Joanna Merlin, who created the position of the daughter Tzeitel in Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway and served as a casting director for Stephen Sondheim, Harold Prince and Bernardo Bertolucci, has died. She was 92.
Merlin died Sunday in Los Angeles of problems from myelodysplastic syndrome, a bone marrow dysfunction, her daughters, documentary filmmaker Rachel Dretzin (Hold Candy: Pray and Obey) and actress Julie Dretzin (The Handmaid’s Story), introduced.
Merlin additionally portrayed the dance trainer Miss Berg in Alan Parker’s Fame (1980) and recurred as Decide Lena Petrovsky for greater than a decade on NBC’s Regulation and Order: SVU.
Her performing résumé included the movies Hester Road (1975), All That Jazz (1979), Child It’s You (1983), The Killing Fields (1984), Mystic Pizza (1988), Class Motion (1991) and Metropolis of Angels (1998) and such TV exhibits as Bare Metropolis, The Defenders, East Facet/West Facet, Homeland and The Good Spouse.
Merlin solid the unique Broadway productions of Sondheim’s Firm, Follies, A Little Night time Music, Pacific Overtures, Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods and Merrily We Roll Alongside in addition to Lilian Hellman’s Candide, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita and Prince’s On the Twentieth Century.
She additionally solid John Carpenter’s Large Bother in Little China (1986), James Ivory’s Jefferson in Paris (1995) and the Bertolucci-directed Oscar finest image winner The Final Emperor (1987), for which she gained the Artios Award from the Casting Society of America.
The second youngster of Russian Jewish immigrants Toni Merlin (a sculptor) and Harry Ratner (a grocer), Joann Ratner was born in Chicago on July 15, 1931. She and her household relocated to L.A., the place she graduated from Fairfax Excessive Faculty and attended UCLA.
Her daughters famous that she and her sister, Harriet, have been raised in a politically progressive house the place their dad and mom have been concerned within the early labor motion and supported evolving actions for racial equality and girls’s rights. It was an upbringing that impacted each sisters and was mirrored in their very own social activism, they mentioned.
As a younger actress in Hollywood, Merlin — who took her mother’s maiden identify as her stage identify — studied with Michael Chekhov, the celebrated actor and director from the Moscow Artwork Theatre who had fled political repression within the Twenties. She was a member of Chekhov’s performing studio for 5 years and his final dwelling pupil.
Merlin made her onscreen debut in Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments (1956), and her Broadway bow got here 5 years later in Becket reverse Laurence Olivier. She started taking part in Tzeitel, the eldest daughter in Fiddler, on Broadway in 1964.
In 2008, Merlin produced, co-wrote and starred within the one-woman movie Lovely Hills of Brooklyn, which she and director Ragnar Freidank tailored from a play by Ellen Cassedy.
Merlin within the Nineteen Eighties co-founded the Non-Conventional Casting Mission, which turned the Alliance for Inclusion within the Arts and was honored on the 2011 Tony Awards. And in 1999, she launched the Michael Chekhov Affiliation (MICHA) to protect and share his legacy and observe. Since its begin, it has skilled greater than 2,000 actors, administrators and lecturers all over the world.
A longtime school member of Grad Appearing program on the NYU Tisch Faculty of the Arts, Merlin is the writer of Auditioning: An Actor-Pleasant Information, which incorporates a foreword by Prince and has been repeatedly in print since its first publication in 2001.
Her husband of 42 years, lawyer David Dretzin, died in 2006, and her sister, who famously pushed Charles M. Schulz so as to add a Black character — Franklin — to his Peanuts cartoon strip, died in 2020.
Along with her daughters, survivors embody Julie’s husband, writer-director-producer Sam Catlin (Preacher, Breaking Dangerous); Rachel’s husband, producer Barak Goodman (American Expertise); and grandchildren Noah, Jesse, Ruby, Ben and Eli.
Plans for a memorial can be introduced.