Screenwriter and Playwright Judi Ann Mason Dead at 54

Posted on July 15, 2009

Pioneering writer and playwright has died of a ruptured aorta. She was only 54. The Writers Guild issued a statement about her passing. She joined the WGA in 1975.

Writers Guild Award-winning writer Tina Andrews says, "So many of us are here as writers because she was there first willing to assist our journeys. I thank God I had her powerful shoulders to stand upon."

When she joined the Writers Guild of America, West in 1975, Mason continued the legacy begun in 1953 by Helen Thompson, the Guild's first African-American member. As did Thompson, many fellow black and women writers over the years were inspired by Mason's decades-spanning career in television, film, and on the stage.

A Shreveport, Louisiana native and Grambling State University alumna, Mason began in theater, becoming a prolific playwright with her work still in production today. She penned over 25 published and produced plays such as: Living Fat, for which she won the Kennedy Center's Norman Lear Award for comedy writing at only age 19, and A Star Ain't Nothin' but a Hole in Heaven, garnering her the first Lorraine Hansberry Playwriting Award in 1977. She also became one of the youngest playwrights - of any race - ever to be produced Off-Broadway.

She was also a successful television writer/producer. Her career in television began at barely 20 years old after being hired as a writer on the CBS hit Good Times by TV legend Norman Lear, when he was the show's executive producer/developer. "I never saw Judy Ann Mason without a smile. She brought it to her writing and her writing brought the rest of us to laughter. She was the ultimate upper," commented Lear on Mason's passing.

She had many screenwriting credits, including co-writing Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit and spent time lecturing at several universities. She is survived by her two children. Our condolences to her family and friends.

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