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Mark Medoff (March 18, 1940 – April 23, 2019) was an American playwright, screenwriter, film and theatre director, actor, and professor. His play Children of a Lesser God received both the Tony Award and the Olivier Award. He was nominated for an Academy Award and a Writers Guild of America Best Adapted Screenplay Award for the film script of Children of a Lesser God and for a Cable ACE Award for his HBO Premiere movie, Apology. He also received an Obie Award for his play When You Comin' Back, Red Ryder?[citation needed] Medoff's feature film Refuge[1] was released in 2010.

Mark Medoff
Born(1940-03-18)March 18, 1940
Mount Carmel, Illinois, U.S.
DiedApril 23, 2019(2019-04-23) (aged 79)
Las Cruces, New Mexico, U.S.
OccupationPlaywright, screenwriter, film director, theater director, actor, professor
Alma mater
Notable works
Notable awards
SpouseStephanie Thorne Medoff (m. 1972)

When You Comin' Back, Red Ryder? was adapted into a film with a screenplay by Medoff in 1979.[2]


Early lifeEdit

Medoff was born in 1940[citation needed] in Mount Carmel, Illinois, to a Jewish family, the son of Thelma Irene (Butt), a psychologist, and Lawrence R. Medoff, a physician.[3] He was raised in Miami Beach.[4][5] In 1967, while working as an instructor at the Capitol Radio Engineering Institute in Washington, D.C., he wrote his first play, The Wager. His first play to be staged in New York City was When You Comin' Back, Red Ryder?, which won him the 1974 Drama Desk and Obie Awards for Outstanding New Playwright.


Medoff received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Miami and his Master's from Stanford University. Medoff also received an honorary degree in 1981 from Gallaudet University.

Awards and nominationsEdit

Medoff's big breakthrough and most famous work was 1979's Children of a Lesser God, which won him the Tony, Drama Desk, and Laurence Olivier Awards for Best Play. Medoff was back on Broadway again with the staging of his play Prymate[6] in 2005.

Medoff's screen credits include adaptations of his plays Red Ryder and Children of a Lesser God, for which he was nominated for an Oscar, BAFTA, and Writers Guild of America Award, Clara's Heart (for which he cast, and subsequently "discovered", Neil Patrick Harris), and City of Joy. In 2000, he produced and directed the documentary Who Fly on Angels’ Wings, about a mobile pediatric unit traveling through the under-served regions of southern New Mexico, and the following year he directed the feature film Children on Their Birthdays, based on the short story by Truman Capote.


Medoff was co-founder of the American Southwest Theatre Company and head of the Department of Theatre Arts for nine years at New Mexico State University, where he was a professor for a total of twenty-seven years and taught Screenwriting and Acting for Film, Short Film Production, and Film Directing and Producing. He was also the Creative Director of the Creative Media Institute at NMSU, the film department at the university. The theater department is still the American Southwest Theater Company.

For one semester a year between 2003–06, he worked at Florida State University as a Reynolds Eminent Scholar in the School of Theatre. In the spring semester of 2008 he joined the faculty of the University of Houston School of Theatre and Dance as Distinguished Lecturer.[7] He was the winner of the Kennedy Center Medallion for Excellence in Education and Artistic Achievement, given periodically to professionals in theater who also teach and mentor students.

Personal life and deathEdit

Medoff was married to second wife Stephanie Thorne from 1972 until his death in 2019; they had three daughters.

In April 2019, he entered hospice care after battling cancer in his later years and suffering a fall. He died on April 23, 2019, from complications at age 79.[8]



  • The Wager, 1966
  • The Odyssey of Jeremy Jack, (w/ Carleene Johnson, 1973)
  • The Kramer, 1973
  • When You Comin' Back, Red Ryder?, 1974
  • The Halloween Bandit, 1978
  • The Conversion of Aaron Weiss, 1978
  • Firekeeper, 1978
  • The Last Chance Saloon, 1979
  • The Froegle Dictum, 1980
  • Children of a Lesser God, 1980
  • The Majestic Kid, 1981
  • The Hands of Its Enemy, 1984
  • Kringle's Window, 1985.
  • The Heart Outright, 1986
  • The Homage That Follows, 1995
  • Showdown on Rio Road (with Ross Marks, 1998).
  • Crunch Time, (with Phil Treon, 1998).
  • Gila, 1996.
  • Gunfighter - A Gulf War Chronicle, 1997
  • A Christmas Carousel, 1997.
  • Tommy J and Sally, 2000.
  • The Same Life Over, 2002.
  • Prymate, 2003.
  • The Dramaturgy of Mark Medoff, 2004.
  • Marilee and Baby Lamb: Assassination of an American Goddess, 2015.

Radio playsEdit

  • The Disintegration of Aaron Weiss, 1979
  • The Last Chance Saloon, 1980


Acting and directingEdit

Medoff's theatre directing credits include Waiting for Godot, The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Equus, and Hot L Baltimore. As an actor, he has appeared in the plays Marat/Sade, Black Comedy/White Lies, and Old Times, among others, and the films The Twilight of the Golds, Santa Fe, Homage, Red Ryder, and Clara's Heart.


  1. ^ Official Movie Website: Refuge
  2. ^ "When You Comin' Back, Red Ryder?". The New York Times.
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Playwright Mark Medoff Reflects on Life as Play Opens in Phoenix". Arizona Jewish Life. December 1, 2014.
  5. ^ Bloom, Nate (June 7, 2018). "The Jews go to the Tonys, 2018 — including Berkeley's own Ari'el Stachel". J. The Jewish News of Northern California.
  6. ^ Talkin' Broadway Review: Prymate
  7. ^ "Tony Award Winner Mark Medoff Joining UH School of Theatre & Dance." Houston Alumline, Winter 2007.
  8. ^ Dramatist and educator Mark Medoff, author of 'Children of a Lesser God,' dies at 79

External linksEdit