Meryl Streep Comes Calling

By Wasserstein, Wendy | The Saturday Evening Post, July-August 1989 | Go to article overview

Meryl Streep Comes Calling


Wasserstein, Wendy, The Saturday Evening Post


Meryl Streep arrives at my apart- ment in Greenwich village, and I am terrified that my doorman will ask her to autograph one of his packages, or demand to know what Robert Redford is really like. Instead, the intercom buzzes and he nonchalantly announces, "Meryl's on her way up. " But that's always been the thing about Meryl-for such an exceptional and acclaimed actress, she comes across as a mother (of three children), a wife (to sculptor Don Gummer), and a friend.

My memories go back to the Yale School of Drama, when I was desperately avoiding Jacobean Drama and she was featured as Constance Garnett, the 90-year-old eminent translatrix in Christopher Durang and Albert Innaurato's hilarious literary amalgamation, The Idiots Karamazov. Meryl took stage for the entire performance in a wheelchair, dressed in Miss Haversham's wedding gown (designed by William Ivey Long), and translated while Christopher Durang as Alyosha played the Palace. She was riveting and unforgettable. Frankly, she cheered me u enormously.

Over the years, through a mutual friend, Meryl and I have always stayed in touch. She appeared in the PBS version of my play Uncommon Women and Others, taking over Glenn Close's role from the stage version. We see each other at baby showers, mutual friends' openings, ladies' lunches, and the various life-passage events. In between our meetings she's been to Africa, Australia, Poland; worked with Nicholson, De Niro, Redford; portrayed writers, artists, housewives, and Emigres. But Meryl remains consistent. Impressive but down-home. Glamorous but still intimidated by those who know too much about blusher.

We sit on the floor with the tape recorder, eating William Greenberg, Jr., pecan schnecken (please, not to be confused with rolls) and playing with my cat, Ginger. Meryl has just completed A Cry in the Dark, in which she portrays an Australian woman falsely tried for murdering her own child. Now she is devoting substantial amounts of time to environmental issues. We are afraid the interview will read like two old friends happily chatting rather than a high-viz life in the fast lane, but then I remember that my friend eating schnecken on the floor is an international draw.

Wendy Wasserstein: So, so what do you think?

Meryl Streep: To be totally honest, when I read most interviews I realize that I secretly hope someone will make an a- of themselves. At the same time, I very desperately want them to tell me something that's wise.

WW. And reassuring. MS.- Always reassuring. It's interesting that when you read these pieces you can be very judgmental and very needy at the same time. Ever since I've been doing this myself, I find it painful to read other people's interviews. At the same time, I'll think, What a jerk. It makes me very ner- vous when people trot out the thing that means the most to them.

WW.- Read any good books recently?

MS. I don't have time to read a lot. And when I do, I read things that have just the facts. Now that I have these children, I'm just crazed about the world's making it to the next century, so I read all these things about global warming, thermal inversions-you know, no nonsense. I'm trying to find a place where I can contribute. I felt so helpless at a certain point, and I talked to so many people who felt the same way.

I don't want to have to think about these things. I would rather just retreat and make movies. But I have a daughter who will be 16 in the year 2000. And I remember what I was like at 16-how incredibly vast and exciting the choices were. My parents, I think, had a lot to do with making me feel that way. I just don't know if I'll be able to impart the same enthusiasm to my daughter-to all my kids-unless I really feel that I've done something to make the world better for them. So I've picked pesticides, and that's my thing.

WW.- What are you doing? …

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