Marsha Mason’s horizons have expanded significantly from her childhood in St. Louis. The one-time Catholic schoolgirl attended Holy Rosary grade school in North St. Louis and later Mary Queen of Peace when her family moved to Crestwood. She became interested in theater while attending Nerinx Hall High School and the Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Webster University before embarking on her illustrious stage and film career.
She’ll be back in her hometown on Sunday, June 9, when Insight Theatre Company presents A Celebration with Marsha Mason in the Heagney Theatre on the Nerinx Hall campus. Insight Theatre opens its sixth season on June 5 with a production of Neil Simon’s autobiographical drama, Chapter Two, about his life with Mason, who became the widower’s second wife.
Recently Ladue News caught up with the actress, who lives these days in New Mexico and often spends time in New York City, regarding the gala and her career.
When did you first become interested in acting? Were you encouraged by a teacher at Nerinx Hall?
I became passionate about acting during my freshman year at Nerinx. I was motivated by Sister Gabriel Mary and by my experience with the Speech and Drama Club.
What was your training like at Webster University’s Conservatory of Theatre Arts?
I received a BA in theater from Webster. Marita Woodruff and Wayne Loui, two of my teachers there, were my greatest influences.
You’ve received four Academy Award nominations for acting, something that very few performers have accomplished, as well as winning two Golden Globe Awards. How do you prepare for roles that you take in movies or on the stage?
My preparation involves memorizing the lines by rote and using techniques that I learned at Webster and at my acting classes in New York.
You’ve also had success growing healing herbs and flowers on land in New Mexico. When did you develop an interest in healing herbs; and where did ‘Resting in the River,’ the name of your organic farm and its line of products, come from?
I’ve been interested in herbal medicines since I lived in California. One of my physicians named Mao Ni taught me a lot and encouraged me to grow (my own) herbs when I bought land in New Mexico. The name of the product line came from an article written by Tich Nat Han (that I had read in) a Buddhist magazine.
You’ve been awarded a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame. Were you able to be here for the ceremony to mark that occasion?
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend the ceremony due to my work schedule. So, I asked Marita to accept for me, and she was great!
What are some of your best memories of growing up in St. Louis?
Some of my fondest memories are my early years there in North St. Louis and my years at Nerinx and Webster. I also attended performances at The Muny, and even performed once for a special along with Walter Cronkite. (Additionally), I performed at Nerinx, especially through the Speech and Drama Club that was active at the time.
What are some of your recent or current projects?
I have a recurring role on (the ABC-TV comedy series) The Middle. Also, I just filmed a pilot for TNT; and in August, I’ll be doing a play at the Bucks County Playhouse (a theater in New Hope, Pa., where she’ll be starring with Marilu Henner in The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife by playwright Charles Busch).
Chapter Two allegedly is based on Neil Simon’s relationship with you following the death of his first wife. Do you appreciate having your life as the subject of a play?
Chapter Two was written from Neil’s point of view, and I love the play!
You’ve enjoyed a busy and successful career. Any words of wisdom you’d like to share with aspiring performers?
Follow your passion, come from your heart with a good, strong mind. And always refresh your resolution and smile at your destiny!
Tickets to the June 9 event, including a VIP luncheon, a performance of Chapter Two, a Q&A session with Marsha Mason and a post-event reception, are $125 each ($75 without the luncheon). Contact Maggie Ryan, artistic director of Insight Theatre Company, at 584-9156 or firstname.lastname@example.org.