Marsha Mason Seeks Impressionism On Broadway

She's back and surrounded by the likes of Tony Award winner Jeremy Irons, Tony Award nominee Joan Allen and Tony Award nominee André De Shields.  I am talking about one of my favorite interviewees, four-time Academy Award nominee Marsha Mason, who with this amazing group of actors, is starring in a new play on Broadway called IMPRESSIONISM. Written by Michael Jacobs and directed by three-time Tony Award®-winner Jack O'Brien, IMPRESSIONISM is the story of an international photojournalist and a New York gallery owner whose unexpected brush with intimacy leads them to realize that there is quite an art to repairing broken lives.

Mason is a star of film and stage that has been nominated for four Academy Awards: "Cinderella Liberty," "The Goodbye Girl", "Chapter Two", and "Only When I Laugh." She is also an Emmy nominated actress for NBC's "Frasier". Ms. Mason is the winner of two Golden Globe Awards: "Cinderella Liberty" and "The Goodbye Girl." She also starred on stage in "The Feminine Ending," on Broadway in "Steel Magnolias" and in "Hecuba" at the Shakespeare Theatre in Chicago.

Ms. Mason has taught extensively in Britain and the United States as an instructor for the British American Drama Academy. She is also founder of the Double M Ranch where her Resting in the River line of organic health and beauty products are produced.

By the way, did you know that Mason was a race car driver for 7 years during the late 80's and early 90s?? I didn't. But that's just some trivia for you. Now on with the interview...

TJ:   The last time I spoke with you was July 4th and you were at Wesleyan College with the Flying Swan Program.

MASON:  That's right, I remember that.

TJ:   And we were having a discussion about the TV series Army Wives, on which you were thinking about doing a role.

MASON:  And I told them what you said because I just thought it was so interesting for them to know that men liked the show, too...which I am sure they already knew because of the Army and everything. It made them feel good.

TJ:   And there you were a few weeks later on the show...I felt like I helped make it happen.

MASON:  You probably did, absolutely, and I had a great time there. They were such lovely people...very nice to work with. The directors, the cast, the producers...everyone was just great.

TJ:  And now, you're doing a show on Broadway with Jeremy Irons and Joan Allen...

MASON:  And André De Shields...

TJ:  Wow! I didn't realize he was in the show too!

MASON: Yeah!

TJ:  Some real heavy hitters there! And the show is called Impressionism. It's a new play?

MASON:   It is a new play and it's very unusual for a new play to come straight into Broadway. But it's also unusual in the fact that it's a love story, which I think is really interesting. I can't remember...I think Prelude To A Kiss was that last Broadway show being a love story, in a way.

TJ:  Now, how did you come about getting involved with this project?

MASON:   Mostly because of Jack O'Brien. This will be our fifth project together. We go all the way back to the early seventies at ACT and I did a show with him there. Then, we did two shows in LA...I did The Heiress and Mary Stuart there with him. And then I did Twelfth Night down at the Old Globe and now, here we are.

TJ:  So you and Jack have quite a history.

MASON:  Yeah, we do and he also directed the film version of The Good Doctor for Great Performances on PBS.

TJ:  So tell me a little bit about the show.

MASON:  It's really a lovely piece about how do you view life...from an impressionistic or a photorealistic point of view. And what does that really mean. Joan Allen plays a character that runs a Chelsea gallery and Jeremy Irons plays a National Geographic type photographer and it's this wonderful adult perspective on love and relationships...all kinds of relationships. It's really about between human beings, between a man and a woman, between a mother and a child...and it's told through a story that takes place in a gallery. 

TJ:  And what is your role in the piece?

MASON:  I play a patron of the gallery who comes in to buy a picture for her daughter, who is about to have her first child. And it's funny and wry and smart and very adult in its approach.

TJ:  How does it feel to be back on Broadway?

MASON:  Oh, it's's just wonderful! It really is. I so happy to be working in New York and in this play. I just love this play. What's very interesting about this play is that everybody who read it said that they just had to be a part of this. It spoke to all of us in a very particular way. Michael Jacobs, the playwright, is out of California and this is his first play, I think...I'm not sure about that.

TJ:  And when does the show open?

MASON:  We start previews on February 28th and we open on March 12th and we're at the Schoenfeld.

TJ:  Have you been in rehearsals long?

MASON:  This is our fourth week and we move into the theatre next week. Jack and the designers have done this fabulous job of creating this very special, almost cinematic, environment.

TJ:  This must be a magical experience for all of you working together with all that talent in the same room.

MASON:  Yes and I think to a great extent because Jack brings that quality to the material and into the room. He loves actors and he's so smart and he's at the top of his game. His mind is just so stimulating and he's a kid, basically, and a brilliant kid with all the maturity that his experience over the years has brought him. He comes so totally emotionally free...and he has a great eye! Bob James is doing music for the show and I just think it's going to be wonderful. And coming at a time when I think everybody wants some lightness and some joy and hope in their lives. So I think it's going to be just terrific!

TJ:  Yeah, the country's been in a little bit of a downward spiral lately...

MASON:  A little?? [laughing]

TJ:  Well, OK, yes....

MASON:  I think this will be wonderful and will be well worth the ticket!

TJ:  It's nice to see that there seems to be more non-musicals opening up on Broadway...a change of the trend...

MASON:  Yes, well, I think maybe part of that is the financial aspect of it all.

TJ:  Absolutely...and I don't think that's a bad thing.

MASON:  I don't either...I think it's a wonderful thing! And, quite honestly, I really think that the whole paradigm of how shows are done in New York is going to have to change in order for the theater to thrive. And it's going to take everybody to do it. It's going to take the theatre owners and the unions. I mean, it's too complicated to have three unions to bring in a show, in terms of the set. You have one union building it and another one trucking it in and you've got a third one loading it in, you know what I mean? Everybody's going to have to look at a completely different paradigm, I think.

TJ:  I think every few years, there is always some type of change in theatre and I think change is always good. I think it will be a nice change for audiences who typically go to see big splash musicals to be exposed to something different, whether is a comedy, drama or even a smaller more compact musical.

MASON:  Well that's what I think this play answers. I can't remember the last time I've seen a contemporary play where the characters speak in such an adult and provocative way about life, about philosophy and about relationships, you know? And I think that's really exciting. I think people are hungry for it.

TJ:  Changing the subject, how did the Flying Swan program go last summer?

MASON:  It went so well. The kids just had the best time and I'm still getting e-mails from them. Everybody really felt it was a huge success. We all did...the teachers, Tony Branch and myself, who helped pull it all together. The economy, being what it is, is affecting us from doing it this coming summer. But there's a good chance we might be able to it in Washington, DC or in Santa Fe, which would be kind of fun, too because it's a four week program. So, we're looking at that and seeing if that's a possibility. I'm doing this show and then, in August, I go to San Francisco to the California Shakespeare Theatre and I'm going to do Happy Days, the Samuel Beckett play, there for four weeks. So, that should be exciting!

Needless to say, it is always a pleasure talking with Marsha Mason, just a down to earth amazingly talented lady! And lucky us, we get the opportunity to see her perform live on Broadway with Jeremy Irons, Joan Allen and Andre De Shields in Impressionism, a new play by Michael Jacobsen, opening for previews February 28th with the official opening on March 12th at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, 236 West 45th Street.

This is a limited engagement through July 5th with performances Tuesdays through Saturdays at 8pm, Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2pm and Sundays at 3pm. For tickets, visit the theatre box office or call (212) 239-6200 or (800) 432-7250. Or you can go online and visit  Thanks for stopping by, folks and remember, theatre is my life! Ciao!!

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From This Author TJ Fitzgerald

TJ Fitzgerald has been interviewing theatre’s finest talent with since January 2006. He has been active in the New England Theatre scene both as (read more...)

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