Theatre veteran Luba Mason delivered a standout performance as Mrs. Burke in The Public Theater’s production of Girl From the North Country—so much so she was nominated for a Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical. Her nuanced take on a mother with a special needs son in Depression-era America combined with her newfound instrumental musicianship (she had to be part of the show’s band, too) defined sensitivity and skill.
The actor, seen on Broadway in the likes of 1995’s How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and 1997’s Jekyll & Hyde, spoke to Playbill about her theatre firsts:
What was the first piece of theatre you ever saw?
Luba Mason: The Magic Show (on Broadway)
Who was your first theatre-celebrity TALENT crush?
What was your first audition ever?
HMS Pinafore, I auditioned for the role of Buttercup for a Girl Scout production in our town. I had to sing her song and I belted the shit out of it. The Girl Scout leaders were taken aback...surprised I sang so well and so loud. I got the part.
What was your first paid acting gig?
Timbers Dinner Theater in Mt. Gretna, Pennsylvania. It was my first summer stock job and my musical director was this 21-year-old named Michael John LaChiusa.
What was it like to see your name in a Playbill for the first time?
I made it!
What is the first Bob Dylan song you remember hearing?
“Lay Lady Lay...” I was pretty young and thought it was a very dirty song.
How did you first learn you got the role in North Country?
My agent, shortly after I had my callback. But I felt the love in the room on my first initial audition.
What was the first song you learned for North Country?
“Sweetheart Like You.” [I felt] cool singing it. Some of this song is spoken as only Dylan can speak it so...to imitate some of that was pretty cool.
When was the first time you felt like Mrs. Burke? As in you felt like you had become the character.
When I get the lines down without thinking about them and the scene is blocked is when I start to feel free to become and live as the character. That happened somewhere around the third or fourth week of rehearsal.
Was this show the first time you ever played an instrument while acting?
Yes! And no, I was not a drummer. I took lessons for the show. It was really challenging... And not just playing the drums, but singing while playing is really difficult, and then acting the words on top of that and doing this downstage right in front of the audience...not easy! I was not upstage with the rest of the band where I could hide and feel the security of the other players.
In one word, what was your first performance of North Country?
Nerve-wracking. (I guess that's two words.)
What was your first thought when you made your entrance each night?
Don't f*ck up.
Who was the first person you greeted during your first exit from the stage door?
I don't remember the first person who greeted me but all I could think about was, "Did someone like my performance? Did I suck? Tell me the truth."
What was the first thought you have when you take your bow?
The company done good!