Marsha Mason to Direct Arizona Theatre Company’s ‘An Act of God’ Nov. 12-Dec.4
Author: Lynette Carrington
Two-time Golden Globe Award Winner and Four-time Academy Award Nominee Marsha Mason to Direct Arizona Theatre Company’s ‘An Act of God’ Nov. 12-Dec.4
“An Act of God” Stars Actress Paige Davis in the Role of God
“An Act of God” has won critical acclaim and the hearts of theatergoers as an outrageously fun, fierce and fantastic Broadway production that previously boasted Hollywood heavyweights Jim Parsons and another incarnation with Sean Hayes in the title role of God, respectively. In the Arizona Theatre Company production, God is portrayed by Paige Davis, famously known for her many years on television show “Trading Spaces.” In “An Act of God,” God is not exactly happy with the state of the world. With the assistance of her angels, she tries to set the record straight about some of humanity’s age-old questions. The play was written by 13-time Emmy Award winner, David Javerbaum.
Two-time Golden Globe Award winner and four-time Academy Award nominee, Marsha Mason will direct Davis in this female lead adaptation. With her own diverse theatrical, television and film background, perhaps no one understands the unique characteristics of this production quite like Mason. Recently, Mason spoke with Scottsdale.com about the play which will run in Tucson October 22-November 12 and in Phoenix November 17-December 4. Tickets are on sale now at www.arizonatheatre.org.
Mason-From Screen to Stage to TV and Back Again
Some people may remember Mason from her acclaimed roles in “Cinderella Liberty,” “The Goodbye Girl,” “Only When I Laugh” and “Max Dugan Returns.” More recently, she has had high profile appearances on “Frasier,” “Madam Secretary” and hilariously as the grandmother on hit TV show, “The Middle.” In her turn as the director of Arizona Theatre Company’s “An Act of God,” Mason draws on a wealth of her own theatrical experience to bring the play to glorious life on the Arizona Theatre Company stage.
“I’ve been directing for awhile now,” says Mason. “I started back in the 80s, actually, at Second Stage with my friends, Carole Rothman and Robyn Goodman. Then, I didn’t do it for awhile. I was busy with working and other things, and then I went back to it.” Mason’s friend Goodman is the executive producer at Bucks County Playhouse and Mason has both acted and directed at that theater.
“David (Ira) Goldstein called me about doing ‘An Act of God.’ I think, maybe, partially because he and the playwright wanted to have a woman play God. So, they called me and asked me if I’d be interested and I said, ‘Sure,’ so, here we are!” explains Mason of Goldstein, the artistic director for Arizona Theatre Company.
The idea of directing a female in the role of God was intriguing to Mason. “I think because the material is so interesting… Mostly that’s what’s always really motivated me, whether it’s acting or directing. It’s the material itself.”
“This seemed like a really wonderful opportunity and I wanted to branch out and focus more on directing, now,” Mason says. “This came at the most opportune time and I was very grateful to Mr. Goldstein for calling me because we had not met before.” She also relays that a director who is attached to a stage production can often persuade a talent to commit to a particular role. This is significant as the play is nearly a one-person show. In the case of “An Act of God,” the title role of God is portrayed by Paige Davis.
Mason has relished her role directing Davis as The Almighty. “It’s been a lot of fun because first of all, she’s a dancer and a performer. So, it gave me the opportunity to create a different stage entirely for her compared to the Broadway shows,” Mason explains. “I saw both Jim Parsons and Sean Hayes and they were wonderful with the material. When I first saw it and then when David (Goldstein) called me, I thought, ‘Oh, is this a big re-write?’ Well, it turns out that it wasn’t – it was just amazing! There was very little that we had to change. It is basically the Broadway show.” With the exception of a few changes in pronouns, the dialogue remains outrageously witty and allows Davis to shine.
Mason says, “It’s wonderful because Davis is a very physical performer. She’s moving around the stage a lot more maybe than certainly, Jim Parsons and then, even Sean Hayes. It should be fun. “
Roles and Opportunities
The role of women in Hollywood has been a hot button topic, especially in the past decade. With Davis taking the female lead in “An Act of God,” what does Mason think about women’s current opportunities in television and film? “Oh, I do think there is room for improvement, certainly” she states. “I think that it really kind of started back in the 80’s, when the movies really went to a very sort of ‘young’ genre only. Then around 2000 or so, I was on a book tour and I remember a lot of 50-year-old gentlemen and women coming up to me and saying, ‘Well, why don’t they make movies for people our age? We have the money!’ I think that we have some ways to go as far as that is concerned.”
Mason continues, “Fortunately, we are close to a tipping point. The great thing is that movies have become so expensive, and television is now offering the opportunity through cable and some of the network shows to really do some quality work. There are character roles that are both interesting and challenging for accomplished actors to play. Hopefully, I can continue to work as an actor. But, part of the reason that I shifted to directing is because there wasn’t a lot out there that was challenging me at the time.” If Mason’s deliciously fun and recurring role of Pat Spence on TV show, “The Middle” is any indication, we can look to enjoying her performances for decades to come.
Back in the 70s and 80s, television actors didn’t used to often make the leap to the big screen and vice versa. “The big shift was with ‘Ordinary People’ and Mary Tyler Moore,” says Mason. “It was the first time you saw a major television star shift to film. Now, of course, and even in the theater - now the theater almost demands that somebody have a television name like Jim Parsons and Sean Hayes... It’s like a genre now.”
Mason will next be appearing in Lillian Hellman’s “Watch on the Rhine” at Arena Stage in Washington D.C. “I’m very excited about that because it’s a wonderful play, first of all,” explains Mason. “It was written in the late 30’s, 1939 I think, by Lillian Hellman and I think it’s prescient today because it is about immigration, the divide between people of different cultures, and the fascism that was on the rise in those days. Plus, the fact you don’t have an opportunity much to see these, what I call, ‘big plays.’ They’re completely different from the contemporary plays that are written today. The plot structure is very different. There are so many more character roles in them. You’ve got seven or eight people as opposed to two, three or four. The plots are constructed quite differently than they are today, in terms of one’s attention span, I suppose. It shows a period of time in American history, and I think that’s really worthwhile, you know?”
In addition to her acting and directing, Mason also has a line of organically based beauty products. The beauty line is entitled, “Resting in the River.” “I just recently moved from New Mexico and I had a big farm there,” says Mason. “We grew certified organic medicinal herbs. Over the years, I just needed certain kinds of things, like a salve, throat spray, immune boosters and all kinds of stuff. So, we wound up creating our own line... No parabens in the body products and everything thing is organic and conservatively considered bio-crafted.” You can purchase any of the products from Marsha Mason’s organic beauty line at www.restingintheriver.com.
Arizona Theatre Company’s production of “An Act of God” will run at the Herberger Theater Center November 17-December 4 at 222 E. Monroe St., Phoenix. Get your tickets today at www.arizonatheatre.org.
More about Marsha Mason
Marsha Mason has received Academy Award nominations for her roles in the films “The Goodbye Girl,” “Cinderella Liberty,” “Only When I Laugh,” and “Chapter Two.” She has also received two Golden Globe Awards for her roles in film. On television, her credits include “The Good Wife,” “Madam Secretary,” “Grace & Frankie,” the wildly popular “Frasier,” for which she received an Emmy Award nomination, and the biopic “Life with Judy Garland.”
She also appears in a recurring role in the ABC hit comedy “The Middle.” While most well-known for her roles on film, Mason has starred in a number of Broadway productions, including “Impressionism” (with Jeremy Irons), “Steel Magnolias,” “The Night of the Iguana,” “The Good Doctor,” “King Richard III,” and “Cactus Flower,” as well as Off-Broadway productions of “I Never Sang for My Father,” “A Feminine Ending,” “Wintertime,” “Amazing Grace,” and “Old Times.” Some of Mason’s regional credits include starring in “Arms and the Man” at the Old Globe Theater in San Diego, “All’s Well that Ends Well,” at the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington D.C., American Conservatory Theatre’s “A Doll’s House,” “You Can’t Take it With You,” “The Crucible,” “Cyrano de Bergerac,” “Hecuba,” for Chicago Shakespeare Co. and Charles Busch’s “The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife,” Neil Simon’s “Chapter Two,” “Deathtrap,” and “Steel Magnolias” at the Bucks County Playhouse. Internationally, she has performed in “Prisoner of Second Avenue” in London. Mason has written her memoir, “Journey: A Personal Odyssey.” Mason was very proud to have served for two years on the Tony Awards Nominating Committee.