Phyllis Frelich

  • Phyllis Frelich, '62

    Recipient of the North Dakota's Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award and Tony Award

    Phyllis Frelich

    Photo courtesy of North Dakota Government


    Tony Award winner for the Most Outstanding Performance by an Actress for her role in the play "Children of a Lesser God," Phyllis Frelich is an exceptional woman.

    Deaf all her life, Frelich dreamed of becoming an actress. After graduating from the School for the Deaf in her hometown of Devils Lake, North Dakota, she went to Gallaudet College in Washington, D.C., a liberal arts college for the deaf. Few theater courses were offered there, but Frelich devoured the limited number available.

    Frelich was one of the founding members of the National Theater of the Deaf (NTD). Through her involvement with the NTD, Frelich met the playwright Mark Medoff. Intrigued by the difficulties of a deaf actress in finding suitable roles, he wrote a play that portrayed the problems of deaf people in a hearing world on one level, and the difficulty of all human communication on another level.

    Although the play was written for her and the similarities between the lead character and Frelich are numerous, it is not her life story. Rather, it illustrates the life of one deaf person in a hearing world.

    An honorary rank of Colonel in the North Dakota Theodore Roosevelt Rough Riders was established during the 1961 Dakota Territory Centennial. The award recognizes present or former North Dakotans who have been influenced by this state in achieving national recognition in their fields of endeavor, thereby reflecting credit and honor upon North Dakota and its citizens. As of July 2008, 36 North Dakotans have received the award. Their portraits are on display in the lower level of the North Dakota capitol building. Source:

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