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Marsha Norman was born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1947. As a child, she played the piano, read books and attended the theater. She worked for WHAS television in the summers and saw Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie at Actors Theatre of Louisville.
She received her bachelor’s degree in humanities from UofL in 1969. Ms. Norman began to work as a journalist after graduation, writing articles and reviews of books, plays, and films for the Louisville Times. She also wrote for Kentucky Educational Television. In 1971, she received her M.A.T. from the University of Louisville. Ms. Norman taught in Jefferson County Public Schools from 1970 to 1973 and worked for the Kentucky Arts Commission from 1973-1976. By1976, Ms. Norman had turned to full-time playwriting.
Ms. Norman’s first play, Getting Out (1977), was inspired by her work at Central State Hospital, while she was getting her Master’s Degree at UofL. It premiered at Actors Theatre of Louisville, directed by Jon Jory. The American Theatre Critics Association voted Getting Out the best new play produced by a regional theater and subsequently ran in New York at the Theatre de Lys.
After the success of this play, Ms. Norman moved to New York City. In 1983, she wrote ‘night, Mother, which won the Pulitzer Prize. Four years later she published her first novel, The Fortune Teller, followed by Four Plays in 1988. In 1991, she wrote the book and lyrics for The Secret Garden, a Broadway musical for which she won a Tony Award. She also wrote the book and lyrics for The Red Shoes and the libretto for the musical The Color Purple. She has written extensively for television and film, most recently American Girl: Samantha, The Audrey Hepburn Story, and Law and Order: Criminal Intent.
She is the Vice-President of the Dramatists Guild of America, and with Christopher Durang, the co-chair of the Playwriting Program at the Juilliard School.