Tuesday, November 30, 2010

An Evening Conversation with Jane Pauley & Meryl Streep

"Ich kann nicht wählen"

"I had a farm in Africa"

"I like my job, Sharon"

"Do you love her?"

"I'm still here"

I got a hole in one last year.  I was golfing with my brother (jealous witness) and his friend (witness to my brother’s jealousy) and a husband of a girlfriend.  I had purchased a foursome at a country club near the neighborhood I grew up in.  I purchased it at a silent auction to benefit an organization that helps family members of those with cancer.  My dad belonged to this club and he also died of cancer...this bid was a no brainer.  So, I assembled the foursome and proceeded to get a hole in one.  Amazing.  When I told my friend, she, who always thinks I’m extra lucky, asked if a piece of cake fell out of the sky as well…..

This November, more cake came out of the sky.  In the same week, I saw Barbra Streisand being interviewed live and then Jane Pauley interviewing Meryl Streep in person at the IU Auditorium in Bloomington, IN.  For a woman who grew up idolizing women of television and film, I was worried it was possibly the end of the world.

This special event in Bloomington was free and tickets were distributed almost instantly.  I was lucky enough to get four tickets and decided to take my mom and two buddies.  We travelled by car from Indianapolis to Bloomington and arrived on campus before the doors opened.  I was shocked to see the lines of folks stretching around the roundabout fountain on sidewalks.  Since the tickets were free, they were also GA (general admission) and so I think these folks meant business about seeing Jane and Meryl up close.  We ended up on the last row of the main floor.  We couldn’t see their faces, but their voices were perfect as the entire event was a literal interview by one of our country’s most famous television journalists and one of the world’s best actors.

Jane received a laugh right off with her first question of “how cool is it to be married to a Hoosier?”  Most of the audience knowing Jane is from Indianapolis as is Meryl’s husband, Don Gummer.  The conversation then led to them discussing how their lives mirror or overlap, for example, Jane’s husband, Garry Trudeau was at Yale the same time as Meryl.  From there, some time was spent on Meryl’s second career as a mother and how she has been able to maintain some level of separation between her world famous acting and persona to that of a mother of four.  At one point, we discover that even Streep has had a mini-van.   

I really enjoyed how Meryl talked about the fact that three of her children are pursuing acting.  Pauley basically asked if Meryl wants the same level of success and fame for her kids.  Streep said she hopes they have the kind of success where they are able to do great work, but can also walk the streets and maintain a level of anonymity.  I feel terrible for not remembering the actors she referenced, but basically the types of careers really good stage actors have.

Another standout moment was Streep’s telling of a story of fear when shooting Out of Africa, starring Robert Redford (who I also saw earlier in the week) and directed by Sidney Pollack (another Hoosier).   The story was about her real terror in doing the scene where she works with a lion and a whip.  Basically, the lion was not restrained and reacted wildly to one of the takes with the whip, resulting in a horrified Streep, but a pleased Pollack since he got the shot he needed.

I most liked Streep discussing her method, or lack of one when it comes to her craft.  She jokingly reviewed her time at Yale with instructors changing approaches with each year and Streep ultimately attributing her skills to the fact she’s a good observer of life.  She thinks that observing and wanting to learn about all and everything will only make you a better actor.  She also admitted she rarely feels like herself in interviews, including the session I witnessed.

By the end of the interview, Meryl was answering a few call out questions from the audience and the rest of us relished the fact we had intimate access to two modern day pop icons.  Aside from the magnitude of their fame, their “normalcy” resonated most with me.  I am so pleased when I finally meet or see the people I’ve placed on pedestals turn out to be nice folk.  Even in a live interview or talk, the best actors/writers/singers can’t hide egos, vanity or neurosis.  Ms. Pauley and Ms. Streep presented like sheer pros, but we all knew they would probably rather be at home with a good book and glass of something or other….but they came and delivered and by the end, we all felt like old friends.

I’m ready for my cake now.

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