Mark Medoff, the critically heralded playwright whose play Children Of A Lesser God won Tony, Desk and Olivier Awards, has died. Per The New York Times, his daughter confirmed his death via Facebook. He was 79.
His first play to be staged in New York City, When You Comin’ Back, Red Rider?, garnered much attention and won him Drama Desk and Obie awards in 1974 for Outstanding New Playwright. However, it was his follow-up cornerstone work Children Of A Lesser God - a play that specifically centered on the complex relationship between a deaf woman and her former teacher - that earned him breakthrough success and cemented his status as a visionary. The show won three Tony Awards and a Drama Desk award in 1980, followed by three Laurence Olivier awards the following year. In 1986, Children Of A Lesser God was adapted into a critically acclaimed film starring actress and activist Marlee Matlin. Her performance led to an Academy Award win for Best Actress. To date, she is the only deaf actress to receive the honor.
“He insisted and fought the studio that the role be played by a deaf actor; I would not be here as an Oscar winner if it weren’t for him,” Matlin tweeted in tribute. “RIP Dear Mark.”
On top of writing over 30 plays, Medoff was a screenwriter, stage and film director, actor, and celebrated educator at New Mexico State University. He was also the co-founder of the American Southwest Theatre Company.