Role Model: UMass Lowell Chancellor Series Welcomes Iconic Actress Meryl Streep

Streep as Violet Weston in August: Osage County

Streep as Violet Weston in August: Osage County

Lowell Sun
01/30/2014
By Pete McQuaid

Meryl Streep will be up for her third Best Actress Oscar on March 2.

But she'll make a pit stop before that -- at UMass Lowell, where she'll be this year's celebrity guest at the second annual Chancellor's Speaker Series.

"A Conversation with Meryl Streep," which will take place Wednesday, Feb. 5, at the Tsongas Center, will feature the iconic actress discussing her 40-plus-year career with UML faculty member and best-selling author Andre Dubus III. Streep, much like last year's inaugural speaker Stephen King, will set up a scholarship fund for UML students. She will establish the Meryl Streep Endowed Scholarship Fund for English majors and The Joan Hertzberg Endowed Scholarship for students who excel in math. The school expects Streep's visit to raise more than $100,000.

Streep's visit comes on the heels of the release of August: Osage County, an adaptation of Tracy Letts' play of the same name in which she plays a vile, pill-popping matriarch named Violet Weston. She garnered her 18th Academy Award nomination (and 28th Golden Globe nomination) for her wild performance. She faces tough competition with fellow nominees Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock and Amy Adams in the race, despite the fact that Streep has more Oscar noms than the three of them combined.

Streep is no stranger to the Oscars, but she's certainly familiar with missing out on the big prize. After graduating with an M.F.A. from the Yale School of Drama and starring in a number of New York theatre productions, Streep received her first Academy Award nomination in just her second movie, Michael Cimino's Vietnam War epic The Deer Hunter. She won Best Supporting Actress in 1979 for Kramer vs. Kramer, and Best Actress in 1982 for her harrowing turn in Sophie's Choice. Streep then went on an almost comical Susan Lucci-esque run of near-misses, not winning again until 2011 for her performance as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady -- 13 nominations later.

The most fascinating aspect of Streep -- or "The Streeper" as she was affectionately called by Greg Kinnear's character in Stuck on You -- is her versatility. Her talent transcended typecasting, as she managed to completely camouflage herself in every role she took. She has an uncanny knack for non-fiction imitation, as evidenced in her portrayals of Thatcher, Julia Child (Julie and Julia) and Karen Silkwood (Silkwood). Over the years, Streep has played heroes (Silkwood, Doubt, Music of the Heart), villains (The Manchurian Candidate, The Devil Wears Prada), lovers (The Hours, It's Complicated), and even bizarro-world authors (Adaptation).

And at age 64, Streep's not slowing down: She's scheduled to be in as many as three other movies this year, including Rob Marshall's big-screen adaptation of Into the Woods, and the long-overdue film version of the Millennial-era classic, The Giver.

Hopefully it doesn't take her another 29 years to win an Academy Award. But I won't be betting against Meryl Streep at the age of 93. And neither should you.

A limited number of tickets are still available at tsongascenter.com or by calling 866-722-8780. Admission to the event is free for UML students with a valid ID who obtain tickets in advance in person at the Tsongas Center box office. For information, visit uml.edu/streep.

'Prada' screening

In anticipation for Meryl Streep's visit to UML, the school will screen The Devil Wears Prada for free on Thursday, Jan. 30, at 6 p.m. The event is presented by UML's Film Club and Office of Student Activities and Leadership. The movie will be shown at the O'Leary Library Learning Commons, Room 222, South Campus, at 61 Wilder St., in Lowell. For information, visit uml.edu.