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Trailblazing Playwright Judi Ann Mason Dies at 54

Posted: Aug 16, 2009

Judi Ann Mason, who died of a ruptured abdominal aorta Wednesday July 8, 2009,  was widely known in the film and television industry. Born in 1955 in Shreveport, LA, she won her first award at the age of 19. She was still a student at Grambling State University when she saw an advertisement for the American College Theatre Festival's  Norman Lear Award for best original comedy.  The first  prize was $2,500. 

Twenty years later Mason told the New Orleans Times-Picayune that she said  "Boy, I could sure use that money," so I wrote 'Livin' Fat,' and it won," The next year she won the Lorraine Hansberry Playwriting Award for "A Star Ain't Nothing But a Hole in Heaven." 

After a 1987 Off-Broadway production of "A Star"  in 1987, theatre critic D. J. R. Bruckner wrote in The New York Times:   “Miss Mason fills her play with laughter, but her exploration of loss and gain is as serious as it is in any of the works about the ’60s being written by a growing number of black playwrights....Miss Mason has created captivating characters and given them wonderful lines to express familiar emotions.”

Soon after graduating from Grambling State in 1977, Mason went to Hollywood where she started writing for Lear's Good Times. She continued to write stage plays, screenplays (Sister Act 2) and television scripts for the next thirty-five years. Her television credits include "Sanford,"  "Beverly Hills, 90210" and the 1996 cable TV movie "Sophie & the Moonhanger." which she co-authored.  Despite her busy schedule which included rearing two children, Mason found time to share her talents as a visiting instructor in universities at home and abroad. Recently she served as the inaugural national honorary chair of the first Southern Black Theatre Festival held in her home town of Shreveport, Louisiana last fall.
Before her untimely death, Mason was working on an independent film called Motherland which was scheduled to shoot in December of this year. The film is about a college history instructor who takes middle-class African-American students to Africa.
Film and television writer Tina Andrews told the Los Angeles Times : "She [Mason] was a trailblazer for the forward progression of African American writers... Most particularly, she became that trailblazer for those African American women writers who came behind her."
Andrews also said about Mason: "'So many of us are here as writers because she was there first willing to assist our journeys. I thank God I had her powerful shoulders to stand upon.'”

---Penne J. Laubenthal

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badsoutherngirl76 says...

Great article! Sad such a talent has left us.

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