Mark Medoff, Tony-Winning Children of a Lesser God Playwright, Dies at 79

Obituaries   Mark Medoff, Tony-Winning Children of a Lesser God Playwright, Dies at 79
 
He also received an Academy Award nomination for the film’s 1986 screen adaptation.
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Mark Medoff Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Mark Medoff, who earned a Tony Award for his landmark 1980 play Children of a Lesser God, died at age 79 in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Medoff entered hospice earlier this month after battling cancer.

He was best known for Children of a Lesser God and its 1986 film counterpart. In addition to earning the 1980 Tony for Best Play, the production also earned acting honors for John Rubinstein and Deaf actor Phyllis Frelich, who made history as the first Deaf actor to win a Tony Award.

Children of a Lesser God, which explores the relationship between an unorthodox speech therapist and one of his students—a young Deaf woman hesitant to integrate herself into the hearing world—earned Medoff an Academy Award nomination for Best Screenplay. The film’s star, Marlee Matlin, also made history as the first Deaf actor to win an Oscar.

The play was revived on Broadway last season, after a developmental run at the Berkshire Theatre Group. Kenny Leon helmed the revival that starred Joshua Jackson and Laura Ridloff, who received a Tony Award nomination.

In 1974, Medoff won the Drama Desk, Obie, and Outer Critics Circle Awards for his play When You Comin’ Back Red Ryder? His Off-Broadway plays also included The Wager and The Hands of the Enemy.

For 50 years Medoff served on the faculty of New Mexico Stage University, beginning in the English department in 1966, and later heading the Theatre Arts department. He also co-founded NMSU’s American Southwest Theatre Company. He was Dramatist in Residence from 1992 through 2006. Medoff also taught at Florida State University, the University of Houston, and the University of Oklahoma.

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