Children of a Lesser God (play)

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Children of a Lesser God
LesserGodPlaybill.jpg
Playbill from the original Broadway production
Written by Mark Medoff
Characters Sarah Norman
James Leeds
Orin Dennis
Mr. Franklin
Mrs. Norman
Lydia
Edna Klein
Date premiered October 25, 1979 (1979-10-25)
Place premiered Mark Taper Forum
Los Angeles, California
Original language English
American Sign Language
Genre Drama
Phyllis Frelich and John Rubinstein in a scene from Children of a Lesser God

Children of a Lesser God is a play by Mark Medoff, focusing on the conflicted professional and romantic relationship between Sarah Norman, a deaf former student, and her teacher, James Leeds. The play, which premiered at the Mark Taper Forum, was produced on Broadway in 1980 and in the West End in 1981. The play won the 1980 Tony Award for Best Play.

Background[edit]

The play was specially written for the deaf actress Phyllis Frelich, based to some extent on her relationship with her husband Robert Steinberg.[1] It was originally developed from workshops and showcased at New Mexico State University, with Frelich and Steinberg in the lead roles. It was seen by Gordon Davidson, Director of the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, who insisted that the male role needed to be played by a more experienced professional actor.[citation needed] The title comes from Tennyson: "For why is all around us here / As if some lesser god had made the world".

Productions[edit]

Following a highly successful run at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, the Broadway production, directed by Gordon Davidson, opened on March 30, 1980 at the Longacre Theatre, where it ran for 887 performances. The cast included Phyllis Frelich as Sarah and John Rubinstein as James. David Ackroyd later replaced Rubinstein. Deaf actress Elizabeth Quinn later replaced Frelich, and Linda Bove, another Deaf actress, best known to television audiences for her more-than-30-year-long run on Sesame Street, had a successful turn in the role as well.

In 1981, the West End production ran originally at the Mermaid Theatre, then at the Albery Theatre, garnering three Olivier Awards. The production starred Trevor Eve and Elizabeth Quinn. Deaf actors from the UK were involved as understudies including Jean St Clair, Sarah Scott and Terry Ruane.

A Broadway revival opened on April 11, 2018 at Studio 54, directed by Kenny Leon and starring Joshua Jackson, Lauren Ridloff, and Anthony Edwards.[2][3]

Film adaptation[edit]

In 1986, Medoff adapted the play for film directed by Randa Haines, starring Marlee Matlin and William Hurt.

Awards and nominations[edit]

Awards

Original Broadway Production[edit]

Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result
1980 Tony Award Best Play Won
Best Actor in a Play John Rubinstein Won
Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play Phyllis Frelich Won
Best Direction of a Play Gordon Davison Nominated
Drama Desk Award Outstanding New Play Won
Outstanding Actor in a Play John Rubinstein Won
Outstanding Actress in a Play Phyllis Frelich Nominated
Outstanding Director of a Play Gordon Davison Nominated
Outstanding Lighting Design Tharon Musser Nominated
Outer Critics Circle Award Outstanding New Broadway Play Won
Outstanding Debut Performance Phyllis Frelich Won

Original West End Production[edit]

Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result
1981 Laurence Olivier Award[4] Play of the Year Won
Best Actor Trevor Eve Won
Best Actress Elizabeth Quinn Won

2018 Broadway Revival[edit]

Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result
2018 Drama League Award Outstanding Revival of a Broadway or Off-Broadway Play Nominated
Distinguished Performance Award Joshua Jackson Nominated
Lauren Ridloff Nominated
Tony Award Best Actress in a Leading Role in a Play Lauren Ridloff Nominated
Outer Critics Circle Award Outstanding Actress in a Play Lauren Ridloff Nominated

References[edit]

  1. ^ Weber, Bruce. "Phyllis Frelich, Tony-Winning Actress and Deaf Activist, Dies at 70" The New York Times, April 14, 2014
  2. ^ Hipes, Patrick (August 15, 2017). "Joshua Jackson To Make Broadway Debut As 'Children Of A Lesser God' Sets Dates". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved August 15, 2017. 
  3. ^ Vine, Hannah (April 12, 2018). "Inside Opening Night for Children of a Lesser God". Playbill. Retrieved April 16, 2018. 
  4. ^ "Olivier Awards, 1981" officiallondontheatre.com, retrieved May 6, 2018

External links[edit]