Bernard Pomerance, a Brooklyn-born poet and playwright who won fame and the Tony Award for The Elephant Man, died August 26 of cancer at his home in Galisteo, N.M. He was 76. His death, was confirmed by his longtime agent Alan Brodie.
The Elephant Man told the true story of John Merrick, born with gross deformities of the head and body, who was rescued from a life in English freak shows by a London doctor who provided him a hospital home, where he became a darling of London society. The play had its premiere in London before opening off-Broadway and then on Broadway at the Booth Theatre in 1979, where it made a short-term star of Philip Anglim in the title role, ran 916 performances and won the Tony Award for Best Play.
During the original Broadway run, the role was played by David Bowie and Mark Hamill, among others. Bradley Cooper starred in the play’s 2015 revival, also at the Booth Theatre, where it broke box office records and was reprised in London.
Pomerance studied at the University of Chicago before moving to London in 1968. His first play, High in Vietnam, Hot Damn, was directed by Roland Rees; together with David Aukin, Pomerance and Rees went on to form the theater company Foco Novo in 1972, which was at the forefront of British theater in the 1970s and ’80s. Elephant Man was written for the company.
Pomerance is survived by his children, Moby and Eve; grandchildren William Mossek and Gabriel Pomerance; and a brother, Michael. His wife, Evelyn Franceschi, died in 2015.
A memorial service will be planned for December in his hometown and followed by New York and London. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Christus St. Vincent Regional Cancer Center in Santa Fe, NM.