Medoff, Mark Books2004 0-7734-6390-9
Select social and academic communities accord cultural status to deafness and disability, but cultural designation remains an intensely debated topic among many culture non-members and a sensitive “hot potato” among culture group members. As a result and with alarming speed and regularity, an increasing number of scholars now examine multiple facets of deafness and disability and how culture members intersect with mainstream society. This much needed research helps to bring into perspective and to reconcile distinct segments of our pluralistic world. Yet relatively little in-depth research investigates how dramatic literature represents deaf or disability cultures or people; more specifically, although for centuries plays have developed a myriad of disabled characters, only a handful of plays have developed deaf characters. Given these combined circumstances, the entire fields of creativity and inquiry related to deafness are badly neglected.
To date, only a small sprinkling of commercially produced playscripts include deaf characters or take deaf issues as their thematic through lines. It is not surprising, then, that no existing anthology groups plays about deafness in order to provide some focused overview of the artistic representation of the deaf culture. At best, an occasional anthology might include that rare playscript with a deaf character of no doubt marginal importance to the story. This collection of five plays by Mark Medoff therefore constitutes the largest and only canon of original, commercially produced plays involving deafness and/or deaf characters by a single hearing or deaf American playwright. Each playscript is designed specifically to feature deaf actor Phyllis Frelich in the central role, and together the five playscripts dramatically illuminate numerous aspects of deafness, relationships between deaf and hearing people, and ways in which deafness interacts with an array of social circumstances. Further, the playscripts range across time from the earliest (Children of a Lesser God) in 1980 to the most recent (Prymate) in 2004. Together, they thus offer an historical insight into some changing deaf culture issues and concerns. In all respects, this anthology is unique and fills gaping artistic, cultural and scholarly voids.