Theatre Hero: Michael Maso

by:  Michael Maso at 05/19/2010

Delivered by Michael Maso to the Boston Theatre Community at the Paramount Theatre
May 17, 2010 

Thank you Jeff, Kate and Paul, to the StageSource board for this very generous recognition, and to the Norton Committee for bringing us all together again. 

I want to thank our host tonight, Rob Orchard – here in his new position at Emerson after decades of leadership at ART. About ten years ago Rob and I were the co-recipients of the Norton prize, which the great Karen MacDonald will receive tonight. I was very honored, though it was the only time two people were honored together. Apparently it takes two managing directors to make up one . . . anything else. I want to recognize Rob’s long service to our field, locally, nationally and internationally. When the true history of Boston theatre is written – including the critical role of the ART for the past 30 years – Rob’s contributions will not be forgotten. 

Tonight I also get to thank my family, starting with my wonderful wife Lisa, whose job in life seems to be both to love me and to expand my horizons, breaking through my theatre geek limitations in a thousand ways. We just had the pleasure of spending a week on the west coast with our sons, Alexander, who graduated from college last Sunday, and Graham, who is a sophomore at BU, and it reminded me once again that I need to get out more. They give me love and laughter, keep me humble and teach me perspective. Lisa and Graham are here tonight. I love you both. 

Thanks to our friends at BU past and present for thinking that BU should invest in a major regional theatre, to my former partners Peter Altman and Nicky Martin for years of great work – and of course to Peter DuBois. Peter is in my opinion the archetype of the new artistic director – artist, administrator, communicator extraordinaire – and so full of the joy of life that keeps us all going. 

We will soon witness the changing of the guard of board leadership at the Huntington, but what will not change is the extraordinary commitment of the Huntington board to our work and to this broader community. When we were searching for a way to build a second stage, the Huntington board had a choice to make: build a small space, perhaps linked to the BU Theatre, keeping expenses and risk to a minimum, or build the Calderwood Pavilion, committing additional millions to build the theatre and almost a million in operating expenses in order to serve dozens of other companies and another 100,000 non-Huntington patrons each year. They chose the larger vision and the leadership position, and so led by Chairman David Wimberly and President Bill McQuillan my board wrote themselves into the history of Boston Theatre. They are among our heroes tonight. 

Finally, lets really talk about heroes. Over the past few decades the Boston theatre community has grown and come closer together, in part through occasions like this one (the Norton Awards) and the IRNE’s, in part through expanded press coverage of small companies, in part through the addition of new facilities such as the Calderwood Pavilion and the new Paramount, but always through the dedication of thousands of people like you here tonight who have made a commitment to this field, and chosen passion over paychecks every time. 

And over the past two seasons those sacrifices have only deepened, as almost every one of you has had to make additional financial sacrifices in the form of furloughs, layoffs, or salary reductions. People like me get recognized, but the sacrifices are made by all --- by those who show up every day in the scene shop, or the box office, backstage or front of house, marketing, development or finance, in the rehearsal hall or on the lighting grid. Many of you do all those jobs, and hold down a so-called real job as well. We love our donors, but the people of the theatre make up our greatest benefactors – that applies to the extraordinary staff of the Huntington who make me look good every day, and to all of you. 

This is a room full of heroes. 

Why do you do it? My most recent answer comes from a blackboard in the lobby of Berkeley Rep during the run of the Green Day musical American Idiot. They put the board up so audience members could write their reactions to the show – controlled graffiti -- and among many messages in white chalk someone wrote in orange across the middle of the board: 

"Art Makes Life Suck Less." 

Indeed it does. And whether you look at the glass half-empty or half-full, your work matters to hundreds of thousands of people who understand the vital role of theatre in our lives. But it is hard work, and isn’t getting any easier in the near future. 

So I leave you with a thought from philosopher Michael Walzer, who was pondering why Jews return each Passover to retell the story of the Exodus. His answer was that in that tale is an eternal lesson in politics and action in three parts: 

  • first, that wherever you live, it is probably Egypt; 
  • second, that there is a better place, a world more attractive, a promised land; 
  • third, that there is no way to get from here to there except by joining together, and marching. 

Thank you allowing me to join you on that journey.


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