I Have Notes

Recently, I had the privilege of playing a rather active role in two major productions of The Gin Game. The first was the Broadway revival, starring Charles Durning and Julie Harris, and the second was the London West End production, starring Joss Ackland and Dorthy Tutin. In both cases the directors were gracious enough to encourage an easy relationship between the cast and me, with the free exchange of notes and questions. Not surprisingly, I learned a few things. One is that few actors know how to play gin (I worked with the understudies as well), and another is that nobody knows how to keep score on a Hollywood basis. This means that many of the lines relevant to the games and scoring have little meaning to the person saying them, when, in fact, they are the engine that drives the play.

I found that the key to understanding the system was through the scorecard. Actual score was not being kept in either production, and I thought this was a mistake, because the scorecard can be used as a map to follow ones way through the play. This is no small benefit when dealing with a play that everyone soon discovers is maddeningly difficult to learn. Therefore I drew up scorecards exactly as they should look after each game, along with the key lines that trigger the end of the game. This way it is harder to leave out games, and it provides additional comfort to the actors, who know they are in the right act. The scorecards, along with the notations are here for your production should you like to use them. Also, you will find a brief overview of the game of gin and greater detail about the Hollywood system of scoring.

I learned much else, of course, and made many notes. In one case I did a complete chronology of Fonsias life, as much for my own benefit as for the actors. I never really needed it, as these great actresses created their own life histories for the character, but it was there if a question arose. If there are any questions that have come up in your production that I can be of help with, if I am available (not traveling, etc.), I will be happy to respond to your request by e-mail.


Noted actors and actresses who have played the roles:

WELLER

Joss Ackland (U.K.)
Hume Cronyn (USA)
Charles Durning (USA)
E.G. Marshall (USA)
John Terry Bell (USA - 1st to ever play the role)
Will Hussung (USA)
Guus Hermus (Netherlands)
Jean Mecoure (France)
Paolo Stoppa (Italy)
Romvald Szejd (Poland)
Ton Lensink (Netherlands)
Paolo Ferrari (Italy)
Fred Kretzer (Switzerland)
Ye Shizhi (China)
Neimiah Persoff (Israel)
Dick Van Dyke (USA film for TV)

FONSIA

Dorothy Tutin (U.K.)
Julie Harris (USA Tony Nomination)
Jessica Tandy (USA Tony Award)
Maureen Stapleton (USA)
Kim Hunter (USA)
Carol Locatell (USA - 1st to ever play the role)
Audra Lindley (USA)
Georgia Heaslip (USA)
Franca Valerie (Italy)
Valeria Valeri (Italy)
Mary Dresselhuys (Netherlands)
Caro Van Eyck (Netherlands - Queens Medal)
Krystyna Sienkiewicz (Poland)
Zhu Lin (China - also play "Linda" in "Death of a Salesman")
Iranka Dimitrova (Bulgaria)
Madame Mecoure (France)
Anne-Marie Blanc (Switzerland)
Mary Tyler Moore (USA film for TV)

* These partial lists do not include any of the premier actors who have played the roles in Germany or Russia in major productions, because I can't immediately put my hands on posters or programs documenting them.