Mark Medoff Dies: Oscar-Nominated ‘Children Of A Lesser God’ Writer Was 79

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Mark Medoff, who won a Tony Award for writing Children of a Lesser God and earned an Oscar nom for its movie adaptation, died Tuesday at Mesilla Valley Hospice in Las Cruces, NM. He was 79.

Children of a Lesser God won the 1980 Tony for Best Play and ran for more than two years and 880 performances at Broadway’s Longacre Theatre. The show about a hearing speech teacher at a school for the deaf who falls for a deaf custodian was turned into a 1986 feature directed by Randa Haines. The film starred William Hurt and Marlee Matlin, who won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for the role. Hurt and supporting actress Piper Laurie also scored Oscar noms, and the film was up for Best Picture but lost to Platoon.

Children of a Lesser God, 1986 Takashi Seida/Paramount//Shutterstock

A revival of Children of a Lesser God played on the Main Stem for six weeks last year. Medoff also penned Prymate, which had a brief Broadway run in 2004.

Medoff’s other feature writing credits include The Outright Winner (2016), City of Joy (1992), Clara’s Heart (1988), Good Guys Wear Black (1978) and the 1979 adaptation of When You Comin’ Back, Red Ryder? — which was based on his play that won him the 1974 Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding New Playwright.

Born on March 18, 1940, in Mount Carmel, IL, Medoff also had roles in more than a half-dozen films, including his penned pics Clara’s Heart, Red Ryder? and Santa Fe (1997). He also produced a handful of features.

His final film is Walking with Herb, a faith-based drama starring Edward James Olmos, George Lopez and Mary McDonnell. Medoff wrote and produced the pic, which shot in Las Cruces and is in postproduction.

Rather than relocate to the coast to pursue his career, Medoff remained with his family in Las Cruces. He taught at New Mexico State University in the town for more than 50 years. He began in the English department in 1966, later headed the Theatre Arts department and co-founded the university’s American Southwest Theatre Company. Medoff also taught at Florida State University, the University of Houston and the University of Oklahoma.

Medoff also was a senior fellow and professor at the Creative Media Institute, where he was a Dramatist in Residence from 1992-2006.

Just before his death, Medoff completed his final manuscript for The Manthropist, a story of gender equality with a strong female protagonist.

He is survived by his wife, Stephanie; their daughters; and eight grandchildren.

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