NYC father-daughter duo Howard & Marla Mase go down memory lane with two-person show ‘Being Somebody’

Dr. Howard Mase (l) and Marla Mase (r) performing "Being Somebody."
Dr. Howard Mase (l) and Marla Mase (r) performing “Being Somebody.”
Photo courtesy of Marla Mase

Where do you find your love? New York City resident Dr. Howard Mase and his daughter Marla are exploring that and more in their two-person show “Being Somebody.”

A professional psychologist by trade, performing on stage wasn’t something Howard ever saw himself doing. The very beginnings of his show “Being Somebody” were taken from when he would write down stories from his life.

“I got into this writing phase and was just describing a series of stories of critical moments in my life growing up,” said Howard. “I had no intention to do anything with it or publish it, it was just an opportunity for me to emote and look back on how my life evolved.”

From then on, Howard would occasionally pull out these stories, telling them to friends and family and discussing life. It wasn’t until his wife’s death, during Shiva, that the seed was planted to turn these stories into a stage show.

Dr. Howard Mase and Marla Mase performing “Being Somebody.”Photo courtesy of Marla Mase

“Elizabeth Browning, she’s my acting coach, she came to Shiva that day and it was the one day that no one else was there. She knew my dad, she met him before she came to the funeral,” said Marla. “I said, ‘Dad, why don’t you read Elizabeth your stories?’ I think she would like them. So we started to read them and then she was like, ‘Oh my god, Howard, this is a show.'”

Howard, Marla and Browning got right to work, ultimately creating the final version of “Being Somebody,” with Browning serving as the show’s director. During each show, Howard reads his coming-of-age stories, covering a variety of topics such as warring family members, stomachaches, emerging body parts and virginity, while Marla is on stage mirroring the themes of the stories through action and music.

The result was not only a retelling of the formative moments in Howard’s life growing up in Brooklyn, but also a celebration of life, love, family, and the power of never giving up.

“In a sense, I’m telling my stories, I’m reading my stories to the people that were organized in a way by Marla and Elizabeth so that it comes across in a continuous, significant kind of way,” said Howard. 

Though he had been in front of groups of people in a professional sense before, doing it in a performance space was a new experience for Howard. As a musician, Marla is no stranger to the stage and was able to help get her father up to speed. 

Dr. Howard Mase (l) and Marla Mase (r) performing "Being Somebody."
Dr. Howard Mase (l) and Marla Mase (r) performing “Being Somebody.”Photo courtesy of Marla Mase

“I was just so impressed by his willingness to help himself. He said I need to do more things. He has this expression, ‘Where do you get your love from? I need to do more things where I can get love now that mom is gone.’ Then all of a sudden he does this show and he’s doing things out of his comfort zone because it was good for him like, meaning it helped him,” said Marla.

The first show of “Being Somebody” took place in April 2023 and went off without a hitch. Howard and Marla say that after his performances, people in the audience would come up to him and tell him how much his stories touched them.

“There was one girl, she was 23 maybe, she said, ‘I felt like Howard held my hand the whole time I was hearing his stories, they made me feel seen and heard, and it makes me feel like everything’s gonna be okay,'” said Marla. “To hear that from a young person these days, it’s not what you hear because no one thinks anything is gonna be okay. It reminded me of the importance of the wisdom of an elder, we have kind of lost this in our culture.”

“The remarkable thing for me is coming to the realization that it has appealed to the young population. It was clear that anybody who’s older, you know, ancient or something, would identify with the storyline, as the themes are, as I believe, are universal,” said Howard. “The surprise to me was recognizing how younger people see it as a hopeful show, but it tells a story that it gives them personal hope in terms of their story to becoming somebody, quote unquote.”

“Being Somebody” is coming back for a limited run at Theatre Row on Sept. 22-23. Howard and Marla agree that the show has been a blessing, and they both are excited to bring the show to the stage once more.

“I feel like it’s just been a big blessing, and now my father suddenly has the bug of performance. I know that feeling, I started performing later on. I thought I started late doing music in my 40s, but acting in his 80s? It’s never too late,” said Marla. 

“I’d never had a standing ovation before that wasn’t followed by eggs and boos,” Howard said with a laugh. “That was really heartwarming, to see the appreciation that people had for it.”

Tickets for “Being Somebody” start at $42.50. To purchase tickets, visit bfany.org.