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The following article from the Connecticut Theater Reviews not only features some great remarks by Meryl on her early stage work but also four amazing pictures from her collaboration with the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in 1975. The complete article can be read here and below.
I just got off the phone, talking to Meryl Streep about the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford, and its second Tony Award — this one for outstanding regional theater, which was presented during last night’s Tony ceremonies at Radio City Music Hall. Streep spent a summer at the O’Neill 35 years ago when she was a young actress starting out, fresh out of her three years at Yale School of Drama. While at the O’Neill in 1975 she appeared among projects in a John Guare play being developed there called “Marco Polo Sings a Solo” and Jeff Wanshel’s “Isadora Duncan Sleeps with the Russian Navy.” Also in the staged reading were actors Joel Brooks, Jay Garner and Kevin O’Connor.“It was sort of summer camp,” says Streep from New York. “We had been working so intently [at Yale] that the O’Neill was like being let out for recess. Theater people are like little moles working in small dark spaces and the O’Neill was, well, outdoors. I got a tan for the first time of my life — and last time, too, probably.” Streep says working that summer — her family lived in Mystic at the time — was not a detour in her budding career because in 1975 as many as 16 Broadway theaters were closed. “It was really lean pickings,” she says, though off-Broadway and places like the O’Neill — like La Mama and The Public and the Wooster Group — there was a lot of things happening. Producer T. Edward Hambleton saw her in the O’Neill shows and cast her in the Phoenix Theatre’s Broadway production of the pair of one-acts: Tennessee Williams’ “27 Wagons Full of Cotton” and Arthur Miller’s “A Memory of Two Mondays,” (directed by Arvin Brown of New Haven’s Long Wharf Theatre). It opened January, 1976.
“The O’Neill was rapid-fire work,” she says. “But it’s not for every actor. Certain people can work quickly and others like to take time to deliberate. This trial-by-fire is for a specific kind of actor.” “[The O’Neill] is such an important place, especially right now. there is no such thing as this out of town, no place where you can work without a lot of attention on plays. O’Neill is a kind of undisclosed bunker for artists and actors. It’s for the almost-up-and-coming.” “It also creates a really interesting community of artists,” she says of those who are there to focus on their work — but also each other’s work. “You eat together and work together. There’s no escape! But it truly is ‘sui generis.’ ”
As for her return to the stage, Streep, who turns 61 next week, says she has started accepting a few theater roles but that recently she’s had back-to-back-to back roles in major motion pictures. But that four-year period is settling down now, she says, “and I am always looking at things.”