Book Writer Marsha Norman Profile: Longing, Love and Joy

“Music expresses longing and love and joy better than any piece of dialogue you can ever write.”—Marsha Norman

Marsha Norman is a playwright, screenwriter and novelist. She received the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for her play “’night, Mother.” Along with writing the book for THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY, she wrote the book and lyrics for “The Secret Garden,” for which a Tony Award and the Drama Desk Award, and the libretto for “The Color Purple.”

Her first project with Jason Robert Brown was a symphonic adaptation E.B. White’s “The Trumpet of the Swan,” — “and we had so much fun working on it,” she has said. The pair banter easily, often adopting Boris and Natasha Russian accents for conversations both serious and silly.

About her honor for “’night, Mother,” Norman said: “The Pulitzer doesn’t necessarily get you jobs. Winning a Tony gets you jobs, which is what happened with me after winning a Tony for ‘The Secret Garden.’

“One downside is that people think you’ll keep writing in that vein. But you usually win it because you’ve gotten to the end of the train that got you there — I’m paraphrasing Goethe there. And if you do write something different, the critics get angry that you don’t give them what they know from your winning play. The play after the Pulitzer Prize — they’re going to hate it.”

“If someone wants to say ‘I love you’ in a straight play, they say it, and then it’s the other person’s turn to talk. But in a song, you can sing about it for another three minutes. The musical form has that unique opportunity to express at length what joy really feels like.”—Marsha Norman

Norman is accepting on the short Broadway run of BRIDGES: “We opened in a February with 42 inches of snow, and then there was the Super Bowl. This is all hindsight of course. Maybe with a different media campaign, a different time of year, it could have been an entirely different story. André Bishop, who runs Lincoln Center, ran up the aisle after he saw it, sobbing, and found Jason and me and said it’s perfect. But for some reason we couldn’t audiences to come.”

The duo are currently writing a musical adaptation of “King Kong,” rewritten from an earlier version by Marius de Vries and Craig Lucas.

Watch this video of the recording session for “One Second and a Million Miles to Go.”