, , B.H. Barry, La MaMa E.T.C., Cherry Lane Theatre, Circle Repertory Company, GEMINI, TALLEY’S FOLLY, ANGELS FALL, AS IS, THE DESTINY OF ME, BURN THIS, HOME FREE, MADNESS OF LADY BRIGHT, THE HAUNTED HOST, BALM IN GILEAD, THE SAND CASTLE, THE GINGHAM DOG, THREE SISTERS, THE HOT L BALTIMORE, BATTLE OF ANGELS, THE MOUND BUILDERS, FIFTH OF JULY