Marsha Mason frequently reinvents herself.
She started out as an actress and was nominated four times for an Academy Award.
After her divorce from playwright Neil Simon, she moved to Abiquiu, New Mexico, where she had a farm that grew organic herbs.
Thanks to the late actor Paul Newman, she caught the race car bug and took up the sport.
And now she is directing. Her latest: Arizona Theatre Company’s production of Simon’s “Chapter Two” — she won one of her Oscar nominations for her role in the film, which Simon based on their relationship.
“I do think I am a curious individual,” said Mason in a telephone interview last month.
“And my curiosity is always heightened by something I don’t know. With race car driving it was almost happenstance — when things pop up I kind of go with the flow of it. And if something makes it difficult then I’ll quit.”
She tended her farm for 20 years before she sold it in 2014. She now lives in Connecticut and continues to act — she recently shot three episodes of Netflix’s “Grace and Frankie,” and she’ll be heading back to Los Angeles to shoot a movie. And she directs.
“In the ’80s, I was given a wonderful opportunity to direct at Second Stage (Theater in New York City) and I really liked it a lot,” she said.
But then she got busy acting again, and working on the farm, and she didn’t go back to directing for about 20 years.
A few years back, she was asked to direct at Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, Pennsylvania, and she got the directing bug again. “I’m much more prepared and ready, and I think I have the right balance and emotional stability to handle directing now.”
This is not her first time at ATC — she directed last season’s tasty production of “An Act of God.”
But this time, she is directing a play that was written about her and Simon, a role she played in the 1979 film.
The two met when Mason was cast in Simon’s 1973 play, “The Good Doctor.” He had recently been widowed, she had been divorced for a few years, and the attraction was immediate: After a two-week romance, they married.
Six years later, Simon wrote “Chapter Two,” about a recently-widowed writer and a just-divorced actress and their romance and struggles. While she didn’t star in the play, she did in the movie.
So she lived the story and starred in the movie about a time in her life.
Does that present any challenges?
No, she said. And she’ll make sure it doesn’t for the actors.
“I just try to dispel any intimidation, if there, by being available and helping them realize what they want to do and do it well,” she says. “My job is to protect the actors so they are on solid ground and that they can do every performance with fun and surprise.”
Oh, she knows it could be particularly nerve wracking for the actor playing the role she did, but she doesn’t see her performance in the movie as the definitive one.
“There isn’t any one way to do any part,” she said. “The more the individual actors bring themselves to the roles, and find where they connect with the material, that will be the most interesting and believable.”
Besides, says Mason, this play resonates differently than when it was first produced and seen as a light comedy.
“If this play were written today, it would be billed as a dramedy,” she said. “It’s about serious moments in a man and woman’s life. I think it’s more Chekhovian than it was originally — it was approached fairly simplistically originally. I’m hoping I can make it more complex.”