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SMTD mourns the passing of theatre professor Annette Masson

Aug 13, 2017 | Faculty, News

The School of Music, Theatre & Dance lost one of its beloved professors on Sunday, August 13, 2017 when Annette Masson, 61, passsed away following a brief illness. Professor Masson was a singer, actress, director, and musical director who had a lasting impact on countless students at SMTD during her tenure. Alumna Alex Madda (BFA ’14) wrote a tribute to Professor Masson for the Huffington Post and chair of the Department of Theatre & Drama, Priscilla Lindsay, wrote the following obituary:

Professor of theatre Annette Masson, a dear colleague and friend, passed away at U-M Hospital on Sunday, August 13 following a brief illness. She was surrounded by her family from Saskatoon, in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan where Annette grew up on a farm with three brothers and two sisters in the midst of wheat and canola fields and prairies.

Annette received her bachelor of education (English and music) from the University of Saskatchewan in 1978. She left there after college, never really looking back, and lived in many places: Calgary, London, San Francisco, and Berkeley, stopping long enough to receive a master of fine arts (theatre education) from Boston University in 1991.

In London, Annette studied with Patsy Rodenburg, famed British voice coach, author, and theatre director at Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Voice and speech became her passion and she sought out Catherine Fitzmaurice and Joan Melton in England, Roy Hart in France, and many others, to perfect her craft. She taught as a guest artist for the Western Australia Academy of Performing Arts, as a visiting professor at Michigan State University, and on faculty with the American Repertory Theatre at Harvard University. She was associate director of the Drama Studio for London at Berkeley in California.

Finally, Annette has spent the last 24 years in Ann Arbor—the town, she said, that became home for her. It reminded her of Saskatoon, with its rivers, many parks, and the friendliness of its inhabitants. Early on, she developed and taught in one of the first musical theatre summer institutes to be offered at the University of Michigan. Over the years she was vocal director for countless young actors in University Productions. Her core classes for theatre & drama’s performance students were legendary. Ghost giggles, “Salute to the gods” “Soul train”, “O, for a Muse of Fire” and other fundamental exercises were not only Annette’s hallmarks, but also became her legacy for every actor who darkened the doors of B222—her Walgreen Drama Center classroom.

Annette was extremely proud to be the president of the National Society of Arts and Letters (Michigan Chapter) since 2007, helping to organize yearly competitions in the fields of dance, music, and literature across the state. Within the University, Annette taught presentation skills (the art of public talking) to scientists, musicians, doctors, and engineers. For almost 10 years she headed up the BFA performance program, supervising the restructure of the curriculum, heading up recruitment, auditions and scholarships.

In 2013, Annette took the cast and crew of Almost, Maine to the International Toronto Fringe Festival, and she shepherded students to Poland with The Prague Project in 2006. She also managed to find time to act in a variety of presentations over the years: Gertrude Stein in Forest Through the Trees with the Department of Dance in 2012; Narrator for A Sweet for Mother Goose in Plymouth, Michigan in 2009; and the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet with the University Orchestra in 2005.

Physically, Annette succumbed to a rare and aggressive form of cancer, but her indomitable spirit never gave up. It lives on in her many, many students who continue to “salute the gods” in her honor every day. We shall miss her terribly.

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