Not Your Average Tennis Champion

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Big BillBig Bill
A play by A.R. Gurney
Directed by Mark Lamos
Lincoln Center Theater, New York
(until May 16, 2004)

The first line of dialogue in Big Bill is “Fifteen-love.” In A.R. Gurney’s bio-drama of the pre-World War II tennis phenomenon, Bill Tilden, it is no accident that the tennis term for zero is the adult emotion that, in Tilden’s life, is essentially absent. If you know your 20th-century culture heroes, you know that Tilden practically invented the modern game of tennis, transforming it from the polite recreation of country club devotees to a sport worthy of hard-won skills and a theatrical style of play. You’re also likely to know that Tilden’s late career sank from a successfully prosecuted court case in which he acknowledged an attempted seduction of a male minor.

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