Self-aware. Humble. Kind.
All of these words flitted through my mind as I sat in the IU Auditorium on Wednesday, April 16 listening to the one and only Meryl Streep thoughtfully and at times, comically, answer the questions fed to her from the interviewer. Some questions were created by the interviewer herself and others fed to her from attendees who had tweeted their questions at the IU Cinema earlier in the afternoon.
However, at the end of the interview, the word that stuck in my head as I watched the elegant, iconic actress exit the stage was not self-aware, humble, or kind, although all three certainly describe Ms. Streep.
Instead, the word that stuck with me was ‘real’. Meryl Streep was so indescribably natural and human throughout the interview, her honesty and genuineness evident with each sentence she spoke. Her eloquence and class was mesmerizing of course, but what really made Streep standout in my mind was that she did not come off as an unreachable icon as she answered questions, as I thought perhaps she would.
She came off as a completely down-to-earth, normal woman – the kind of person who it is easy to imagine as being someone’s mother, aunt, grandmother, etc.
And that was incredible to me – this woman, whose accolades alone could make even the toughest critic’s jaw drop, was just that – a woman – and she didn’t shy away from that fact or cozy up to her image as lovable icon.
She was just herself, a real person, throughout the interview – stumbling over her words occasionally, laughing at memories that resurfaced when she discussed some of her past film roles, talking about her son’s elementary school days, and even going off on a few philosophical tangents that she hadn’t full worked out in her head before she began them. She talked about her love of musicals, her younger self’s admiration for classic Hollywood actress Carole Lombard, the importance of empathy, and the roles that women have played not just in the film industry, but also in the world.
It was absolutely fascinating to hear her talk so openly about actresses and historical figures whom interest her and many of whom she admires; to hear her talk so openly about the lessons she has learned throughout the years, stating at one point that “We’re never too old [to learn something].”
All in all, seeing Meryl Streep at the IU Auditorium was an honor. I waited in line nearly two hours on an empty stomach after my morning Spanish class to get my ticket for this event, but I don’t regret my decision in the least – she was well worth it, and quite frankly, I feel lucky that I attend a university that hosts such incredible screenings and series like the Jorgensen lecture series.
And when I recount this memory to others years from now, Meryl Streep’s class and intelligence during her visit to IU will certainly receive mention, but those qualities will not serve as the centerpiece for my commentary; instead, when I recall the time I saw Meryl Streep during my college days, what I’ll remember most will be her genuineness, her wonderful normalcy, and it is precisely for that reason that this experience will always be special to me.