Biography::Marsha Norman

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Biography

Early years

Norman was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the oldest of four children of Billie and Bertha Williams. As a child, she read and played the piano. She later began attending productions by the newly founded Actor's Theatre of Louisville. She received a bachelor's degree from Agnes Scott College and a master's degree from the University of Louisville.<ref>Thompson, David S. "Marsha Norman" agnesscott.edu, accessed August 2, 2013</ref> She worked as a journalist for The Louisville Times newspaper, and also wrote for Kentucky Educational Television. She taught young children and adolescents in mental institutions and hospitals. These were perhaps her biggest influence on her writing, especially a 13-year-old girl who influenced her play Getting Out.<ref>"Marsha Norman" louisville.edu, accessed August 2, 2013</ref> She also taught English at the J. Graham Brown School and Prestonia Elementary School in Louisville.

Career

Norman's first play Getting Out was produced at the Actors Theatre of Louisville and then Off-Broadway in 1979.<ref>'Getting Out', 1979 lortel.org, accessed August 2, 2013</ref> The play concerns a young woman just paroled after an eight-year prison sentence for robbery, kidnapping and manslaughter.<ref>'Getting Out' samuelfrench.com, accessed August 2, 2013</ref> It reflects Norman's experience working with disturbed adolescents at Kentucky's Central State Hospital.

Norman's success with Getting Out led her to move to New York City where she continued to write for the Actor's Theatre of Louisville. Her full-length play, Circus Valentine was produced at the Humana Festival in 1978. The play concerns a travelling circus and its star attraction, Siamese twins.<ref>Ullom, Jefrey. The Humana Festival, The History of New Plays At Actors Theatre of Louisville books.google.com, SIU Press, June 19, 2008, ISBN 0809328496, , p.60 and Appendix</ref> Her next play, 'night, Mother, would turn out to be her best-known work, given its Broadway success and its star-powered film version. 'night, Mother brought Norman a great deal of recognition. The play, dealing frankly with the subject of suicide, won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Drama<ref>Drama, see 1983 pulitzer.org, accessed August 1, 2013</ref> as well as the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize,<ref>Plays blackburnprize.org, accessed August 1, 2013</ref> the Hull-Warriner, and the Drama Desk Award. However, her follow-up play, Traveller in the Dark received scathing reviews from the New York critics, some of whom were as blunt to say she could not have written it. According to an interview in The New York Times, "Ms. Norman stayed away from the theater and turned to screenplays, including a 1986 movie adaptation of " 'Night, Mother" that starred Sissy Spacek and Anne Bancroft and failed to impress critics. She was in high demand in Hollywood, though not always for films that she liked, or that studios would approve."<ref>Stanley, Alessandra. "Theater:Marsha Norman Finds Her Lost Key to Broadway" The New York Times (webcache.googleusercontent.com), April 21, 1991</ref>

Norman wrote the book and lyrics for the musical The Secret Garden, an adaptation of the Frances Hodgson Burnett novel The Secret Garden, and won the Tony Award for Best Book in 1991. Her work in musical theatre continued with the book and lyrics for the musical The Red Shoes, which failed on Broadway in 1993. Her one-act play, Trudy Blue, was produced off-Broadway in 1999. That play revolved around a woman who is mistakenly told that she has two months to live.<ref>Gutman, Les. "Review: 'Trudy Blue' " curtainup.com, December 3, 1999</ref> She also wrote the libretto for the musical version of The Color Purple which opened on Broadway in 2005, receiving a Tony Award nomination for Best Book of a Musical.<ref>Gans, Andrew. 2005-2006 "Tony Nominations Announced; 'Drowsy' Leads Pack With 13 Noms" playbill.com, May 16, 2006</ref>

Norman and composer Jason Robert Brown made a symphonic adaptation of the children's novel The Trumpet of the Swan, which premiered at the Kennedy Center in 2008.<ref>Gans, Andrew. "Norman and Brown's Trumpet of the Swan Begins Kennedy Center Run Dec. 4" playbill.com, December 4, 2008</ref> Norman has since written the libretto for the musical adaptation of the film The Bridges of Madison County, with a score by Brown. The musical premiered at the Williamstown Theatre Festival on August 1, 2013 and ran briefly on Broadway from February 20, 2014.<ref>Staff."The Verdict: Critics Review 'The Bridges of Madison County'" playbill.com, February 21, 2014</ref>

Television and Film

Norman's works for television and film include the film version of night Mother. She has written the television films Face of a Stranger (1991),<ref>Face of a Stranger tcm.com, accessed August 2, 2013</ref>A Cooler Climate (1999),<ref>A Cooler Climate tcm.com, accessed August 2, 2013</ref>Custody of the Heart (2000),<ref>Custody of the Heart tcm.com, accessed August 2, 2013</ref> and The Audrey Hepburn Story (2000).<ref>The Audrey Hepburn Story tcm.com, accessed August 2, 2013</ref> She has written screenplays for episodes of the HBO series In Treatment.<ref>Works marshanorman.com, accessed August 2, 2013</ref>

Other

Norman currently serves on the faculty of the Juilliard School in New York City, and is Vice-President of the Dramatists Guild of America. She was honored at the 2011 William Inge Festival for Distinguished Achievement in the American Theatre.<ref>William Inge Theatre Fest theatermania.com</ref>


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