Beloved ‘Fiddler On The Roof’ Star’s Legacy Lives On After Passing

Joanna Merlin is a renowned actress, best known for her role as Tzeitel in the 1964 production of “Fiddler on the Roof”. However, her acting career began long before that, after graduating from UCLA and studying under the tutelage of Michael Chekhov. She has an impressive list of on-screen credits, including roles in “The Ten Commandments” and “Weddings and Babies”. Eventually, Merlin left Hollywood to pursue a career in theater in New York.

In 1961, Merlin made her Broadway debut in “Beckett” and went on to perform in other productions such as “A Far Country” and “Fiddler on the Roof”. However, she eventually transitioned from performing on stage to working behind the scenes as a casting director. She was involved in casting for several well-known Stephen Sondheim musicals, including “Follies”, “Into the Woods”, and “Sweeney Todd”.

Despite her role as a casting director, Merlin never stopped acting. She continued to appear on screen in movies like “All That Jazz” and “Fame”, as well as TV shows such as “All My Children” and “Northern Exposure”. Later in her career, she landed a recurring role as Judge Lena Petrovsky on the popular TV show “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”.

Sadly, the news of Merlin’s passing has been announced. She spent her final years as a professor at New York University’s Tisch graduate acting program. The program’s Instagram page was the first to share the news, describing Merlin as “an actress, master Chekhov teacher, and former casting director for Harold Prince, Stephen Sondheim, Bernardo Bertolucci, and James Ivory.” The post also states, “Joanna will be deeply missed at Grad Acting, by the Chekhov community, and by the many people she touched through her artistry.”

Merlin was a faculty member at NYU for 25 years, starting in 1998. The cause of her death has not been disclosed, but she was 92 years old at the time of her passing.

She was married twice in her lifetime. Her first marriage was to Martin Paul Lubner from 1950 to 1957, which ended in divorce. She then married David Dretzin in 1964 and they had two children together. Sadly, Dretzin passed away in 2006.

Merlin is survived by her two children, Rachel Dretzin, a documentary film director and producer, and actress Julie Dretzin. Her legacy as a talented actress, teacher, and casting director will continue to live on in the hearts of those she touched through her artistry.