The Story of Biddy Mason

  • Image of a Black woman in a dress circa the 1800s, standing in front of an image of Los Angeles

The Story of Biddy Mason

Written by Dana Johnson and Annie Loui
Directed by Annie Loui
Dana Woods, costume design
Jimmy Balistreri, lighting design
Morgan Embry, projections
Nat Houle, sound design and composer
John Pinero, stage management


December 1 - 4, 2022

Experimental Media Performance Lab (xMPL)

It is 1850 in Los Angeles, and the birth of the Pueblo of Los Angeles is helped along by Biddy Mason, a former Mississippi slave and midwife who walks to California behind a wagon train, and becomes a healing force in the Wild West. “Auntie Mason” becomes a person to be reckoned with: a businesswoman and entrepreneur who takes care of all of her people. The narrative highlights Biddy Mason’s perseverance and commitment as a healer of bodies and souls, ensuring that her spirit lives on in the City of Angels. Based on a real historic person.

Biddy Mason (August 15, 1818 - January 15, 1891) was an African-American nurse and a Californian real estate entrepreneur and philanthropist. She was one of the founders of the First African Methodist Episcopal Church in Los Angeles, California. Enslaved upon birth, she developed a variety of skills and developed knowledge of medicine, child care, and livestock care. A California court granted her and her daughters freedom in 1856. 

In 1866, a Mr. Buffun sold two lots on the outskirts of the tiny pueblo of Los Angeles to a 48-year-old woman named Biddy Mason, for $250. The land was located on rural Spring Street, roughly between Third and Fourth, an area then just recently plotted on a “Map of the Plains.” Biddy’s daughter Ellen recalled that there “was a ditch of water on the place and a willow fence running around the plot.” This was the first piece of land Mason had ever owned, a remarkable feat for a woman who had spent the first 37 years of her life enslaved. But for Mason, this purchase was just the beginning. By the time she died in 1891, she had amassed a fortune of $300,000 (approximately $6 million today), making her the “richest colored woman west of the Mississippi.” More importantly, Mason had left a legacy of perseverance, compassion, and triumph.

Content Advisory: This production contains:
- Strobe (flashing) lights
- Fog/haze effects
- Gun shots/depictions of death

This event is presented with help from UCI Humanities Center.

Generous support for this production is provided by the Robert and Lorna Cohen Endowment for Excellence in Drama, Theatre Guild, and Claire Trevor Society.

Evenings: Dec. 1, 2, 3 at 8:00 p.m.
Matinees: Dec. 3, 4* at 2:00 p.m.
Evening: Dec. 4 at 7:00 p.m.

* Please join us for a TalkBack with cast & crew, after the 2:00 p.m. matinee performance on Sun., Dec. 4.

General admission: $19
Seniors, Groups 10+, UCI Faculty & Staff: $16
Arts Packages: $15
UCI Students & Children under 17: $12

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Thursday Dec 1, 2022, 8:00 pm
Friday Dec 2, 2022, 8:00 pm
Saturday Dec 3, 2022, 2:00 pm
Saturday Dec 3, 2022, 8:00 pm
Sunday Dec 4, 2022, 2:00 pm
Sunday Dec 4, 2022, 7:00 pm