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Children of a Lesser God (play)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Children of a Lesser God
Playbill from the original Broadway production
Written byMark Medoff
CharactersSarah Norman
James Leeds
Orin Dennis
Mr. Franklin
Mrs. Norman
Edna Klein
Date premieredOctober 25, 1979 (1979-10-25)
Place premieredMark Taper Forum
Los Angeles, California
Original languageEnglish
American Sign Language
Phyllis Frelich and John Rubinstein in a scene from Children of a Lesser God
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 student, and her former teacher, James Leeds. It premiered at the Mark Taper Forum in 1979, was produced on Broadway in 1980 and in the West End in 1981. It won the 1980 Tony Award for Best Play.

YouTube Encyclopedic

  • 1/2
  • Cast and Crew of the New Broadway Play "Children Of A Lesser God" Interview
  • Children of a Lesser God.mp4



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 Alfred, Lord Tennyson's Idylls of the King: "For why is all around us here / As if some lesser god had made the world".

Historical casting

Character 1979 Los Angeles cast 1980 Broadway cast 1981 West End cast 1986 film cast 2018 Broadway revival cast
Sarah Norman Phyllis Frelich Elizabeth Quinn Marlee Matlin Lauren Ridloff
Mrs. Norman Jo de Winter Scotty Bloch Irene Sutcliffe Piper Laurie Kecia Lewis-Evans
James Leeds Robert Steinberg John Rubinstein Trevor Eve William Hurt Joshua Jackson


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, 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 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, John McGinty and Anthony Edwards.[2][3]

Film adaptation

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

Awards and nominations


Original Broadway production

Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result
1980 Tony Award Best Play Won
Best Actor in a Play John Rubinstein Won
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

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

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


  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", retrieved May 6, 2018

External links

This page was last edited on 10 May 2023, at 19:15
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