Phyllis Annetta Frelich (February 29, 1944 – April 10, 2014) was a
Deaf American actress.
1 Early life
3 Personal life
7 External links
Frelich was born in Devil's Lake, North Dakota, to deaf parents Esther
(née Dockter) and Phillip Frelich, and was the eldest of nine
siblings (all deaf). She attended North Dakota School for the Deaf,
graduating in 1962, and then went on to study at Gallaudet College
(now known as Gallaudet University), which is the only liberal arts
university in the world for Deaf students.
Frelich attended the
North Dakota School for the Deaf and Gallaudet
College. At the latter she completed a degree in library science, but
also participated in theater. It was at Gallaudet that she was seen
performing by David Hays, one of the founders of the National Theater
of the Deaf, who asked her to join the theater company.
Frelich originated the leading female role in the Broadway production
of Children of a Lesser God, written by Mark Medoff. Children won the
Tony for Best Play; Frelich won the 1980 Best Actress
Tony Award and
her co-star, John Rubinstein, won Best Actor Tony Award. Marlee
Matlin played Frelich's role in the film version, for which she won
the Academy Award for Best Actress. Frelich later starred in other
plays written by Medoff, including The Hands of Its Enemy and
Prymate. She was nominated for an
Emmy Award for her performance in
the 1985 television movie Love Is Never Silent. On the original air
date of February 9, 1985, she appeared as a guest on Gimme A Break!
– "The Earthquake" – Season 4, Episode 19. Frelich appeared in the
recurring role of Sister Sarah on Santa Barbara. Her last acting
role was in an episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation in 2011.
Frelich was elected to the ninety-member Screen Actors Guild (SAG)
Board in Hollywood, the highest policy-making body in the
entertainment industry in 1991. She was the first deaf actress to be
recognized in the United States.
In 1991, Frelich starred with Patrick Graybill in
The Gin Game at the
Deaf West Theatre in Los Angeles drawing critical acclaim on their
aesthetic art of American Sign Language. This performance was adapted
from D. L. Coburn's play and was directed by Linda Bove, with Deaf
West Theatre artistic director Ed Waterstreet.
Frelich was married to Robert Steinberg for many years, and they had
two children (both of whom can hear and are fluent in American Sign
Language). She performed the ASL interpretation of Jewel's rendition
of the national anthem at Super Bowl XXXII.
Frelich died on April 10, 2014 at her home in Temple City, California
at the age of 70 on April 2014 from progressive supranuclear palsy
(PSP), a rare degenerative neurological disease for which there are no
News of her death broke on the Deaf West Theater
Facebook page. The
post honored Frelich for "paving so many roads for (the Deaf
Community). A leading light of our community has been lost, and we
mourn deeply. Our thoughts are with her family."
Dr. Joyce Ginsberg
Children on Their Birthdays
Gimme a Break!
Love Is Never Silent
Spenser: For Hire
"When Silence Speaks"
Bridge to Silence
"Cries of Silence"
"My Friend Flicker"
Dr. Lisa Parks
"Stuck on You" & "Nobody Doesn't Like Amanda Lee"
"Today Is the Last Day of the Rest of My Life"
Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye
"The Holocaust Survivor"
Sweet Nothing in My Ear
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
Mrs. Betty Grissom
"The Two Mrs. Grissoms"
^ Obituary, inforum.com; accessed April 21, 2014.
^ a b c d Weber, Bruce (April 15, 2014). "Phyllis Frelich, Deaf
Activist and Actress, Dies at 70". New York Times. Retrieved April 21,
^ Santa Barbara (TV Series), imdb.com; accessed April 21, 2014.
^ a b Lang, Harry G.; Meath-Lang, Bonnie (1995). Deaf persons in the
arts and sciences : a biographical dictionary (1. publ. ed.).
Westport, Conn. [u.a.]: Greenwood Press. p. 130.
ISBN 0-313-29170-5. access-date= requires url= (help)
^ Notice of death of
Phyllis Frelich Archived 2014-04-14 at the
Wayback Machine., silentgrapevine.com; accessed April 13, 2014.
Moore, Matthew S. (1996). Great Deaf Americans: the second edition.
Rochester, NY: Deaf Life Press.
Davis, Anita Davis (1996). Discoveries: Significant Contributions of
Deaf Women and Men. Hillsboro, Or: Butte Publications.
Phyllis Frelich – Overview". MSN Movies. 2008. Retrieved
Phyllis Frelich at the
Internet Broadway Database
Internet Broadway Database
Phyllis Frelich on IMDb
Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play
Ingrid Bergman /
Helen Hayes (1947)
Judith Anderson /
Katharine Cornell /
Jessica Tandy (1948)
Martita Hunt (1949)
Shirley Booth (1950)
Uta Hagen (1951)
Julie Harris (1952)
Shirley Booth (1953)
Audrey Hepburn (1954)
Nancy Kelly (1955)
Julie Harris (1956)
Margaret Leighton (1957)
Helen Hayes (1958)
Gertrude Berg (1959)
Anne Bancroft (1960)
Joan Plowright (1961)
Margaret Leighton (1962)
Uta Hagen (1963)
Sandy Dennis (1964)
Irene Worth (1965)
Rosemary Harris (1966)
Beryl Reid (1967)
Zoe Caldwell (1968)
Julie Harris (1969)
Tammy Grimes (1970)
Maureen Stapleton (1971)
Sada Thompson (1972)
Julie Harris (1973)
Colleen Dewhurst (1974)
Ellen Burstyn (1975)
Irene Worth (1976)
Julie Harris (1977)
Jessica Tandy (1978)
Constance Cummings /
Carole Shelley (1979)
Phyllis Frelich (1980)
Jane Lapotaire (1981)
Zoe Caldwell (1982)
Jessica Tandy (1983)
Glenn Close (1984)
Stockard Channing (1985)
Lily Tomlin (1986)
Linda Lavin (1987)
Joan Allen (1988)
Pauline Collins (1989)
Maggie Smith (1990)
Mercedes Ruehl (1991)
Glenn Close (1992)
Madeline Kahn (1993)
Diana Rigg (1994)
Cherry Jones (1995)
Zoe Caldwell (1996)
Janet McTeer (1997)
Marie Mullen (1998)
Judi Dench (1999)
Jennifer Ehle (2000)
Mary-Louise Parker (2001)
Lindsay Duncan (2002)
Vanessa Redgrave (2003)
Phylicia Rashad (2004)
Cherry Jones (2005)
Cynthia Nixon (2006)
Julie White (2007)
Deanna Dunagan (2008)
Marcia Gay Harden
Marcia Gay Harden (2009)
Viola Davis (2010)
Frances McDormand (2011)
Nina Arianda (2012)
Cicely Tyson (2013)
Audra McDonald (2014)
Helen Mirren (2015)
Jessica Lange (2016)
Laurie Metcalf (2017)