Don't count the days, make the days count.
Karen Mason has starred on Broadway, Off-Broadway, television, and recording: and "has few peers when it comes to ripping the roof off with her amazing voice that knows no bounds!" (TheatreScene.net)
Karen is a ten -time MAC (Manhattan Association of Clubs and Cabarets) Award winner and has won the MAC Award for Major Female Vocalist of the Year for six consecutive years. She has also won the 2006 Nightlife Award for Major Female Vocalist and has three Bistro Awards.
Her latest CD, It's About Time, is currently in the works. We'll get to that at the end of this article. Let's celebrate Karen Mason and her body of "worth". I first met Karen in the 1980s when she was appearing at Don't Tell Mama here in New York with Brian Lasser. I became a fan and have remained so ever since. We sat down recently for a chat.
I have never had a happier time than I am having these days sharing these amazing stories.
Here is the result of my chat with the amazing Karen Mason.
What initially pulled Karen into this profession is that she just loves the "magic" of it all. Her family always had music around the house when she was growing up.Her mom always played records of Beethoven to Frank Sinatra. They had a wide variety of music. Music has always been a part of Karen's life.
When she was younger, her parents used to take her to see shows. They were very good about getting their family out to experience different art forms. When they took them to see shows at the St. Louis MUNY Opera, they were sitting "way, way, way" far away! Karen was enthralled. She KNEW that it looked like the kind of excitement that she desired to be part of.
When she was in high school, it was a way to meet boys because she went to an all girls high school. She did her first show there. She admits to being a " fat dorky" kid, even though her mother will swear that is not true. Karen felt like she was always on the outside of things. When she sang, however, people responded in a different way.
|With Bob Kale, Lee Roy Reams and Anita Gillette.|
Karen had her first "professional" gig in 1976 on New Year's Eve at a place in Chicago called The Other Side.
What does Karen do when she needs a little "nonsense" in her life? In her heart, she really wanted to be a dancer and "I am definitely not". She loves putting on old Motown records and dancing around the house. She loves having on all of those songs she grew up with. Paul, Karen's husband, is always laughing at her. THAT is perfect "nonsense" for her. It is all about total enjoyment. "I will probably never do it for anyone outside of anyone who is in my apartment,
|Rehearsing with Brian Lasser in 1988 at The Wellington Theatre in Chicago|
What does Karen want most in life above everything else? All of the cliche answers come immediately to mind. But her hope is that her family and friends and her husband to be safe and out of harm...more than anything. Beyond that, everything just seems transitory. When she first moved to New York, it was to be a star.
She wanted to be Barbra Streisand. My response was that Barbra Streisand now desires to be Karen Mason!
When I posted on Facebook that I was going to be interviewing Karen, I asked if there were any questions from my followers.
|Sally Kellerman, Karen, Ann Jillian, Nancy Dussault at The Cinegrill LA 1989|
Barry supported Brian and Karen from the time they both arrived in New York straight through to the end. Two years ago, Karen did Unfinished Business which was a show she wrote about Brian and herself, using Brian's music.
I asked Karen if she felt she is doing what she SHOULD be doing in her life. She asked me if anyone is ever REALLY sure! She has no idea beyond the fact that THIS IS what feels right to her. She know that it brings her joy to SING. I understand this. It is a visceral reaction to singing. She is actually happier when she is singing. It is the BUSINESS part that is always the "counterweight" to the joy of singing.
If Karen could change ONE thing about the profession, what would it be? She wishes it was "easier". Moving up through the ranks would be easier. Learning your craft is so important and it is not an easy accomplishment these days because there are not as many places where you can actually make a living wage. THAT is exactly what Karen would change. People in the arts should be able to make a living wage.
Karen cannot imagine not having the career she has. She can imagine it being bigger and grander but she is very happy with the career she has had. Everyone desires wanting more. That's what an artist does.
Everyone desires to work more, to express yourself more, but Karen is very happy that she met Brian when she met him. She met him when she was twenty-five.
For Karen, personally, what made it truly work was that Brian believed in their talent together. He found in her a muse that she found in him in addition to him being a mentor.What is unique is the songs that he wrote for Karen. "Unique" is a huge word but Karen was left with an incredible catalog of music and the love that he gave her is still something she has. She knows he is still with her.
When they first met, Karen just auditioned at this restaurant in Chicago that had singing waiters and waitresses. He was the music director there. When she auditioned, there was something that just clicked between the two of them.
To Karen, she thinks the "business" is a little bit harder now. The opportunities for people to learn and to grow have altered. She doesn't think people have the opportunities that were there when she first started out. People are just trying to keep their heads above water. It is a little bit more ruthless now than it used to be because there is less money. It doesn't feel as fostering as it used to.
The advice that Karen would offer to anyone trying to embark in a career in this business is to keep trying to learn. Keep surrounding yourself with people who inspire you. There are so many inspiring people in this business. Get yourself "out there" as much as you can.
Everybody is more open to try anything in "other" areas of the business. Some people have taken those skills that they have honed in this business and have taken them to other areas of the business. It takes a village to get a show up. It takes a village to keep this business going. Karen truly loves people who are in show business. It is a career that is challenging and crazy and mean and full of laughs and full of heartbreak and yet, somehow, "are we all the village idiots?"
It's About Time...
It has taken Karen a while to jump on the crowd funding train. It's a win win opportunity. Karen gets to put out a brand new CD. Paul Rolnick, Karen's husband produces the CDs. He is an EMMY Award winning record producer, songwriter and session singer. He's well known as a singer's producer. He wrote this great song, It's About Time with Shelly Markham. It was written for two friends who got married a couple of years ago right after Marriage Equality passed in New York State. These two gentlemen, Peter Lichtenthal and Perry Eisman, over dinner one evening, hired Karen (along with Christine Pedi) for their wedding. Little did they know that they would be hearing at their wedding a new tune composed specifically for them. Karen had said to Paul, "Write a song!" Christine and Karen each did a performance at the wedding.
These crowd funding campaigns are really fascinating. In reality, most people who are going to buy a CD, can now buy it BEFORE it is finished which enables the artists to finish it! That is the magic of these things. Karen, as have I, have helped friends out who have done crowd funding campaigns such as Indigogo or Kickstarter. We as artists have to keep ourselves going. Fans of Karen's are most likely going to buy this CD anyway. This is a great way to help them out. From what I hear, it is a pretty fantastic CD. Some work has already been done on it. They have already gone in and recorded some of the songs. It is going to be what fans of Karen's have come to love in previous CDs. Karen loves being able to do a brand new song that is important and should be heard along with tracks like The Man That Got Away and Over The Rainbow and other songs that have influenced Karen. She is so proud of the work that she and Paul do together along with Chris Denney and Barry Kleinbort. She is so proud of this CD and can't wait to get it done.
After the Rebecca debacle, the Broadway show that was supposed to happen (Karen is knocking on wood...or anything else that resembles wood at this moment...that it WILL get up..."it is that Midwestern optimism"), things got crazier and crazier. Karen and Paul really desired to do this CD. In the past, they have always paid out of their own pockets to produce Karen's CDs.
This time around, they thought this is a really great opportunity to be able to produce a new CD and have it not necessarily coming out of their pockets entirely. It is an expensive thing. Most artists these days self produce. We don't have a government that is necessarily supportive of our arts community.
|BWW Photo Exclusive: Karen Mason and REBECCA Cast Sing for 'Carols For A Cure'|
Karen Mason and Maree Johnson
When Paul played the track of It's About Time for Karen, it resonated in so many different places in her life. As she has gotten older, she has gotten stronger. It's about time that she has the confidence in
|Karen Mason, Julie Wilson, Harold Sanditen|
Bill Mahar did a spot on a recent show on ageism. Check it out!
When Brian passed on. She just didn't know what to do. Her reasons for going on were financial more than anything else, at first. Shortly before Brian's passing, Karen got cast in Amanda McBroom's show, Heartbeats. Another version of it was done the following year after he had died. Amanda McBroom is so full of life. Moving forward, that show spoke to Karen on so many levels.
Shortly after that, Karen got cast in Sunset Boulevard. That was in August after Brian passed on. He passed on on November 20th. Sunset Boulevard took Karen into a whole new area of show business.
It's About Time!
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Thank to ALL mentioned in this blog for the gifts you have given to the world and continue to give!
With grateful XOXOXs ,
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|Judy McLane, Dee Hoty, Charles Strouse, Cady Huffman, Karen Mason (source: BroadwayWorld.com)|
Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!
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|Julie Gold (Board of Directors Award), Karen Mason, and David Friedman (Lifetime Achievement Award) MAC|
Keeping Entertainment LIVE!
TILL TOMORROW...HERE'S TO AN ARTS FILLED DAY
Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com
|Karen Mason and Husband Songwriter, Producer Paul Rolnick|