Mason Johnson’s first contribution to Fort Worth theatre commenced in 1956 with the production of “Brigadoon” at Texas Wesleyan. Sixty-one years later, Johnson is still making an impact on the campus. The first ever digital copy of Mason Johnson’s work, who was known as a prominent pioneer of Fort Worth theatre, is now available online at West Library.
In 1959, Johnson founded the Children’s Theatre at Casa Manana. He was its first dean and planned the curriculum of the classes. In the 1970s he served on the Casa Manana Board of Directors, and he eventually went to serve on the Boards of the Fort Worth Ballet and the Fort Worth Opera.
“Johnson was a driving influence in bringing high-quality professional theatre to Fort Worth,” Louis Sherwood, university archivist, said. “To have the first ever digital collection of Mason Johnson available online, not only benefits students but everyone who might come across them. This is huge for a variety of people ranging from student to history buff, to Hollywood and Broadway producers and performers.”
Johnson began pursuing his interest in the arts in the fall of 1939 when he enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin to study drama. His senior year was interrupted by World War II. During the war, Johnson wrote his first musical, “Square Your Hat,” a spoof of navy life, in 1945. After the war, Johnson worked on over 42 shows, many of which he would eventually stage at Texas Wesleyan.
Early productions featured some professional performers as well as Texas Wesleyan students. Wesleyan's musicals became an anticipated community event and were publicized on television from the very beginning in 1955. In addition, they were also promoted and reviewed by the arts columnists in the local newspapers. The theatre program during Johnson's years produced several graduates who went on to have careers on Broadway.
The digital collection includes video tapes, audio recordings, photographs, playbills, programs and miscellaneous memorabilia, and can be found online at Texas Wesleyan West Library.