Marsha Norman (born 21 September 1947) is an American playwright. Norman won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for her play 'night, Mother. She has also written the book and lyrics for the Broadway musicals The Secret Garden and The Red Shoes as well as the libretto for the musical The Color Purple.
Norman was born into a Christian fundamentalist household in Louisville, Kentucky. As a child she was not allowed to play with other children nor watch television or movies and this solitary childhood is sometimes credited with providing the inspiration to become a writer. Norman was, however, allowed to read, play the piano and visit the theatre where she viewed productions by the Actor's Theatre of Louisville. After graduating from Agnes Scott College with a degree in philosophy, she began working as a journalist for the Louisville Times newspaper.
On a suggestion from Jon Jory, the director of the Actor's Theatre of Louisville, Norman wrote her first play Getting Out. The play deals with a young woman just paroled after serving an eight year prison sentence for robbery, kidnapping and manslaughter, and reflects Norman's experience working with disturbed adolescents at the Kentucky Central State Hospital.
Norman's success with Getting Out led her to move to New York City where she continued to write for the Actor's Theatre of Louisville and she produced a full length play, Circus Valentine in 1979. Her next work, 'night, Mother would be her seminal work.
'night Mother and recognition
'night, Mother brought Norman a great deal of recognition. The play, dealing frankly with the subject of suicide, won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Drama as well as the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, the Hull-Warriner, and the Drama Desk Award.
Based on the Frances Hodgeson Burnett novel, The Secret Garden, Norman wrote the book and lyrics for a musical version of the same. For this, she won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 1991. Her work in musical theatre continued with her writing the book and lyrics for the musical The Red Shoes. She has also written the libretto for the musical version of The Color Purple scheduled to open in 2005.
Norman currently serves on the faculty of the Juilliard School.