On Wednesday, April 24th, Mark Medoff died. In 1979, he wrote “Children of a Lesser God,” the seminal play that features a strong deaf female lead character, Sarah, who he insisted be played by a deaf actress. The play went to Broadway and won a slew of awards including a Tony Award for Best Play, as well as a Tony for Best Actress for Phyllis Frelich, who played Sarah. Mark went on to write four more stage plays specifically with Frelich in mind throughout his career.
Medoff’s dogged insistence on casting deaf talent first manifested itself when he wrote a note in the play, an inclusion rider of sorts. We posted a photo of these instructions on Twitter.
This concrete demonstration of allyship struck a chord.
Medoff was bestowed an honorary degree from Gallaudet University for “exemplary service to the deaf and hard of hearing community” in 1981. His advocacy for deaf representation continued well beyond this point, where he insisted to producers that the 1986 movie adaptation of the same name also feature a deaf actress.
Medoff’s allyship was extended to small local productions of the play:
We are working on something that will delve into these issues more. We would like to know from you: Who do you consider to be a good ally to deaf people in the media? What makes that person a good ally? What recommendations do you have for those who wish to be good allies for the deaf community?