âThe most important element in theater is the audienceâs imagination,â he said in a 1979 interview with The New York Times.
The resulting play invited theatergoers to contemplate, among many other themes, what is normal and what isnât. âThe Elephant Manâ was a hit for Foco Novo, and in 1979 it was brought to New York, first for an Off Broadway run at the Theater of St. Peterâs Church. The acclaimed production quickly transferred to Broadway, opening at the Booth Theater that April.
Philip Anglim played Merrick, and the cast also included Carole Shelley, who won a Tony as Mrs. Kendal, an actress who befriends Merrick. Another Tony went to Jack Hofsiss, the director, who at 28 was the youngest person ever to win that award. (Mr. Hofsiss died last year.)
Mr. Pomerance was born on Sept. 23, 1940, in Brooklyn. He studied at the University of Chicago before moving to London in 1968. It was there that Mr. Rees directed Mr. Pomeranceâs first play: âHigh in Vietnam, Hot Damn,â three sketches that Bernard Weinraub, writing in The Times, called âflawed by predictable cardboard figures.â
âThe Elephant Man,â though, drew universal praise and ran for 916 performances. David Bowie took over the part of Merrick for several months in late 1980. That same year a David Lynch movie, also called âThe Elephant Manâ but unrelated to the play, gave even more exposure to Merrickâs story, with John Hurt portraying the title character.
The play has been restaged frequently. A 2002 Broadway revival starred Billy Crudup as Merrick, and in a 2014 Broadway staging Bradley Cooper played the role.