As the temporary shutdown of Broadway and theatres around the world continues, Playbill is reaching out to some of our favorite artists to see how they are coping with the self-isolation on a daily basis, both physically and creatively.
The series continues with Karen Mason, the Drama Desk-nominated actor with a big laugh and an even bigger voice who was recently seen as Madame Giry in the national tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Love Never Dies. Mason has a lengthy relationship with the Tony-winning composer, having performed the role of Norma Desmond in the original Los Angeles and Broadway productions of Sunset Boulevard numerous times. Mason created the role of Tanya in Broadway’s Mamma Mia! and has also been seen on The Great White Way in Hairspray, Wonderland, Jerome Robbins’ Broadway, and Play Me a Country Song. The MAC Award winner, who has performed in cabarets and concert halls around the country, won an Outer Critics Circle Award for her performance in And the World Goes 'Round, and her regional credits include Gypsy, A Christmas Story, White Christmas, Side By Side by Sondheim, Company, and more.
What is your typical day like now?
For the past few weeks, I have been in bed dealing with a little health issue, so it has been a lot of TCM… and I mean a lot! Normally (is anything “normal” these days?), my days start with waking at 6 AM. What?! Having breakfast, watching CNN, and any other video bingeing I must do! Right now, I have been trying to keep up more with Insta and Facebook. And Zooming with family and friends. I see them all now more than ever… really such a great gift! All the laughter is keeping my sanity and my perky Midwestern personality intact! I am also working out every day. During Love Never Dies, I started working with a trainer two times a week with my friend, Chelsey Arce, who was our dance captain (and amazing!). I have started up again since February, and it is a great, great gift to my morale, my energy, and those beautiful naps I take in the afternoon. Yes, I am a proud napper! And, of course, at 7 PM, I am at my window clapping! With the proper WHOOO of a Broadway belter! At the end of the day…. falling asleep at 11:30 PM. This is definitely a new world!
What book/TV show/podcast/film should everyone take the time to consume during this period?
Such a personal choice, but I am loving anything that takes me away from watching the news and, unfortunately, our President. I do love watching our New York Governor—smart, compassionate, truthful, and a great leader! I loved all seasons of Ozark, Schitt's Creek, Succession, and well, the list is pretty long! I am reading The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. Great book!
What advice would you give to someone who may be struggling with the isolation?
Reach out and Zoom anyone you can! Just to see a face and hear a voice and maybe laugh or cry with them! Paul [Rolnick] and I live about five blocks from Elmhurst Hospital, so we hear a lot of sirens, night and day. It is very disturbing, especially knowing what people are going through, so I came up with this idea for “wine time in your doorway”! My neighbors and I meet at a certain time, by sitting in our doorways with a glass of wine, six feet apart, and so happy to see someone new. Just some human connection and conversation. We are all loving it, so please…. try it. I bet no one will turn you down!
How are you keeping your creative juices flowing?
I see what other people are doing on IG and FB, and I am so jealous of their creative abilities! I definitely bow to their geniuses! Paul and I have been doing some recording. Also, we are working on the video (taped by Michael Lee Stever and sound mastering by Paul Rolnick) of my show Mason @ Mama's in March. It was a fun show to do back in 2015. I opened the club back in 1983 with Nancy LaMott, so going back was a really wild feeling. Hopefully we will have that available soon.
Are you working on any theatrical projects during this time?
Yes, I am! My friend and director, Barry Kleinbort, and I are working on a show called Unfinished Business. With the music of my former Music Director Brian Lasser, the show was done at NYMTF a few years back, and we learned so much about what we have to do to make it better. Such a valuable time now… to be able to work on this project, so we are talking and writing and getting it ready for whenever we will be able to actually perform it! Seems we have the time now.