Meryl Streep collected another well deserved accolade from the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. Streep was praised by playwrites Tracy Letts and Tony Kushner. Here is what Letts had to say (quote from Hollywood Reporter):
“I’m very mistrustful of an actor who shows up knowing all of their lines, because that actor is not trusting the process,” said Letts, explaining that memorization is the easiest part of the job. “She was learning her lines organically, the way we’re supposed to. The reason I got mad is because sometimes, I feel when they’re discussing Meryl they imbue her with mystical qualities: She’s a magician, a witch, god-given. She is a good actress because she works really, really hard. She didn’t work really hard at the O’Neill and then stop just because she became a movie star.” While actresses are always saying that Streep is their role model, Letts added, “That’s not gender-specific — she’s my acting hero too.”
The Hollywood Reporter kindly provided Streep’s entire speech, as follows:
Well, I feel like I’m at the funeral, so I’m really happy! You usually don’t get to be there.
I remember that day, Joey, swimming out. Everything is so intense, thanks to George [C. White], this amazing place that you dreamed up.
I have so many things to say, but really, just, you know, you can’t at those moments when you’re nobody and just starting, and you have gigantic student loans thanks to Yale — I mean, thanks to Yale!
Tonight, three of my esteemed teachers are here — and I’m just blown away — from Yale: Alvin Epstein, Betsy Parrish, Carmen DeLavallade. I think of the things that you taught me pretty much two or three times a week — I really do, I told you tonight, I really mean it, I think about it all the time. And not everybody everything said there went in. Carmen taught me — there’s just nothing like great teachers.
I just think being an artist is the opportunity to learn all your life, just to soak everything up. Everybody here tonight, I’m gonna use this stuff in the future! You steal from everybody. Mostly, you steal from the writers, the people who give us whole worlds. They give us their interior world and their imagined one that we already know something about. That’s why the communication is even possible. That happened to your grandmother, Tracy, but somewhere it happened to us. We understand the pain. It’s a fabulous thing, and I’m in awe of these writers. Tony, John, Tracy, thank you. Wendy, thank you.
It’s a long evening, but I just want to say, that like the O’Neill, every venerable old lady, like the O’Neill and me, doesn’t like to think of themselves as a larded old institution. No matter how many tributes we’ve gotten, no matter how many successes we’ve launched, we like to think that new work will come to us, and that our best work is ahead of us, and that because of places like the O’Neill that foster new work, it’s possible. So thank you for the opportunity you gave me and about a hundred other theater hopefuls in 1975, in those six weeks. I will never forget it, and thank you to all of you for supporting this wonderful organization and for coming out for me. Oh my god, the Vassar trustees are here, and now I owe them even more [money]!
And thank you to my husband for those four children that I dreamed of on the beach that day. He came along, thank god. Thank you very much.”