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Children of a Lesser God

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A telling of hearing-impaired woman's struggle for acceptance in a hearing world. As Sarah says, It is a silence full of sound.


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A telling of hearing-impaired woman's struggle for acceptance in a hearing world. As Sarah says, It is a silence full of sound.

30 review for Children of a Lesser God

  1. 4 out of 5

    Andy

    drama young deaf women, reluctant to learn to speak or read lips, working as maid in school for deaf, forms relationship with teacher. fascinating view of how those viewed as disabled are expected to adjust to the world. and the degree to which one's relationships and life can be defined by this interesting dialog about music “I know you can feel it. But that’s just a small part of it. You see, music is . . . ( Incredible subject to communicate.) Music has a . . . ( But he’s going to try.) Music sta drama young deaf women, reluctant to learn to speak or read lips, working as maid in school for deaf, forms relationship with teacher. fascinating view of how those viewed as disabled are expected to adjust to the world. and the degree to which one's relationships and life can be defined by this interesting dialog about music “I know you can feel it. But that’s just a small part of it. You see, music is . . . ( Incredible subject to communicate.) Music has a . . . ( But he’s going to try.) Music starts with pitches. [P-i-t-c-h-e-s.] Sounds! High and low. A whole, huge range of sounds. And each one has its own emotional life. And then when you combine them and play them together — these two and these two — it has a whole new life. And then you can play them on different instruments — trombones, violins, flutes and drums — The combinations are infinite! And then when you put it all together, with a beginning, a middle, and an end, it grows into a ... It transcends mere sound and speaks directly to your heart — because you hear it! I don’t have the signs that can ... I can’t explain it, I’m sorry.” “Yes, I’m a terrific teacher : Grow, Sarah, but not too much. Understand yourself, but not better than I understand you. Be brave, but not so brave you don’t need me any more. Your silence frightens me. When I’m in that silence, I hear nothing, I feel like nothing. I can never pull you into my world of sound any more than you can open some magic door and bring me into your silence. I can say that now.”

  2. 4 out of 5

    Alanna McFall

    24. A book we read in high school/college and loved: Children of a Lesser God by Mark Medoff List Progress: 27/30 (+3) I am not equipped to talk about Mark Medoff’s 1979 play Children of a Lesser God. This modern classic is one of the only mainstream theatrical works to directly involve deaf culture and deaf characters, and I am a hearing woman. Medoff himself is not deaf, but the play was written specifically for and with deaf actress Phyllis Frelich. A note in the play’s forward involves a direc 24. A book we read in high school/college and loved: Children of a Lesser God by Mark Medoff List Progress: 27/30 (+3) I am not equipped to talk about Mark Medoff’s 1979 play Children of a Lesser God. This modern classic is one of the only mainstream theatrical works to directly involve deaf culture and deaf characters, and I am a hearing woman. Medoff himself is not deaf, but the play was written specifically for and with deaf actress Phyllis Frelich. A note in the play’s forward involves a direct request from Medoff that all professional productions cast deaf or hard of hearing actors for three of the main roles. A huge portion of the dialogue is intended to be communicated in either Signed English or American Sign Language. As much as when I first read this play in college, it is a window to a type of life and a subculture that I have no real awareness of or experience in. For that alone, it is beautiful. It is also exceptionally 80’s. I had honestly forgotten how much so. Children of a Lesser God follows the romance between a young woman in her twenties, Sarah, who is completely deaf and does not speak, and the speech instructor, James, at the school for the deaf where they both work. Sarah is stubborn and fierce and refuses to be pitied or to let others speak for her, and the connection between her and James is as electric as it is unbalanced and problematic. Male and female, teacher and student, hearing and deaf: James has every possible structural position of power over Sarah, and as fluent of a signer as he is and as much as he works with deaf students, he will never truly understand how much of an advantage he has over her. So much of the tension of the script comes from James and Sarah just speaking past one another. The play itself is told entirely through James’ perspective, with characters moving in and out of a fairly impressionistic mindspace, and it took me a while to get used to some of the stylistic writing, but the content itself is solid. I have some nitpicks, I think a few of the side characters are a bit underwritten, but the dynamic between Sarah and James is rich and tense enough to carry a lot. So I have never seen Children of a Lesser God performed, and I honestly feel like I need to (or need to watch the 1986 film adaptation), because I can feel that I am missing part of the experience. Sarah communicates exclusively through sign language, and speaking characters translate or pointedly don’t translate for her according to the dynamics of the scene, as well as having signed-only conversations between deaf characters. Being able to read Sarah’s lines, I am getting information that I wouldn’t be getting as a non-signing audience member, and you can tell that some of the point for a hearing audience is to make them feel as cut off from and blocked out of conversations as Sarah and the other deaf characters do. This is a very rare moment where I wish I had less of the script. If possible, I would recommend seeing a staged/filmed version before reading the script, but it is still very beautiful on its own. Aside from being stylistically very 80’s, I don’t know how much of the content pertaining to deaf lives has changed between the original publication and now. I honestly can’t speak to how true-to-today Sarah’s experiences of being institutionalized her whole life and craving a buy-in to mainstream culture are, but I have to imagine it’s more current than I would think. This is a powerful, eye-opening play, and while I’m reading it with a more critical eye than I did in college, it still manages to knock me back, even with its imperfections. Would I Recommend It: Yes, but see a performed version first if possible.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Neil Schleifer

    An interesting, if at times convoluted, look at the relationship between James Leeds, an overly nurturing hearing teacher ata School for the Deaf and Sarah Norman, the strong-willed deaf woman he falls in love with. Sarah refuses to speak -- to conform to what society expects of her -- and her obstinate choice virtually condemns her to one of two options: have a translator speak her words for her so that she can never truly communicate for herself or to not communicate at all if those around her An interesting, if at times convoluted, look at the relationship between James Leeds, an overly nurturing hearing teacher ata School for the Deaf and Sarah Norman, the strong-willed deaf woman he falls in love with. Sarah refuses to speak -- to conform to what society expects of her -- and her obstinate choice virtually condemns her to one of two options: have a translator speak her words for her so that she can never truly communicate for herself or to not communicate at all if those around her cannot use sign language. James wants to make everything all right, and his obsessive need to help her smothers their relationship. I found it interesting that James comes off saintly, but flawed while Sarah is portrayed as pig-headed -- I wish there were more of a balance in the writing. The subject matter is important -- how the physically challenged do not want pity and they do not want their probles solved by the able-bodied. They seek independence and autonomy -- even when their cchoices sometimes result in just the opposite. This raises some interesting questions and is definitely a good read.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mark Woodland

    One of the most moving plays I've ever seen. It probably doesn't have the same impact on reading it, since the visuals & sign language are such a part of the play, but it's a marvelous example of delving into an intense and unusual relationship. One of the most moving plays I've ever seen. It probably doesn't have the same impact on reading it, since the visuals & sign language are such a part of the play, but it's a marvelous example of delving into an intense and unusual relationship.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Yara Hossam

    One of the readings in my Cultural and Social Awareness course and dear god its the best one in this course (aside from The Miracle Worker). Anyways this is brilliant. I’ve made up my mind that social stigma and society’s ability to exclude anyone who is different is my favorite topic to read about. Now this was different. Sarah is such a strong, determined, fierce character. I liked it endlessly.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Susan Kraft

    This book was one of the most moving stories I've ever read....and the movie based on the book was fantastic! When a new teacher at a school for the deaf meets a young woman who had attended the school, then opted to stay on as a janitor, he realizes that her fear is holding her back from venturing further in her life. He wants to help her realize her true potential.The only problem? She thinks he's an interfering, overbearing jerk and wants nothing to do with him. The story of how their relatio This book was one of the most moving stories I've ever read....and the movie based on the book was fantastic! When a new teacher at a school for the deaf meets a young woman who had attended the school, then opted to stay on as a janitor, he realizes that her fear is holding her back from venturing further in her life. He wants to help her realize her true potential.The only problem? She thinks he's an interfering, overbearing jerk and wants nothing to do with him. The story of how their relationship progresses is wonderful and feels like reality. She doesn't fall all over herself with gratitude and he doesn't give up when she tells him exactly how she feels. There's a scene in the movie where William Hurt, who plays the lead male character, jumps into the deep end of a pool and stays underwater for a while because he wants to understand how her world sounds. (Her being played by Marlee Matlin, who is deaf in real life.) It was the best scene in a movie filled with "best" scenes! Enjoy the book, then check out the movie! You'll be glad you took the time for both!!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Megan Gery

    I think I would enjoy this play better live; reading everything twice was tiring. The concept is brilliant, the theme is beautiful, and it is certainly interesting to learn a bit more about the struggles of those who are deaf or hard of hearing. The characters are one-dimensional and stereotypical-- I would have liked to see more development. I would certainly see the play or watch a movie adaptation, but the script wasn't my favorite.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    I was a child that was born with disability . this book hit a cord in my it made me look at the world a difrant way . I do not think it the best written book in the world but it diffantly hit me and changed me

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kristine

    Play that examines love, communication, humanity through the relationship of a hearing man and a deaf woman. Moving, witty, insightful.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Isaac Timm

    Very well written, I don't know how feasibly it could be produced on stage, I would really like to see a production of Children of a Lesser God

  11. 5 out of 5

    Realini

    Children of a Lesser God by Mark Medoff, adapted for the big screen Nine out of 10 Children of a Lesser God looks like the perfect work of art to engage with at this time of pandemonium, created by the…pandemic that has not yet ended – indeed, it is on a rampage in Latin America now and could well return in fall with the double whammy of coupling with the seasonal flu – the disastrous leadership of men like Trump, Duterte, BolsoNero, Putin, Xi and the list is quite long, added to the huge differen Children of a Lesser God by Mark Medoff, adapted for the big screen Nine out of 10 Children of a Lesser God looks like the perfect work of art to engage with at this time of pandemonium, created by the…pandemic that has not yet ended – indeed, it is on a rampage in Latin America now and could well return in fall with the double whammy of coupling with the seasonal flu – the disastrous leadership of men like Trump, Duterte, BolsoNero, Putin, Xi and the list is quite long, added to the huge difference in material affluence – apparently, about one percent of the people have about the same as the top half combined…anyway, the figures are devastating in their contrast. This is not to support communist or even strident socialist ones, for the under signed has had the luck to live in a Socialist Republic, under a blessed communist system that is perfectly described in 1984 and Animal Farm and in the real world, it is exactly what the Camps for Uighurs tell you and the whole farce in North Korea – adding the failure of Cuba, Venezuela and other such calamities in social engineering and tyranny. Children of a Lesser god refers in the play aka the motion picture to those who are not able to hear mainly, but the definition is easily extended to the category of those who Have much less or nothing and have been disproportionately affected by the virus – most of those who have died belong to minorities, in America, the African American population has seen striking numbers of fatalities and this is because the poor are also members of these communities and the ‘essential workers’, bus drivers, nurses, cleaners and many other categories in the ‘frontline’ do not come from the privileged, upper classes, but from the bottom. This play is inspirational for it offers some role models, one would be James Leeds aka William Hurt – a fantastic actor, one of the greatest, winner of the Academy Award for the fabulous Kiss of the Spider Woman - http://realini.blogspot.com/2020/04/n... - the hero who has an excellent education and chooses to use it for the benefit of Children of a Lesser God, for those who need support in other words – but they are also the ones who would help him grow, be a better man, find love…positive psychology studies have shown that acts of kindness are…selfish in a way, for the ones who are munificent find that the benefit is returned in the form of increased happiness, it is a virtuous spiral as Harvard Professor Tal Ben-Shahar defines it in lectures that are available online https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8qpn... The other Role Model, Super Heroine of this opus is Sarah Norman and she is arguably twice the stature of James, given that in spite of her hardship, the fact that when she has tried to speak, the others, mainly her own mother, have been horrified and the resulting trauma has marked her, made her an angry woman, determined, but obstinate in severing communications with others, though she is exceptionally bright she works as a cleaning woman – albeit that might change with the transformational effect of love and self-knowledge… When she meets James, the first reaction is to reject him, just as she does with all those ‘normal people’ who have traumatized her with their scorn and humiliation, but gradually, after some sign language exchanges in which she says ‘fuck you’ – and the man retorts that this is the first sign he has ever learned – he is inclined to try to use humor, without much effect for a while – she remarks that everything is a subject for jokes for him – and eventually the two of them fall for each other, which is a metaphor that we can bridge our differences, without necessarily trying to marry the exact opposite However, after they experience a zenith and they appear to be destined for the cliché ‘they married and lived happily for ever after’, the communication is troubled, at one instance, maybe just as she was about to have an orgasm, the hero wants the partner to speak – this is an effort he makes generally, in his class he has had quite a few successes, making a few of the students use words, for one, as they play basketball, he makes him quite angry and prompts him to say asshole, subtitled as pea brain and it works. Children of a Lesser God is thought provoking and made with intelligence, without falling into the déjà vu crowd, for the Children are not weak, helpless, pitiable creatures, once again, Sarah is on a few levels the one with superior determination, she helps the man to transform, become better – the line of Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets comes to mind, according to the aforementioned Tal Ben- Shahar, this is the best romantic quote you find in a movie…’you make me want to be a better man’- perhaps more than the professor helps her. I have recorded a video with…macaws, that has some other – and a few of the same – thoughts on Children of a Lesser God: http://realini.blogspot.com/2020/06/a...

  12. 5 out of 5

    AJW

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This play is set in the mind of James Leeds, an idealistic speech therapist working at a School for the Deaf. He falls in love with Sarah Norman, a proud Deaf lady working at the school as a cleaner. Their relationship is volatile as they clash over many things: He’s hearing, she’s Deaf; he is a speech therapist and wants her to speak but she refuses to speak or lip read; he is overbearingly paternalistic while she is fiercely independent. It’s a difficult play to read - more than most theatre sc This play is set in the mind of James Leeds, an idealistic speech therapist working at a School for the Deaf. He falls in love with Sarah Norman, a proud Deaf lady working at the school as a cleaner. Their relationship is volatile as they clash over many things: He’s hearing, she’s Deaf; he is a speech therapist and wants her to speak but she refuses to speak or lip read; he is overbearingly paternalistic while she is fiercely independent. It’s a difficult play to read - more than most theatre scripts as there is a large visual component to this play. Sarah only communicates in sign language and at times other characters use sign language. So for the benefit of the audience, there’s nearly always somebody, usually James, doing a voice over of the signed dialogue. On the written page this often means reading the dialogue twice. Also there are times when two separate things are happening on the stage at the same time. It is also a complex play, characters say things but their silent actions say something else. This is often seen in James’s narration or justification for his behaviour. He believes he does things altruistically, but if you think carefully you’ll see how selfish he is being. He will ask Sarah to do things and say it is for her benefit, when it’s really for his own benefit. Also Sarah will repeatedly insist that she is perfectly happy on her own, but her actions silently show that she needs to connect to other people. A more subtle example: Sarah believes her father left her and the family because she was deaf. But we are given clues that her mother forced the decision for Sarah to leave the home and go as a boarder to the School of the Deaf and that this upset her father so much that he cried all night on Sarah’s last night at home. It was shortly after Sarah had gone away that he left Sarah’s mother, presumably in disagreement. I can see Sarah getting her pigheadedness from her mother. The play also shows how the education system fails deaf people. Another deaf character called Orin has to bring in a lawyer to force the school to consider giving him a job. A telling moment is when the headteacher says that he is not prepared to be told how to do his job by deaf people, thus revealing his superior attitude. The key scene is at the very end. Sarah has now left, the final straw being when James forced her to use her voice against her wishes. They are having a clear the air conversation. Earlier in the play, Sarah explained to James that for her deafness is not the absence of hearing, rather “it’s a silence full of sound” and that nobody has ever met her in that place. Now at the end James admits to Sarah that “Your silence frightens me. When I am in that silence, I hear nothing. I feel like nothing.” Sarah replies that they “would have to meet in another place; not in silence or in sound but somewhere else”. The play is better than the film. For me, the film failed to show the richness of sign language and how a Deaf person can live in a “silence full of sound”. The film focuses too much on deaf people using speech to get on in the hearing world, e.g. singing a song to impress hearing parents. In the film, the school is not sued by a lawyer for failing its students. James Leeds is too much of a hero in the film - his controlling nature is not highlighted. If you are interested in exploring the topics raised in this play in more depth, I recommend that you read Harlan Lane’s ‘The Mask of Benevolence’.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Justin

    It feels remarkably progressive for its time, and still is now except in one major aspect. Sarah is a fantastically complex character, extremely articulate despite everyone else wanting to speak for her (both the hearing and the Deaf community). This is her play. Like most people, she wants to be heard, and she knows that if she doesn't fight tooth and nail for her agency, others will remove it completely. Sometimes her abrasiveness causes her to be "unlikeable," but it's precisely this distance It feels remarkably progressive for its time, and still is now except in one major aspect. Sarah is a fantastically complex character, extremely articulate despite everyone else wanting to speak for her (both the hearing and the Deaf community). This is her play. Like most people, she wants to be heard, and she knows that if she doesn't fight tooth and nail for her agency, others will remove it completely. Sometimes her abrasiveness causes her to be "unlikeable," but it's precisely this distance from respectability politics that makes her so engaging and such a fantastic protagonist. The teacher-student relationship aspect feels a little cringy now. Arguably that this is just another aspect of the power dynamics between Sarah and James, intertwining with male vs. female and hearing vs. Deaf. He's meant to be a condescending male who thinks he's empowering towards others when in reality he's unconsciously regressive. From the beginning, James is quite a slimeball, especially in today's age. For example, when he kisses Sarah (without consent) after arguing and says that every other time he does that it makes things better, this feels super icky. But the play only seems to half-heartedly explore this dynamic compared to the others. There's the vague threat he could be fired for climbing into trees to sneak into the girls' barracks, but this conflict quietly fizzles away to make room for the polemic about being Deaf in the hearing world. It's a fantastic play about code-switching between communities when they prefer you to completely assimilate to one. But a contemporary mounting will need to tread carefully with the teacher-student dynamic. I think the best way is to completely lean into the yuck, instead of trying to hide it.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Quiver

    A meditation on the boundary between the hearing and unhearing worlds. It's not your Hollywood romantic comedy, but there's romance and there's comedy. The studies the conflicts that arise in the professional and personal relationship between a former student, Sarah Norman, and her teacher in a State School for the Deaf, James Leeds. He is thirty-ish, she is in her mid-twenties. James is enthusiastic about his job at the school and tries to teach his students to speak using humour. Sarah is in h A meditation on the boundary between the hearing and unhearing worlds. It's not your Hollywood romantic comedy, but there's romance and there's comedy. The studies the conflicts that arise in the professional and personal relationship between a former student, Sarah Norman, and her teacher in a State School for the Deaf, James Leeds. He is thirty-ish, she is in her mid-twenties. James is enthusiastic about his job at the school and tries to teach his students to speak using humour. Sarah is in her mid-twenties and deaf from birth, she refuses to learn lip-reading, let alone to try learning how to speak; she communicates exclusively using Sign Language. It's a unique experience reading a play, half of which is meant to be signed. Even if the poignant story doesn't touch you, I would still recommend it for the reading experience. "SARAH. I like this best—what we can do alone together." Saraha's line applies universally: we can and should learn to do alone, together. That's what being human, as well as, what being part of human society, is all about.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Olivia

    I found that while rereading this play, for the second time, that my view of the story and the characters in it has grown and developed into a stronger understanding of who these (written) characters are and what they truly want. It might be due to the more immersed I become in my Deaf Interpretive Services program, my American Sign Language courses, or by interacting more with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community/culture. Either way, the experience was invigorating, both as a ASL interpreter I found that while rereading this play, for the second time, that my view of the story and the characters in it has grown and developed into a stronger understanding of who these (written) characters are and what they truly want. It might be due to the more immersed I become in my Deaf Interpretive Services program, my American Sign Language courses, or by interacting more with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community/culture. Either way, the experience was invigorating, both as a ASL interpreter to-be, but also a theatre kid who is always looking for a way to see a sketch of a character on a page become a three dimensional person that they could share a conversation with and learn from.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Obie

    It wasn't a book I liked until I finished it. The protagonist is unlikable, but when you view him in the context of the story and what he represents it all makes sense. I also didn't understand any of the reasons behind the romance in the play; it seems unbelievable to me right now but maybe it comes through more on stage.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    What a beautiful play! I'd love to see it performed onstage someday. Mr. Medoff's writing is extraordinary. The copy I have is 10 pages longer, with introduction/backstory of how he created this piece, and it was a masterclass on playwriting.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Christy

    Mark Medoff is extremely attentive, and that really shows in this play about the relationship between a hearing speech therapist and a Deaf woman. Highly relevant to today's struggles against ableism.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Juno

    Everyone needs to read this

  20. 5 out of 5

    Carley Blank

    Culturally important. Vital.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Brian McCann

    Tough reading a play that is uber visual because it is about sign language. I’m certain the theatrical experience is more profound than reading this.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Helen

    I quite liked this! I haven’t read much about the hearing impaired, in book or play form. I thought that Sarah was such a strong woman and James was awful and didn’t deserve her.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kaila Tacazon

    God this play is beautiful

  24. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    Great Deaf story. Crappy love story.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Naliza Fahro-Rozi

    A telling of hearing-impaired woman's struggle for acceptance in a hearing world. As Sarah says, It is a silence full of sound.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Simon Fletcher

    Two words: absolutely stunning.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lynne M

    It's a great and very powerful play, but just reading it is not the same. You are better off watching the film or a live performance to bring it to life.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    A beautiful play about living between two world and finding out who you are

  29. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Russell

    I didn't like the first act. I'm just going to say that. But the second act made it all okay. I think I would have liked it a lot better performed, because reading the signing-translation-SEE-ASL-English-convolunted mumbo jumbo was a bit much. But, I got used to it. I was waiting for James to have his "what about MY language" moment, and I'm glad that he did. It's a heartbreaking and complicated story with no real answers but very powerful. I also know what I imagine happens after the lights go o I didn't like the first act. I'm just going to say that. But the second act made it all okay. I think I would have liked it a lot better performed, because reading the signing-translation-SEE-ASL-English-convolunted mumbo jumbo was a bit much. But, I got used to it. I was waiting for James to have his "what about MY language" moment, and I'm glad that he did. It's a heartbreaking and complicated story with no real answers but very powerful. I also know what I imagine happens after the lights go out, because I like happy endings--but sometimes I even like open-endings more. I enjoyed it, over all. I was frustrated with the character of Sarah, to be honest, the entire play, but I don't think it ruined the point of the story just because I didn't like one of the protagonists. I understand her frustration, but I don't like her as a character. If it stopped with the first act, I would have given it maybe 3 stars. But it ended up to be powerful.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    I don't really know how to rate this. Going off of what I've read, it seems like it's probably good. It was kind of hard to follow/read because of the sign language aspect written into the script. And I had a hard time liking the Sarah Norman character just going off of what was said in the script. But reading a play is much different than seeing one, so I don't think it would be fair to rate it without seeing some sort of production first.

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