Merlin, Joanna 1931-

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Merlin, Joanna 1931-


Original name, Joann Ratner; born July 15, 1931, in Chicago, IL; daughter of Harry (a grocer) and Toni (maiden name, Merlin) Ratner; married Martin Lubner (an artist and teacher), December 17, 1950 (divorced, 1955); married David Dretzin (an attorney), March 1, 1964. Education: Attended University of California, Los Angeles, 1949-51, and American Shakespeare Festival Theatre and Academy, New York City, 1957-58; studied acting with Benjamin Zemach, 1947-50, Morris Carnovsky, 1948, Michael Chekhov, 1950-55, Fanny Bradshaw, 1957-58, Uta Hagen, 1961, and Tamara Daykarhanova, beginning 1962.


Actress, casting director, and author.


Actors' Equity Association, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, Screen Actors Guild.

Awards, Honors:

Artios Award, best casting for a dramatic feature film, Casting Society of America, 1988, for The Last Emperor.


Stage Appearances:

Too Many Marys, Chicago, IL, 1942.

Pilar, Bullfight, New Hampshire Playhouse, Hollywood, CA, 1956.

Athenian girl and understudy for Myrrhina, Lysistrata, Lenox Hill Playhouse, New York City, 1956.

Gina, The Pigeon, Temple Theatre, New York City, 1957.

Hamlet, American Shakespeare Festival, Stratford, CT, 1958.

A Midsummer Night's Dream, American Shakespeare Festival, 1958.

Emilia, A Winter's Tale, American Shakespeare Festival, 1958.

Isolde, Tunnel of Love, Rockland County Playhouse, NY, 1959.

Mrs. Frank, The Diary of Anne Frank, Rockland County Playhouse, 1959.

Helena, Look Back in Anger, Rockland County Playhouse, 1959.

Esther, The Flowering Peach, Rockland County Playhouse, 1959.

Rosetta, No Trifling with Love, St. Marks Playhouse, New York City, 1959.

Title role, Major Barbara, Murray Dodge Theatre, Princeton, NJ, 1960.

Catherine, The Winslow Boy, Tenthouse Theatre, Highland Park, IL, 1960.

Gina, Right You Are, McCarter Theatre, Princeton, NJ, 1960.

Anita di Speranza, The Breaking Wall, St. Marks Playhouse, 1960.

Silia Gala, The Rules of the Game, Gramercy Arts Theatre, New York City, 1960.

(Broadway debut) Gwendolyn, Becket, St. James Theatre, 1961, then Hudson Theatre, both New York City, 1961.

Martha Freud, A Far Country, Music Box Theatre, New York City, 1961.

Poppea Sabina, The Emperor, Maidman Playhouse, New York City, 1963 Stepdaughter, Six Characters in Search of an Author, Martinique Theatre, New York City, 1963.

Dawnthea, Thistle in My Bed, Gramercy Arts Theatre, 1963.

Geraldine, Come to the Palace of Sin, Theatre de Lys (now Lucille Lortel Theatre), New York City, 1963.

Rachel Apt, The Wall, Arena Stage, Washington, DC, 1964.

Tzeitl, Fiddler on the Roof (musical), Imperial Theatre, New York City, beginning 1964.

Gertrude Glass, The Bird, the Bear and the Actress, Eugene O'Neill Memorial Theatre, Waterford, CT, 1966.

Gloria, Shelter (musical), John Golden Theatre, New York City, 1973.

Standby for Sofya Alexandrovna, Uncle Vanya, Circle in the Square, Joseph E. Levine Theatre, New York City, 1973.

Title role, Clytemnestra, Cubiculo Theatre, New York City, 1976.

Mother, Canadian Gothic and Pat, American Modern (double-bill), Phoenix Theatre Company, Marymount Manhattan Theatre, New York City, 1976.

Anna Colonna, The Grinding Machine, American Place Theatre, New York City, 1978.

Leslie Nathan, The Beach House, Long Wharf Theatre, New Haven, CT, 1980 Zlatke, The Survivor, Morosco Theatre, New York City, 1981.

Liz, Solomon's Child, Little Theatre, New York City, 1982.

Deborah Brodsky, The Yiddish Trojan Women, American Jewish Theatre, New York City, 1996.

Also appeared as Madame Ranevskaya in The Cherry Orchard and as Mrs. Patrick Campbell in Dear Liar, both John Drew Theatre, Long Island, NY; appeared in The Brooklyn Trojan Women.

Major Tours:

Gwendolyn, Becket, U.S. Cities, 1960.

Martha Freud, A Far Country, 1961.

Film Appearances:

Jethro's daughter, The Ten Commandments, Paramount, 1956.

Myra, The Key (documentary), Campus, 1957.

The Pusher, United Artists, 1960.

Josie, Weddings and Babies, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1960.

Anatomy of a Disease (documentary), Vision Association, 1962.

Jake's landlady, Hester Street, 1975.

Nurse Pierce, All That Jazz, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1979.

Miss Berg, Fame, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1980.

Mrs. Sturgis, Love Child, Warner Bros., 1982.

Allan's mother, Soup for One, Warner Bros., 1982.

Mrs. Rosen, Baby, It's You, Paramount, 1983.

Schanberg's sister, The Killing Fields, Warner Bros., 1984.

Bag lady, Prince of Darkness (also known as John Carpenter's "Prince of Darkness"), Universal, 1987.

Margaret Arujo, Mystic Pizza, Samuel Goldwyn Films, 1988.

Estelle Ward, Class Action, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1991.

Loretta, Mr. Wonderful, Warner Bros., 1993.

Guendolina, Two Bits (also known as A Day to Remember), Miramax, 1995.

Doris, MURDER and murder, Zeitgeist Films, 1996.

Teresa Messinger, City of Angels (also known as Stadt der engel), Warner Bros., 1998.

Emily, The Jimmy Show, 2001.

Joan Kaufman, The Invasion, Warner Bros., 2007.

Television Appearances; Series:

Dr. Emily Cole, Another World (also known as Another World: Bay City), NBC, 1982.

Judge Brauer, All My Children (also known as AMC), ABC, 1997.

Judge Lena Petrovsky, a recurring role, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (also known as Law & Order: SVU and Special Victims Unit), NBC, between 2000 and 2007.

Television Appearances; Movies:

Mrs. Farelli, The Last Tenant, ABC, 1978.

Nan Riley, Nurse, CBS, 1980.

Jacobo Timerman: Prisoner without a Name, Cell without a Number (also known as Prisoner without a Name, Cell without a Number), NBC, 1983.

Dr. Bromberg, Murder in Black and White (also known as Janek: Cause of Death), CBS, 1990.

Frances Silvano, In a Child's Name, CBS, 1991.

The Prosecutors, NBC, 1996.

Ann Benedetto, Black and Blue, CBS, 1999.

Cindy's mother, Witness Protection, HBO, 1999.

Sadie, Just Another Story, Showtime, 2003.

Television Appearances; Miniseries:

Rose Profaci, Love, Honor & Obey: The Last Mafia Marriage, NBC, 1993.

Television Appearances; Specials:

Inez Martin, "Starstruck," ABC Afterschool Specials, ABC, 1981.

Marian Rosenberg, "A Matter of Conscience" (also known as "Silent Witness"), CBS Schoolbreak Specials, CBS, 1989.

Dolly (some sources cite Emmy) Stieglitz, "A Marriage: Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz" (also known as "An American Place, O'Keeffe and Stieglitz" and "The Eleventh Hour"), American Playhouse, PBS, 1991.

Flashback, HBO, 1997.

Television Appearances; Episodic:

Great Jewish Stories, WOR, 1957.

"The Oresteia," Omnibus, NBC, 1960.

Musya, "The Seven Who Were Hanged," CBS Repertoire Workshop, CBS, 1960.

Delgado's wife, The Power and the Glory, CBS, 1961.

Lucia Lopez, "It's War, Man" (premiere episode), East Side/West Side, CBS, 1962.

Gloria Werminski, "King Stanislaus and the Knights of the Round Table," Naked City, ABC, 1963.

Katy Martinez, "The Bagman," The Defenders, CBS, 1963.

Mariel/wealthy lady, "Gather Ye Acorns, Amazing Stories (also known as Steven Spielberg's "Amazing Stories"), 1986.

Ellen Kennedy, "Pump It Up," L.A. Law, NBC, 1991.

Carla Bowman, "Silence," Law & Order, NBC, 1992.

Carla Bowman, "Virus," Law & Order, NBC, 1992.

Gina Halbrook, Baby Talk, ABC, 1992.

Nadine Fleischman, "Birds of a Feather," Northern Exposure, CBS, 1993.

Deirdre Powell, "Virtue," Law & Order, NBC, 1994.

Deirdre Powell, "Atonement," Law & Order, NBC, 1996.

Carmella McNamara, "Going Platinum," New York Undercover (also known as Uptown Undercover), Fox, 1996.

Carmella McNamara, "Fade Out," New York Undercover (also known as Uptown Undercover), Fox, 1996.

Carmella McNamara, "Vendetta," New York Undercover (also known as Uptown Undercover), Fox, 1997.

Deirdre Powell, "Expert," Law & Order, NBC, 1998.

Jackie Ochs, "Too Jung to Die," The Jury, Fox, 2004.

Herself, "The Boy in the Bubble," The American Experience, PBS, 2006.



Auditioning: An Actor-Friendly Guide, Vintage Books, 2001.