Inducted 2023

Born: September 21, 1947, Louisville, Kentucky


Marsha Norman is a prolific playwright, screenwriter and novelist who since the early 1980s has been one of the best-known writers in American drama. She has won the Pulitzer Prize, Tony Awards and a long list of other major honors.

Norman grew up near Audubon Park in Louisville, the oldest of two daughters and two sons of an insurance salesman and a homemaker. She has described her childhood as isolated, which she said turned out to be good for a future writer. Many of her plays are about family dynamics and relationships.

Norman graduated from Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia, and earned a master’s degree from the University of Louisville.  She wrote for the Louisville Times and Kentucky Educational Television and worked as an educator in Jefferson County. 

The first of Norman’s 14 stage plays, “Getting Out” was produced at the Actors Theatre of Louisville and then Off Broadway in New York in 1979. The play is about a young woman paroled after an eight-year prison sentence for robbery, kidnapping and manslaughter. It was inspired by Norman’s experiences working with disturbed adolescents at Central State Hospital in Louisville.

Norman became famous after the New York production of her play “ ‘night, Mother” about a divorced woman, Jessie Cates, who lives with her mother, Thelma Cates. Over the course of an evening, Jessie calmly explains to Thelma that she plans to commit suicide, and why. The play won Norman the 1983 Pulitzer Prize in drama, a Drama Desk Award and a Tony Award nomination.

Norman’s first love was music; she began playing piano at age of 5. For years after her success with “ ‘night, Mother,” Norman longed to write for a Broadway musical. Norman finally got her chance by adapting Frances Hodgson Burnett’s 1911 novel “The Secret Garden” into a musical, and it won her Tony and Drama Desk awards in 1992. 

She went on to write the book for the Broadway musical of Alice Walker’s novel “The Color Purple,” getting a Tony nomination for the original 2005 production. A revival production won the 2016 Tony Award. Her five musical adaptations for theater also have included “The Trumpet of the Swan,” “The Bridges of Madison County” and “The Red Shoes.”

Norman has been a prolific writer for television and film, with credits on a dozen projects. She won a 2009 Peabody Award for her work on the HBO series “In Treatment.” She also has written a novel, “The Fortune Teller” (1989), which explores parent-child relationships.

Norman’s other awards include the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Guild Academy of Arts & Letters and the William Inge Distinguished Lifetime Achievement in Theater. She is a member of the Theater Hall of Fame. Norman has received awards and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation and the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, along with 18 honorary degrees from American colleges and universities. 

She was co-chair of playwriting at Julliard for 25 years until her retirement in 2020. She lives in the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts. 

MAJOR WORKS

Plays:
Getting Out (1977)
Third and Oak (1978)
The Laundromat (1978)
The Poolhall (1978)
Merry Christmas (1979)
Circus Valentine (1979)
‘night, Mother (1983)
The Holdup (1983)
Traveller in the Dark (1984)
Sarah and Abraham (1987)
Loving Daniel Boone (1991)
Trudy Blue (1994)
Love’s Fire (1998)

Musicals:
The Secret Garden (1990)
The Red Shoes (1993)
The Color Purple (2005)
The Master Butchers Singing Club (2010)
The Trumpet of the Swan (2009)
The Bridges of Madison County (2013)

Novel:
The Fortune Teller, (1989)

Screenplays:
A Cooler Climate
Custody of the Heart
Face of a Stranger
Getting Out
Law & Order: Criminal Intent
‘night, Mother
Skag
The Audrey Hepburn Story
The Laundromat
Visions: KCET – “It’s The Willingness”
American Girl: Samantha
HBO Series: In Treatment Season Two

Major Awards:
1983 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for “‘night Mother.”
1992 Tony Award for “The Secret Garden.”
1992 Drama Desk Award for “The Secret Garden.”
2009 Peabody Award for HBO series “In Treatment.”
John Gassner Medallion.
American Critics Association Citation.
Margo Jones Award.
Sidney Kingsley Award.
Lifetime Achievement Award from the Guild Academy of Arts & Letters.
Awarded William Inge Distinguished Lifetime Achievement in Theater.
Numerous grants and awards from among others, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.
18 honorary degrees from American colleges and universities.

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