Mark Medoff

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(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Mark Howard Medoff was born to educated parents (his father a physician and his mother a psychologist) and was educated at the University of Miami and at Stanford University. Intending to undertake a writing career, he gradually moved toward teaching and found unexpected rewards. While pursuing his professional playwriting career, he advanced in academia, chairing the Department of Drama at New Mexico State University, a position that would allow him to mount college productions of his work before attempting professional productions in the regional or New York market.

Medoff is an adoptive Westerner, which brings his work about the West both advantages and disadvantages. He moved to New Mexico in 1966 after life spent in far more metropolitan areas. Rather than seeing this position as a grim exile to be hurriedly escaped from by obtaining a permanent position at a more conveniently located college, Medoff took New Mexico as an opportunity. He saw that here he had a taproot into the American spirit at its most stark and elemental. Medoff would have been a brilliant playwright in any event, but his living in New Mexico gave him his subject.

Medoff’s relationship with Phyllis Frelich and her husband, Robert Steinberg, began in 1977, when Medoff promised Frelich, an accomplished deaf actress, to write a play for her. The resulting three-year collaboration moved to Broadway after Steinberg and Frelich helped Medoff refine the play’s ideas into a finished script. John Rubenstein replaced Steinberg for the Broadway run, winning a Tony for his work, as did Frelich. After a long hiatus, during which Medoff wrote and rewrote his next two works, The Hands of Its Enemy was performed Off-Broadway to mixed reviews, with Frelich again cast as a deaf person and with Steinberg as her interpreter. The Heart Outright received a workshop production at the American Southwest Theatre Company, where Medoff served as artistic director from 1984 to 1987. Medoff also worked with Frelich in Road to a Revolution.

The Hero Trilogy, consisting of When You Comin’ Back, Red Ryder?, The Heart Outright, and The Majestic Kid, was published in 1989, with an introduction by the author. His film work includes Clara’s Heart (1988) and City of Joy (1992), as well as the screen version of his own play, The Majestic Kid (1988). He has received many awards, including the Media Award of the President’s Committee on Employment of the Handicapped and an Oscar Award nomination for Best Screenplay for Children of a Lesser God in 1987.

In 2000, Medoff became professor emeritus of theater at New Mexico State and took up a position as adjunct professor of theater at the University of Oklahoma as well as serving as a consultant in theater to the English department of the University of Mew Mexico.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

As of the early 1970’s Mark Howard Medoff became recognized as one of the most promising American playwrights working in the tradition of mainstream realistic theater. He was the son of Lawrence R. Medoff, a physician, and Thelma Butt, a psychologist. Following his graduation from the University of Miami in 1962 Medoff worked for two years as a supervisor of publications for the Capitol Radio Engineering Institute in Washington, D.C. In 1964 he entered Stanford University and graduated in 1966 with a master’s degree in English. He was then hired by New Mexico State University, Las Cruces.

Medoff’s one-act, experimental Doing a Good One for the Red Man was performed in Las Cruces in 1969. The play examines the encounter between a Native American and an unthinking, middle-of-the-road white couple. Thematically, the play explores the problems of communication, in this case represented by the chance meeting of two very different cultures, and it reveals Medoff’s early interest in the dramatic use of violence. At the end of the play the quiet, stoic Native American suddenly explodes in a frenzy of violence and kills the couple.

His most popular early work was The Wager . First performed in 1967, the...

(The entire section is 1,506 words.)