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Bernard Pomerance, ‘The Elephant Man’ Playwright, Dies at 76

Title role of 1977 drama was played by everyone from David Bowie to Bradley Cooper

Bernard Pomerance, the American playwright and poet who wrote the Tony-winning 1977 play “The Elephant Man,” died Saturday of complications from cancer at his home in Galisteo, New Mexico. He was 74.

The death was confirmed by his long time agent, Alan Brodie.

The Brooklyn-born Pomerance first wrote “The Elephant Man” — the story of the 19th-century man John Merrick who was born with severe physical deformities — for the London-based theater company Foco Novo.

After premiering in London in 1977, it then opened on Broadway in 1979 and played for 916 performances. The show also won three Tony Awards, including Best Play.

The leading role of John Merrick has been played by numerous actors over the years including David Schofield, Philip Anglim, David Bowie, Billy Crudup and most recently Bradley Cooper, who starred in the play’s last major revival in 2014 at the Booth Theatre in New York and at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in London in 2016.

Bernard Kline Pomerance was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1940. He studied at the University of Chicago before moving to London in 1968. His first play, “High in Vietnam, Hot Damn,” was directed by Roland Rees with whom he went on (together with David Aukin) to form Foco Novo in 1972.

Pomerance’s other plays include “Quantrill in Lawrence,”  produced at the ICA London in 1981, and “Melons” produced at the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1984.

His long-form poem “We Need to Dream All This Again” was published by Penguin in 1988.

Alessandro Nivola, who earned a Tony nomination for his supporting role in the 2014 revival, paid tribute to Pomerance via Instagram on Sunday.

RIP Bernard Pomerance. #theelephantman #bernardpomerance photo Lucas Calhoun

A post shared by Alessandro Nivola (@alessandro.nivola) on