Marshall W. Mason, former artistic director of New York's Circle Repertory Theatre, is expected to be named guest artistic director of the Ahmanson Theatre, according to Lawrence J. Ramer, president of the Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson board of directors. However, Mason, who staged the Ahmanson's current production of "Summer and Smoke," said Friday that he is undecided.
"The story is premature," he said. "I told the board that until 'Summer and Smoke' was open and the reviews were in, I would not make a final decision. I don't want the possibility of this job to affect the production. The Ahmanson has been in some trouble, and it would seem to me it would be a tremendous burden for this production to carry. Suppose it's not well received? It could affect whether I want to stay. Until the reviews are in, I won't contribute to any speculation that I may or may not take the job. I resigned from Circle Rep (last July) and came out here to start a film career. I have to think very hard if I want to be the artistic director of a theater again for a year."
Told of Mason's reluctance to confirm the report, Ramer said that he was "very surprised. My understanding was that an agreement was consummated." Mason's appointment would be for one year, starting in June.
If Mason takes the job, outgoing artistic director Robert Fryer has consented to stay on for another year to work closely with Mason in putting the Ahmanson's 1988-89 season in place, Ramer said.
The CTG board's search committee, headed by Ramer, recently interviewed five others for the permanent post of artistic director. They are New York producer Barry Brown, Taper artistic director Gordon Davidson, Broadway producers James B. Freydberg and Nelle Nugent, and Jack O'Brien, artistic director of the San Diego Old Globe. Ramer said that "no decision" had yet been made regarding the naming of a permanent director.
Other names had also been discussed as possibilities "but the committee for one reason or another did not pursue them," Ramer said. This list included producer Hillard Elkins, actor Frank Langella, film and theater producer Frank Levy of the Catalina Group and producer Henry Weinstein, formerly a vice president of the defunct American Film Theatre.
Ramer denied that the possibility of hiring Mason as guest artistic director was a way of buying the search committee more time. "We were interested in bringing Marshall in to put the (1988-89) season together," Ramer said. "That was our motivation. We are going to take whatever time is needed to make the right choice." Mason, Ramer said, is not a candidate for the job. "Marshall has told us that he would not stay."
Don Shirley contributed to this story.