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Big Bill - Full Length Play, Drama

Big Bill

A.R. Gurney

Full Length Play, Drama


ISBN: 9780881452341

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Description | Characters | Author
Acting Edition

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Full Length Play


 “BIG BILL is one of A R Gurney’s most affecting plays.   When Gurney began writing in the early `70s—the era of Rabe, Babe and Bullins—playwrights were supposed to do quasi-Marxist screeds.   His portraits of WASP America seemed out of synch until the early `80s, when THE DINING ROOM made people realize the deep resonance of his work.   These days, the authorized topic is homosexuality. Again, Gurney has followed his own path.   Although his BIG BILL is about one of the most important tennis players of the 20th century, Bill Tilden, who happened to be a homosexual, Gurney has a deeper focus—the struggle of a man to reconcile the most rigorous WASP standards with sexual inclinations that do not yield to any abstract code.   Tilden’s high standards are illustrated in the first scene, when we see him outraged at a linesman’s ruling—in his favor.   Tilden, an athlete of unusual prowess and grace, was also, alas, vain. This led him into a ludicrous career on the stage. His sexual tendencies—his attraction to teenagers—led to his ultimate decline.   Gurney depicts this sad trajectory in short, pungent scenes, alternately comic and poignant.”Howard Kissel, Daily News   “BIG BILL is A R Gurney’s impressionistic, jumpy, jaunty biographical play about Bill Tilden, the first tennis superstar, who won zillions of titles in the `20s, maintaining at great cost his enforced status as an amateur until his death in 1953.   Like many players then, Tilden came from money—in this case, a rich, old family in Philadelphia.   He was an active, though closeted, homosexual, surrounding himself with young ballboys (with whom his relationships varied) and picking up young hustlers, which got him into repeated trouble with the law….   In this short play, Gurney simply presents the story of a damaged but gifted man who never grew up, alongside the absurdities of L A law.   On the whole, though, it makes for a lovely theatrical experience.”Donald Lyons, New York Post   “In BIG BILL…A R Gurney elegantly considers the cataclysmically unfortunate timing of `20s tennis legend Bill Tilden….   Gurney…has returned to his specialty, the American WASP, with renewed focus and expanded vision. …we are taken back and forth through the buoyant ups and dignified downs of this complex and, ultimately, inspirational character….   Tilden died alone, in shame, ignored by the tennis association. Gurney imagines a big, appreciative send-off, and finally gives him one here.”Linda Winer, Newsday




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A.R. Gurney

A.R. (“Pete”) Gurney was born in 1930 in Buffalo, New York. He graduated from Williams College in 1952, served as an officer in the Navy, and afterwards attended the Yale School of Drama. For many years, he taught literature at M.I.T., but moved to New York in 1982 to devote more time to writing for the theatre. He has won a fair amount of awards during his career, and is now a member of the ... view full profile

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