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STAGE LEGACY

Mark Medoff 1940-2019

The final play: Time, chance and circumstances beyond control

Posted

It’s hard to believe that Las Cruces’ Tony-winning and Oscar-nominated playwright Mark Medoff has been gone for more than six months; he died April 23 at Mesilla Valley Hospice. But Medoff’s memory and his legacy live on with a very special presentation of the last play he wrote.

“Time and Chance” premieres Thursday-Saturday, Nov. 7-9, at Rio Grande Theatre (RGT), 211 N. Main St.  The cast includes Oscar-nominated actress Kathleen Quinlan (“Apollo 13,” “The Doors,” “American Graffiti”), Medoff’s daughter Jessica Medoff and New York-based actresses Jane Elias and Frances Ramos.

Performance times are 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Nov. 7, 8 and 9. There is a 1 p.m. matinee Saturday, Nov. 9.

This will be the first full production of the play, which is being co-produced by the Medoff family

and RGT, Theatre Venue Manager Chris Faivre said in a news release.

“Time and Chance” is the story of three women and a girl — a famous artist, an art curator, an

anthropologist and an artistic prodigy — all of whom find themselves unmoored from the lives

they’ve been leading due to fractured relationships and circumstances beyond their control, according to the RGT news release.

Time, chance and the universe conspire to bring them together to accept their destiny, redefine

family and rediscover hope. It is a story of the healing power of love and the role artistic

expression plays in making the unbearable bearable.

“I asked my father a year ago, as I saw his health rapidly declining, what projects he would like

to complete,” Jessica Medoff said in the news release. “’Time and Chance’ was one of them. My dad, along with the help of my mother, Stephanie, and our dear family-friend and director Mary Steidl, began to revise the most recent draft and put into motion the process of finishing his last work.”

The draft that the cast works from is affectionately known as ‘the kitchen table draft’.

“Mary, my mom and my dad sat around our kitchen table in Mesilla Park for two weeks and

generated his last artistic expression,” Jessica Medoff said. “His illness was very advanced by

this time and he was unable to type. He spoke and we typed. Luckily, his mind was sharp. His

literary brilliance remained to the very end.”

Medoff passed away two months later.”

Quinlan and Medoff are longtime collaborators, first working together on Medoff’s film “Clara’s Heart,” in which he starred along with Whoopi Goldberg and introduced New Mexico native Neil Patrick Harris. Quinlan and Mark Medoff were reunited in 2018 on the forthcoming film “Walking with Herb,” filmed in Las Cruces.

“As was often the case when working with my dad, colleagues became comrades and Kathleen

is no exception, she has become a dear family friend,” Jessica Medoff said. “I remember vividly

the day my dad asked Kathleen to participate in the project. He was just a few days from

passing away and we were gathered in the courtyard at the Mesilla Valley Hospice enjoying the

sunshine and everyone’s company. I called Kathleen so she could say goodbye to my dad. She

told him how much she valued his friendship, his commitment to good writing and his love. He

told her there was a great play that was in the hands of three incredible women – myself, my

mother and Mary Steidl – and he would love it if she would be in it. Kathleen said it would be

her honor.”

Steidl and Mark Medoff met in 1982 and remained collaborators for nearly four decades. Set designer Bob Steinberg is perhaps Mark Medoff’s longest and most trusted ally.

“I met Mark in 1976 when I designed lights for an early play of his called ‘The Halloween Bandit,’”

Steinberg said. “One year later, he brought his play ‘The Conversion of Aaron Weiss’ to the

University of Rhode Island where I was teaching and that’s when he met my wife, actress Phyllis

Frelich. Together, they went on to make a bit of history together.”

Frelich is the Tony Award-winning deaf actress for whom Medoff wrote “Children of a Lesser

God” and seven other plays with. She died in 2014.

Mark and Stephanie Medoff moved to Las Cruces in 1966. He joined the faculty in the English Department at New Mexico State University. His first play, “The Wager,” was produced in 1967 at Las Cruces Community Theatre. He won a Tony award for best play for “Children of a Lesser God” in 1980. The play also won Tonys for Frelich as best actor and John Rubenstein as best actor. Director Gordon Davidson. Medoff received a 1986 Oscar nomination for best adapted screenplay for “Children of a Lesser God.” Marlee Matlin won the 1986 Oscar for best actress for her performance in the film, which also earned Oscar nominations for best actor (William Hurt), best supporting actress (Piper Laurie) and best picture.

Medoff’s play “When You Comin’ Back, Red Ryder” won an Obie award.

Medoff was born March 18, 1940, in Mount Carmel, Illinois, and raised in Miami Beach. He received a Bachelor of arts degree from the University of Miami and a master’s degree from Stanford University. Mark and Stephanie Medoff have three daughters and eight grandchildren. They created the Hope E. Harrison Foundation to raise awareness and finance research to end the chromosomal anomaly Trisomy 18, which afflicts Medoff’s five-year old granddaughter, Hope.

Visit RioGrandeTheatre.com or call 575-541-2290.

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