LAS CRUCES – Hollywood and Broadway joined Las Cruces in mourning the departure of Mark Medoff, the dramatist and educator who died in hospice Tuesday evening.
Medoff, who lived in Las Cruces and taught at New Mexico State University for more than 50 years, was the author of the Tony-winning play, “Children of a Lesser God,” and numerous other works for stage and screen. He also directed and produced several films while teaching and even directing plays on local community stages.
For these contributions, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a news release, “an indelible piece of his legacy is having brought world-class artistic expression and education to New Mexico classrooms. He selflessly invested in the development of countless actors and writers, and his generosity will extend to future generations of New Mexicans through the programs he helped found at New Mexico State University.”
On Tuesday, Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima responded to news of Medoff’s death by saying, “When Mark won the Tony award for ‘Children of a Lesser God,’ he put Las Cruces on the national stage. We will always remember him and he will be greatly missed.”
Tributes on social media Tuesday and Wednesday included remembrances by friends, former students and artists who had worked with Medoff over decades.
Neil Patrick Harris, a New Mexico native and acclaimed actor on film, television and stage, has long credited Medoff with discovering him at a theatre camp in Las Cruces, eventually helping him win a role in the 1988 film “Clara’s Heart,” which Medoff scripted and starred Whoopi Goldberg.
“I owe my career to him,” he wrote, adding, “Without him, I’d be nowhere.”
Marlee Matlin, who was just 19 years old when she began work on her Oscar-winning performance in the 1986 film version of “Children of a Lesser God,” credited Medoff with fighting for the role of Sarah, a character who is deaf, to be played by a deaf performer.
Nyle DiMarco, an actor and model who was a producer of the 2018 Broadway revival of “Children of a Lesser God,” credited Medoff for “opening hundreds, if not thousands, opportunities (sic) for aspiring Deaf performers.”
From the main campus of New Mexico State University, where Medoff began as an English teacher, later headed the Theatre Arts department and helped found the Creative Media Institute, NMSU Chancellor Dan Arvizu called Medoff an “Aggie legend” and said, “His much lauded work as a playwright, film director and professor, will forever be remembered in our hearts.”
In his own statement, NMSU President John Floros wrote, “What he has given to NMSU can’t be measured in years, or awards. It can only be felt in the hearts of those he touched, who learned from him and will pass on that knowledge and experience to future generations of Aggies.”
“Mark was dedicated to students and their education, and introduced so many of them into the profession,” the current Theatre Arts department head, Wil Kilroy, said in a statement. The production of the musical “My Fair Lady” currently in production at the university, to be performed in the theatre named after Mark and Stephanie Medoff, will be dedicate to the late artist, Kilroy said.
As tributes continued to pour in on social media, news and show business pages, Medoff’s son-in-law, film director Ross Marks, said plans were underway for a public tribute at the university’s performance arts center at 2 p.m. on May 19.
In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made to the Mark Medoff Visiting Lecture Series at New Mexico State University. Gifts payable to the NMSU Foundation can be mailed to the NMSU Foundation, P.O. Box 3590, Las Cruces, NM 88003-3590. Donations should be indicated for the Mark Medoff Lecture Series, Fund #982761. Gifts can also be made online at advancing.nmsu.edu/givenow indicating on the pull down menu that the donation should be directed to the Medoff Lecture Series, Fund #982761.
Algernon D’Ammassa can be reached at 575-541-5451, firstname.lastname@example.org or @AlgernonActor on Twitter.
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