I grew up in the small town of Exeter, New Hampshire, in an old colonial house built in 1698. I got my education in New England and moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota with my first husband in the early sixties. There I formed my theater career and raised my three children.
I began this lifelong year career in theater -- which includes performing, directing, playwrighting, administrating, designing, teaching, and doing odd jobs -- as an apprentice in summer stock when I was sixteen.
A few years after moving to Minneapolis I became the co-director of the Moppet Players, before it morphed into the world famous Childrens’ Theater of Minneapolis. But it was at the Firehouse Theater, an iconoclastic, experimental theater ensemble with connections to the Open Theater of NYC, that I got my wings. It was the sixties. Through the years my work has remained true to the ideological concerns of that time.
Martha Boesing’s voice and the work through which it speaks has moved like a fierce wind among us, shaking and stirring hearts and minds, causing us to examine our lives, our institutions and our world. No other artist in Minnesota or elsewhere has created such plays – celebrating, reverberating, striking at the roots of our personal and societal malaise, pointing the difficult way to change and wholeness.”
— Rosalie E. Wahl, Associate Justice, Minnesota Supreme Court
It was at the Firehouse Theater that I met and married my husband, Paul Boesing. When the theater left for San Francisco, Paul and I toured as a folk duo, singing the songs we had written for guitar and voice, created several operas for the Minnesota Opera Company and the Academy Theater in Atlanta, lived and traveled with a theater commune out of Boston, and finally returned to Minneapolis to co-found with four other actors a theater which we named At the Foot of the Mountain.
It was the early seventies and I had become an ardent feminist with the burgeoning second wave of the Women’s Movement. At the Foot of the Mountain became a theater for, by and about women. We created plays on issues such as rape, prostitution, addiction, war, and even musicals about Nancy Drew, which we performed to sold-out houses and toured throughout the country from the mid-seventies to the mid-eighties. We went on to become nationally famous as the longest running professional women's theater in the country.
“At the Foot of the Mountain was one of the country’s first and foremost ensembles devoted to demonstrating the writing, directing and acting talents of women. Martha, its founder and artistic director, served in all those functions and brought the theater to national prominence…. What distinguishes Martha as an artist and human being is an unwavering belief in the potential of human cooperation as embodied in a truly democratic society.... Martha has never faltered in those beliefs and has displayed them for nearly 40 years with dedication, artistry and skill.”
—Peter Vaughn, Drama Critic, MPLS STAR & TRIBUNE.
Over the years, I have written or co-created forty or so full-length and one-act plays, which have been produced throughout the country and in Europe. I not only wrote and directed for At the Foot of the Mountain, but also for the Minnesota Opera Company, In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater, the Illusion Theater and the Environmental Theater Company in Minneapolis; The Actor's Theater (St. Paul), the Academy Theater (Atlanta), A Traveling Jewish Theater (San Francisco), and the Northlight Theater (Chicago). I have been fortunate to be granted many national awards including one from the National Endowment for the Arts, two from the Minnesota State Arts Council, Bush, McKnight, and Jerome fellowships, and the Kennedy Center's Fund for New American playwrights.
At the end of the last century I toured the country with my first solo performance, a series of monologues about the second wave of the women's liberation movement, THESE ARE MY SISTERS. Concurrently (as a recipient of a Pew directing fellowship) I was living off and on in San Francisco where I directed and co-created four plays for A Traveling Jewish Theater.
In 2001 I moved from Minneapolis to the Bay Area. Here I wrote and directed two one-woman plays - THE WITNESS and SONG OF THE MAGPIE – both reflecting the vision of the Faithful Fools Street Ministry in the Tenderloin of San Francisco, where I currently hang my fool’s cap. (www.faithfulfools.org).
I have been an activist on the front lines of the major movements of the last century: the Civil Rights, the Anti-war, the Women’s, and the Environmental movements, all of which have changed the face of the world, and continue to this day. I have been a student, teacher, and practitioner of Buddhism for the last twenty years, and am the proud grandmother of four grandchildren, who all live in the East Bay, where I now live with my beloved partner, writer Sandy Boucher.
ARTICLES ABOUT MARTHA BOESING’S WORK:
“Martha Boesing’s talent is large. Her language combines lyricism with a hard-eyed realism about the nature of female experience which often leaves me reeling.”
- Toni McNaron, Assoc. Professor of English, University of Minnesota
- Boesing, Martha, "Jumping into the Fire At the Foot of the Mountain," SIGNS,Vol. 21 #4, Summer, 1996
- Burke, Sally, AMERICAN FEMINIST PLAYWRIGHTS, Twayne Publishers, N.Y., 1996
- Canning, Charlotte, FEMINIST THEATERS IN THE U.S.A. Routledge, London, 1996
- Chinoy, Helen & Jenkins, Linda, WOMEN IN AMERICAN THEATER, NY, TCG, 1987
- Cless, Downing, "Eco-Theatre, USA," THE DRAMA REVIEW, Summer, 1996
- Collins, Robert, "A Feminist Theater in Transistion," AMERICAN THEATER, Feb. 1988
- Filotsos, Anne and Vierow Wendy AMERICAN WOMEN STAGE DIRECTORS, University of Illinois Press, 2008
- Flynn, Meridith, "The Feeling Circle, Company Collaboration & Ritual Drama," Ann Arbor, MI., Universal Microfilms International, 1986
- Greeley, Lynne, FEARLESS FEMININITY BY WOMEN IN AMERICAN THEATER, 1910s to 2010s, Cambria Press, 2015
- Greeley, Lynne, "Martha Boesing: Playwright of Performance," TEXT & PERFORMANCE QUARTERLY, Vol. 9 #3, July 1989
- Greeley, Lynne, "Spirits from the Matrix: The Feminist Plays of Martha Boesing," PhD dissertation, Univ. of Md., 1987
- Greeley, Lynne, “Whatever Happened to the Cultural Feminists? Martha Boesing and At the Foot of the Mountain,” THEATRE SURVEY 46, May 2005
- Harding, James & Rosenthal, Cindy, RESTAGING THE SIXTIES: RADICAL THEATERS AND THEIR LEGACIES, University of Michigan Press, 2006
- Hostetter, R.D., "The American Nuclear Theater: 1946-84," Northwestern Univ., Evanston, 1985
- Leavitt, Diana, FEMINIST THEATER GROUPS, Mcfarland & Co., Jefferson, NC, 1980
- Roth, Martha, "Here Come the Sisters," SOJOURNER, October, 1996
- Stephens, Judith, "Subverting the Demon-Angel Dichotomy", TEXT & PERFORMANCE QUARTERLY, Vol. 9 #1, Jan., 1989