Meryl Streep

Editor’s note: This is the third installment in a series in which two Life & Arts staff writers discuss big releases that are garnering buzz for the awards season. 

Lee Henry: In our past discussions, it seemed like we’d covered everything, but we somehow managed to completely miss talking about supporting actress in any sort of depth. Let’s start that off by discussing a film packed with potential candidates, “August: Osage County.” I’m assuming The Weinstein Company will be running every member of the cast in supporting categories and just hoping one or two stick. Besides Meryl Streep, the most likely nominees seem to be Julia Roberts and the superb Margo Martindale.

Colin McLaughlin: Streep is the obvious nominee here, but Martindale elevated the best role in the play to be almost on Streep’s level. “12 Years a Slave’s” Lupita Nyong’o looks to be the frontrunner in the supporting actress category, unsurprisingly. She was one of the strongest parts of one of the most well-assembled films this year. Do you see any potential upsets that could take the statue from Nyong’o on Oscar night?

LH: Oprah could run a campaign that would win her an Oscar for Lee Daniels’ “The Butler,” but it’s not likely. Still, expect her to show up in that category. Martindale’s part in “August” was a Tony-winning one, and she’s a well-respected character actress, even winning an Emmy recently for her work in “Justified.” Plus, she’s just brilliant in this performance. The film is full of over-the-top characters trying to blow each other off screen, but Martindale succeeds in being hilarious, terrifying and painfully quiet all in the same film. Roberts, in the latest of the season’s category frauds, is also going for supporting actress, which completely dashes the chances of my other favorite in the film, Juliette Lewis.

CM: I don’t see it as a case of category fraud. The theatrical nominations have always recognized Violet, Streep’s character, as a lead role. Julia Roberts also plays a lead in the film, but Weinstein probably figured that she’ll have a better chance for a nomination as a supporting actress. I’d be surprised to see Roberts make it into the race at all. She was better than I expected but she wasn’t up to snuff against the other more deserving members of that cast. Still, she’s the other big name in the movie. “August,” “12 Years” and “The Butler” are the only movies I’ve seen that look to have serious supporting actress possibilities. What else is there to look at?

LH: There are plenty of other candidates to consider here. Octavia Spencer has been the benefit of a second wind of recognition for her work in “Fruitvale Station,” and she may be the film’s last chance at a high-profile nomination. Jennifer Lawrence should be considered a contender for “American Hustle,” Carey Mulligan was funny in “Inside Llewyn Davis” and Naomie Harris’s compelling work as Winnie Mandela was the best part of “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.” I would like to throw my hat in the ring for Sally Hawkins, who should be nominated for her work in “Blue Jasmine.” She’s funny and poignant, providing a perfect emotional counterweight to Cate Blanchett. It may be a long shot, but if the voters like the movie enough, anything is possible. Who’s your dream pick or must-have in this category?

CM: I’ve said my piece on Nyong’o and I don’t see myself changing my position on her deserving the win. For dream picks, I actually have two: Amy Acker and and Julianne Nicholson. Nicholson, who plays middle sister Ivy in “August: Osage County,” is probably the least-known member of its sizable ensemble, but she is incendiary in the few moments the film gives her. The supporting nominations for “August” are likely going to better known players. Amy Acker plays Beatrice in my favorite movie of the year so far, Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing.” Though she’s arguably the lead actress, the film’s ensemble cast would likely see her listed as a supporting actress if there was any chance of her being nominated. “Much Ado” won’t see much attention this year, but the way that movie makes Shakespeare’s language feel so effortless and natural is a feat unto itself, and Acker is a large part of what makes that succeed. 

LH: I hate to crush your spirits, but “Much Ado” won’t get anywhere. 

CM: I’m curious to see where “August” goes for the rest of the year; It won’t see a theatrical release until Christmas, and it’s rumored that the Weinsteins plan to change the horrible ending scene. It’s continually seeing positive reception on the festival circuit, but it will be overshadowed by “Saving Mr. Banks” and “The Wolf of Wall Street,” also opening on Christmas. 

Director/producer Ben Affleck accepts the award for best picture for "Argo" during theOscars at the Dolby Theatre on Sunday Feb. 24, 2013, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Photo Credit: AP Exchange | Daily Texan Staff

This live blog was written during the 2013 Academy Awards.  It is a live, slightly snarky feed of everything that happened and did not happen at this year's Academy Awards. 

11:01 In the most annoying way possible, the 2013 Academy Awards end with the ever grating Kristin Chenoweth and Seth MacFarlane. They sing some horrible song which reminds us only of how horrible things were before they started awarding the good statues. 

10:54 The Oscar for BEST MOTION PICTURE is awarded to ARGO presented by Michelle Obama. These producers are all strange men who don't know where to stand. Oh, except best beard George Clooney who's looking great.  Ben also has a beard. He could be nominated. He makes Jennifer Garner cry, and all of us cry, and even himself cry a little. 

10:52 Jack Nicholson announces Michelle Obama on screen from the White House. Rocking her bangs and a beautiful silver dress, Michelle deserves this honor. She should probably win. She plugs how important arts are to our country, and she is right.

10:45 Meryl Streep arrives in a very sparkly dress to present the award for BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE. The Oscar goes to Daniel Day Lewis in Lincoln over Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook, Hugh Jackman in Les Miserables, Joaquin Phoenix in The Master, Denzel Washington in Flight.  He is the first actor to win three Oscars in the BEST ACTOR category. There is a standing ovation, and he looks so happy he almost looks miserable. Unlike our girl Lawrence, Day Lewis has his speech together. He thanks Abraham Lincoln.

10:40 The Oscar for BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE goes to Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook over Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty, Emmanuelle Rivera for Amour, Quvenzhane Wallis for Beasts of the Southern Wild, and Naomi Watts for the Impossible. She almost falls in her hurry up the stairs and receives a standing ovation. "This is nuts," she says, and nuts it is. Every Oscar pool is ruined by this point. Jennifer Larence looks incredible, Bradley Cooper looks so proud. Lawrence is totally scattered and has no speech. She was obviously not expecting that. 

10:32 Jane Fonda and Michael Douglas arrive to present the Oscar for BEST DIRECTOR to Ang Lee for LIFE OF PI for their FOURTH Oscar of the night. Lee thanks the movie god and thanks the 3,000 people who worked with him on Life of Pi. 

10:26 BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY is awarded to Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained. Tarantino is a total bozo. He's rambling about character choosing, and calling himself awesome for his casting choices. He "peace out"s the audience.

10:22 Seth. Please stop. Dustin Hoffman and Charlize Theron arrive with a massive height disparity to present the award for BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY goes to Argo by Chris Terrio.  He apparently sprinted to the stage. What is this bad situation? Can you tell us that story? 

10:08 The cast of Chicago appears on stage to present the Oscar for BEST MOVIE SCORE to Life of Pi. Richard Gere makes a joke. It's funnier than anything MacFarland has said. Which is to say, marginally funny. Life of Pi is sweeping up Oscars. Norah Jones arrives on stage she looks nothing like herself. Is she even famous anymore? The Oscar for BEST ORIGINAL SONG goes to Skyfall by Adele who apparently has a last name. It is her first Academy Award. She cries immediately. Some other bro is there. He did something. He does not cry. 

10:01 Another not Beyonce arrives, this time in the form of Barbara Streisand. She receives a standing ovation. Take that Adele.

9:57 Beard number 1 aka George Clooney arrives for "In Memoriam." He says we could dedicate an entire show to it, you know, a show that NO ONE would watch. 

9:50 Selma Hayek looks like she tried to dress up as Cleopatra for a sorority Halloween party. They recap some Governor's Awards, which goes to people who love movies and have done great things for film. No one explains why they are called "Governor's."

9:48 Daniel Radcliffe and Kristen Stewart arrive on stage. Fittingly, the Harry Potter music plays. Stewart looks like she walked through some brush backstage and got her hair sucked into a whirlpool. They present the Oscar for PRODUCTION DESIGN to Lincoln. Christoph returns to the screen from earlier, and we still love him. 

9:43 Nicole Kidman shows us the next three Best Picture nominees with Silver Lining Playbook, Django Unchained, and Amour. Despite Argo's editing win and thus my prediction for best picture, Silver Lining Playbook was by far my favorite of the nominations. 

9:35 Jennifer Lawrence introduces Adele to sing "Skyfall." Adele looks like the sky fell onto her dress. There is no standing ovation for Adele. She is the first singing number to not receive one. The COLD SHOULDER award goes to Adele.

9:32 Sandra Bullock presents the award for FILM EDITING goes to William Goldenberg for Argo

9:29 The Academy Preseident takes the stage and explains a future Oscar museum. It will be the "first of it's kind." It sounds like a museum. REPRESENT. Jennifer Brofer of UT AUSTIN is on the stage!

9:23 Anne Hathaway thanks everyone and bows to her competitors. She is--as she has been since her transformation into Princess Mia--eloquent, elegent, and beautiful. She thanks her husband, who is teary. Who knew Anne Hathaway had a husband!? 

9:20 MacFarlane tries to convince us the Von Trapps are coming. His jokes are all bad. I am not laughing. Christopher Plummer joins us on stage. People laugh at his jokes. He says he has 30 films coming and we are ready for all of them. He presents the Oscar for BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE. It goes to Anne Hathaway for Les Miserables over Amy Adams for the Master, Sally Field for Lincoln, Helen Hunt for The Sessions, and Jacki Weaver for Silver Linings Playbook. 

9:17 The JAWS wrap it up music is old. 

9:09 Facial hair is really back. Everyone is bearded. Beards, beards, beards, beards, beards. There is some learning going on now which is kind of a bummer, but not as much of a bummer as MacFarlane. Mark Wahlberg comes to the stage with some bear that was in a movie that no one saw. The Oscar for BEST SOUND MIXING goes to Les Miserables. The Oscar for SOUND EDITING  is a tie. WHAT? Is this soccer!? This is art. Can't we just be judgement about these subjective things.  The first goes to Zero Dark Thirty and the second goes to Skyfall.

9:01 The musical tribute moves to Les Mis. Hugh Jackman's voice is still not good enough for this role. Also, facial hair, facial hair everywhere. Anne Hathaway is beautiful. Her lip quivers with "One Day More." Samantha Barkman looks like she could be the American Kate Middleton. The entire cast of Les Mis is on stage, and they look just as upset as they did in the movie. French flags drop from the ceiling. They receive the second standing ovation of the night. 

9:00 Still "not Beyonce" continues to sing. Girl's got pipes, but no Blue Ivy. 

8:53 John Travolta lists 1,000 names for a tribute to great musicals. He mispronounces Catherine Zeta Jones's name, but it doesn't matter because she's on stage, and she looks awesome.  No one knows why someone who is NOT BEYONCE is singing the Dreamgirls tribute. Where is Beyonce? Where is she? 

8:49 Seth MacFarlane compares the Oscars to church, which is maybe possible since he's offending everyone. Jennifer Garner is wearing all the diamonds. BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM goes to AMOUR which is unsurprising because, I don't know, they're nominated for best picture. He thanks his wife and its adorable. 

8:42 Ben Affleck is bringing facial hair back. The Oscar for BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE goes to Searching for Sugarman by two men whose names were not on the screen for long enough for me to figure out how to spell them. The JAWS theme song returns, and they leave. 

8:37 Liam Neeson gives us three more previews for best picture with Argo,  Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty. Liam Neeson could have probably also played Lincoln. 

8:32 Kerry Washington and Jamie Foxx arrive to present BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM to Curfew by Sean Christensen. He notes his short time window, salutes someone, thanks his "devishly handsom father," and leaves. The Oscar for BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT goes to Inocente by Shaun Fine and Andrea Nix Fine. They talk about supporting the arts and the music plays even though Amy Adams eyes are welling and we all love her so much. 

8:21 Hallie Berry appears to celebrate the 50th anniversary of James Bond in motion pictures. There is, of course, a play by play of Bond girls in bikinis, some explosions, some car chases, and more Bond girls. Some lady appears dressed like an Oscar statue to sing about Bond. My guess is that this is about the time for Meryl Streep to arrive late with Starbucks in hand during the standing ovation.

8:16  Seth MacFarlane looks like a longer-haired Ken doll, and has about the same sense of humor. Channing Tatum and Jennifer Aniston arrive on stage, thank god. No one looks good in this lighting. The Oscar for ACHIEVEMENT IN COSTUME DESIGN goes to Jaqueline Duran for Anna Karenina.  Who is all of our hero since she also did Atonement and Pride and Predjudice. The Oscar for ACHIEVEMENT IN MAKEUP AND HAIR STYLING goes to Lisa Westcott and Julie Darnell for their face dirt application in  Les Miserables. One of them appears to be wearing pink jeans. Who doesn't know Oscar dress code!? 

8:09 The award for ACHIEVEMENT IN VISUAL EFFECTS, which is maybe the same award as cinematography with totally different nominees(?), goes to Life of Pi again, because it was beautiful. The first of these award winers tries to make a joke about meta-reality, literally no one laughs.  He keeps talking over increadibly loud "wrap it up music" because despite the Oscar's faking love for visual effects, they really don't care. 

8:06 Samuel L. Jackson is in a red velvet blazer. The Avengers present the award for ACHIEVEMENT IN CINEMATOGRAPHY, aka pretty movie award, to Claudio Miranda for Life of Pi. He is rambling about how much he loves his movie and getting teary. "Oh my god, I can't even speak," he says, which is kind of true.  

8:00 Reese Witherspoon joins us with perfect hair waves. She talks about the Best Picture Nominees. We see previews for Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Beasts of the Southern Wild. MacFarlane calls Jennifer Lawrence old, and makes jokes on the expense of the nine year old.  He is the worst, but he welcomes six of the Avengers, which we like--mostly because he's leaving. 

7:55 Paul Rudd and Melissa McCarthy join us with the gold envelope for some jokes. The award for BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM goes to "Paperman" by John Kahrs. It is his first Academy Award and nomination. His speech is short and sweet, he's no Christopher Waltz. The BEST ANIMATED FILM award goes to Brave  Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman. Andrews has on a kilt, which no one "just happens to be wearing." 

7:47 We finally get Octavia Spencer with a gold envelope for ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE. And the Oscar goes to Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained. He bows to his competitors and tears up in his speech behind his thick rimmed black glasses. He looks genuinely surprised, and gives an inspiring speech.   Everyone falls in love with Christoph Waltz.

7:45 This intro is still going. It shouldn't be.

7:38 There is an inappropriate "fake" musical number titled "We saw your boobs." This intro is rough. MacFarlane asks how to fix this and the answer is hidden from everyone. He introduces Channing Tatum and Charlize Theron to dance to "The Way You Look Tonight."  Channing Tatum can dance, but MacFarlane still can't sing.  He welcomes Daniel Radcliffe and Joseph Gordon-Levitt to dance and sing with him. I'm ignoring everyone but Gordon-Levitt.

7:30 We are welcomed to the Oscars by our host Seth MacFarlane. For the first time, the Oscars has a theme "music in films." Probably because Adele is here. MacFarlane makes a couple of jokes that do actually seem funny, but he introduces the Oscars with some sort of roll call that allows him to make these jokes. He makes a slavery joke. Is this okay? He moves on to Django Unchained and also makes a Chris Brown Rihanna reference. A screen descends behind him with Star Trek's Captain Kirk to stop him from "destroying the Academy Awards." Kirk asks "why can't Tina and Amy host everything?" which is really all any of us want. 

7:22 Every red carpet host is incredibly awkward. At the five minute mark we are inside some producing truck where everyone looks awkward. Queen Latifah manages to interact with them like they are normal, and it is an incredibly feat of acting on her part. They are now sitting down, and the real show will start soon. Chenoweth brings up Texas football, and it's horrible. 

7:15 Jamie Foxx really embarrasses his 19 year old college daughter who looks very uncomfortable and unhappy. She looks like someone stole her smile while her father hits on the interviewer. The camera cuts away from some of the most brilliant television drama the Oscars has seen thus far to visit Daniel Day Lewis who is a snooze in comparison.

7:12 Anne Hathaway gives us a preview that the cast will be performing. Kristin Chenoweth's voice still feels like a cheese grater. Especially as she tells Hathaway akwardly that "her hair is growing back nicely." There is a "magic" box they are trying to get us behind. Anne Hathaway guesses that Dorothy's slippers are in there, and people say bad things about the Smithsonian and I cry. 

7:05 George Clooney is unamused with everyone's antics because he's been in Berlin. He promises to drink and makes snarky faces at the hosts, but looks very very nice in his tux.  When Sandra Bullock is interviewed, there are a lot of weird things going on with the sound including Kristin Chenoweth's weird mousy voice. 

7:01 Jennifer Anniston calls the Oscars, "ya know, a magical piece of time," but does say that she will only be attending only one party in her red Valentino dress. The only important people thus far are named Jennifer. The Garner Jennifer claims that she's "just a puddle," which is kind of what the back of her purple dress looks like.   

6:55 Best Dressed has gone to Jennifer Lawrence. No one is quite sure who decided this. Amy Adams and Anne Hathaway were given honorable mentions. 

Meryl Streep, who won an Oscar for Best Actress for her part in "The Iron Lady," shows off her trophy.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Another Academy Awards goes by and just a few minutes after, the show is all but forgotten (Jean Dujar — who won for Best Actor?). Except for Angelina’s left leg sticking out of her dress, the show was a tame affair, from the traditional host of Billy Crystal to the largely unsurprising winners. Nonetheless, here are a few highlights (both wonderfully stupendous and gut-wrenchingly bad) from last night.

BEST

Meryl Streep

In a night when even the most casual award show-watcher could have predicted the winners, leave it to Meryl Streep to inject some surprise into the show as the winner of Best Actress, inching past frontrunner Viola Davis. And with that speech so humble and eloquent — which included a heartfelt thanks to her makeup artist for years — Streep showed us all how it’s done.

 Acceptance Speeches

Speaking of speeches, it was the acceptances from the winners this year that actually kept the show afloat. While there were the usual naming off a laundry list and the stale jokes (please, no more, “[insert kid’s name here], go to bed now!” comments), Best Supporting Actress winner Octavia Spencer offered an emotional shout-out to her home state of Alabama, while Best Actor winner Jean Dujardin could barely compose himself during his endearing and loving speech.

WORST

Opening Monologue

Having Billy Crystal as host was a safe bet, but having him do yet another opening in which he is injected into the scenes of the nominated films did little to reassure viewers that there would be any creativity last night. Nothing screams cultural relevancy than an appearance by that hot new singer Justin Bieber. The whole thing was mechanical and a desperate attempt at freshness.

Jokes

When even Kristen Wiig and the cast of “Bridesmaids” can’t make you chuckle with some double entendres, you know there’s something wrong with the comedy of the show. Academy, how hard is it to call up Tina Fey?

Introduction of Acting Nominations

While it’s understandable the producers didn’t want to waste precious time or man power to bring out a person with a personal connection to the acting nominees to introduce them, as they have in year’s past, having last year’s winner attempt to offer the acclaim just felt insincere. Natalie Portman barely made it through her stilted reading of the teleprompter while introducing the Best Actor nominees.

For every movie, documentary and foreign film buff, the start of the new year stands as a reminder that the Academy Awards are right around the corner. With award nominees revealed each January, it’s no surprise that award-winning actress Meryl Streep is a leading contender for the Best Actress category for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady.”

Her commitment to the art of acting and her ability to completely transform into a wide variety of characters has guaranteed her a near-annual nomination since 1978. If awarded, this would be the first Oscar she takes home since her leading role in “Sophie’s Choice” in 1982.

Holding the most Oscar nominations of any actress in history, sixteen as of this year, Streep’s performance as the former British prime minister is one of conviction, specificity and absolute physical transformation. After 30 years since she last won the award, will this be the role that wins her the next Oscar?

Streep has been known to effectively become her characters, ranging from the rambunctious, jolly and high-pitched French chef Julia Child in “Julie and Julia” (2009), to the icy, fiercely fashionable and quick-witted editor-in-chief Miranda Priestly in “The Devil Wears Prada” (2006); from a Catholic nun with a grievance against a priest (“Doubt”), to a modern version of Virgina Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway (“The Hours”).

Streep’s extensive training in her art is evident through the dramatic changes she makes for each individual role. Though some of her characters may seem out of the ordinary at face value, it is through her moment-to-moment characterizations, mannerisms and full-embodied physicality that she realizes a humanistic performance.

The film, shown through the lens of an elderly and nostalgic Margaret Thatcher, tells the story of her rise and fall in British parliament through a series of flashbacks as she packs away her late husband’s belongings. Struggling with early signs of dementia, each object she stores sparks a memory from different moments in her life, and Streep’s portrayal of Thatcher bounces between the former prime minister’s past and present life.

Margaret Thatcher, the first female British prime minister with the longest-serving term of the 20th century, was widely known for her strict conservative policies, compelling speeches and harsh rhetoric against the Soviet Union. It is through her convictions, persistence in creating change and push for a self-sufficient lifestyle that the prime minister earned the nickname “the Iron Lady.” Although prosthetics and extensive film makeup were used to assist her transformation into an older Thatcher, Streep’s physicality, subtle character choices and commitment to Thatcher’s driven, passionate personality separate her from other nominees.

Written as a sympathetic portrayal of a prime minister who was not always well-liked by the public, the film has garnered mixed reviews. Many critics said the film lacks the range to portray Thatcher’s story beyond the drama and pathos of her personal life, which limited the film. Despite the harsh criticism surrounding the film, Streep is praised in reviews for her brilliance as an actress and the totality of her transformation. Streep’s portrayal is so spot-on that comparing video clips of Margaret Thatcher to the film render the two nearly indistinguishable.

This type of transformative role is not an unusual contender for the Oscar. Actresses playing famous women throughout history are commonly seen in the Best Actress category. Other actresses nominated for historical portrayls include Salma Hayek as Mexican painter Frida Kahlo in “Frida”, Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II in “The Queen” and Charlize Theron as the serial killer Aileen Wuornos in “Monster.” Although the majority of these women undertake complete transformations to do justice to their real-life characters, Streep’s Margaret Thatcher has authenticity that sets a new bar.

Already having won a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture Drama for “The Iron Lady,” as well as holding a nomination in the same category for the Screen Actors Guild Awards, Streep is a critic favorite for the Oscar, and it seems that an Oscar win is almost inevitable — after all, 16th time’s the charm.

The UT Department of Theatre and Dance set quite the scene Friday. The commotion didn’t come from the opening of a new play or the excitement of a casting call, but rather from the appearance of who many consider to be the greatest living actress of our time, Meryl Streep.

The audience roared when Streep stepped onto the stage of the humble Payne Theatre, jumping from their seats and bursting into enthusiastic applause. Appearing at UT as the most nominated actress in the history of film, Meryl Streep received a standing ovation, the highest sign of respect in the theater world, simply by walking onstage.
“[Today] is a day 10 years in the making, and a true test to the power of nagging,” said theater professor Fran Dorn.

Dorn, Streep’s longtime friend from Yale University, introduced her to a crowd of over 400 people from all aspects of the UT theatre world. The stage seemed set to open a play, adorned with a comfy armchair, a quaint circular rug, and a small hardwood table framed with a vase full of bright flowers.
“I’m in the theater department,” Streep said, her eyes twinkling, “I feel at home.”

The line of people to get into “A Conversation With Meryl Streep,” an audience-based Q-and-A forum, began to form at around 12 p.m. The air was abuzz with excitement, filled with bright eyes, smiles and breathless anticipation. First-year theater student Jonathan Mathews was one student in a crowd of about 40 early birds, waiting impatiently for the clock to strike 2:30.

“The things I’ve seen her in, she just blows my mind in her style of acting and the way she presents her characters,” Mathews said, “I think even though she is a woman actor I can learn a lot from her, from her style and techniques and the incredible ability she has in front of the camera and on the stage.”
The Department of Theatre and Dance finalized Streep’s visit last week.

Department head Lucien Douglas was astonished at the announcement of Streep’s visit.

“I said, ‘Who?’” Douglas said with a laugh. “We’re one of the biggest theater programs in the country, and any opportunity to build bridges with the professional world is absolutely wonderful.”

With a little over a week’s notice, Dorn and the department announced the event to its 400 theater and dance students. The impact was immediate, and the “Oh my god!” exclamations rang throughout the Winship Drama Building. Deemed “A Conversation With Meryl Streep,” the free event opened exclusively to theater and dance students and faculty members.

Dorn organized the event in hopes of inspiring students to persevere in the difficult theater industry, a business teeming with low job opportunities. Dorn said she hoped students would understand that Streep was a human being aside from being a movie star, someone who started where everyone else did and had her own problems and struggles in her career.
“I don’t consider myself the greatest living anything,” Streep said. “If I were in school, I’d be greeting this opportunity with a healthy dose of skepticism. A student [needs] to look for something that feels true instead of being handed wisdom.”

In her discussion, Streep acknowledged the rigid and unfair standards of the industry she has thrived in, such as the pressure on actors to keep a certain weight and to acquiesce to society’s standards of beauty. While an actress of Streep’s caliber seems to have been born for the stage, she humbly said that she, too, faced all the challenges that UT students face today.

“I go back and forth all the time, even right now,” Streep said with a laugh. “When I was in graduate school, I was in my third year towards a [Master’s in Fine Arts] in drama and acting, and I decided to take the law boards because I thought that maybe I wanted to be an environmental lawyer, [but] I slept through the test.”

Streep majored in theater and dance at Yale in 1972. As part of their liberal arts program, Streep said she had the chance to learn a little bit about everything, something she noted would be “unfashionable” today with the current focus on specific career path education. Despite her lack of particularity, Streep said her experience helped her understand the world and become a better person.

Aside from speaking to the Department of Theatre and Dance, Streep also went to lunch with the MFA graduate students before the event. MFA graduate student Amanda Morish called the experience “magical” and “humbling,” going on to express multiple levels of gratitude to Fran Dorn and the University of Texas.

“We love UT, and Fran is amazing. This visit is such a gift for us as actors because [Streep] is so inspirational and so amazing at what she does,” Morish said. “She’s one of kind, and to be able to learn from someone like that and be in their space is just a privilege. I feel very blessed.”

On the Payne Theatre stage, Streep was in her element. With a series of hand gestures and dynamic voice changes, she had the audience hanging on to her every word. She answered students’ questions in a thoughtful, humble and generous tone, completely unafraid of revealing that she had once stuffed her bra to get a role or admitting that she sometimes forgot her lines on purpose to soothe the anxieties of nervous actors.

Streep also took the audience on a journey through her college experience, describing a professor that wore English riding boots and took his crop to class. She prompted waves of laughter with the tale of her first emotional theater performance, in which she imagined she was the most famous actress in the world announcing her retirement, unable to continue working because she had hit the elderly age of 45.

With only an hour-and-a-half of conversation, Streep had inspired a burning hope in the hearts of everyone in the department.

“It just makes you wonder,” said senior Cat Hardy, “Fran Dorn went to school with her, and we’re going to school now. Who are we going to school with that we’re going to have come back and speak when we’re older? Maybe it will be one of us.”