Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Meryl Streep is on the New York stage as "Mother Courage," a great part for an older woman. A while back she was acting on the New York stage in "The Seagull" by Chekhov in another great part for an older woman--she played a powerful, self-centered, aging actress. The actress in her daily life chewed up the scenery so the part offers a lot of scope.

The New York Times was not thrilled by either of her performances. The Financial Times loves her in "Mother Courage."

I love her ongoing performance of finding great parts for older women and making them happen for herself and us.

I want Meryl Streep or some non-young actress to do a tv show like "The Loretta Young Show" of the fifties.

Loretta Young, wow, beautiful, was past her prime, and I didn't know it watching her on TV. I later saw earlier stills of her movies, when she was even more beautiful

She had a TV show where she played someone different every week. The continuing feature was her. They were dramas.

Much happened, much was solved for a different woman every week.

I only remember a couple of them in any detail, but I loved the show. Knowing the time, I imagine a huge number of the solutions to the women's problems had to do with finding the right guy.

But now. . . on, say, cable. . .the women could have tons of different kinds of problems with different kinds of solutions.

On cable, they could even have insoluble problems.


Meryl Streep could call people she's acted with, or would like to. She could give good TV and movie writers a place to be interesting and unpredictable. I think she lives on the East Coast so she could use all those underused New York actors and writers.

In a recent interview, Streep said something to the effect that she still "loves, loves, loves, loves, loves to act." The interviewer said that each "loves" was in a different character, a different tone, a different voice.

Hey, this could be fun. Streep could do one-acts she liked back in acting school. She could sometimes let somebody else she digs be the lead and have fun in a smaller role.

"Mother Courage," the play, essentially says all war is horrid by the time it gets to the poor people on the ground, and makes them horrid, because there is nothing else to be. So Streep doing this right now seems to be working off some anti war feelings about current events by doing a great piece of art written in 1939. A high class protest. Tony Kushner, the "Angels in America" guy, threw in some Iraq references, but not, "The Financial Times" says, too many.

She could work off various big ideas in a short series format, elevate the conversation sometimes, show off skillfully and have fun. She could do color- blind casting like New York stage folk often do, and show the country in general it works--it's another interesting way of doing the magic trick of acting.

We could all see her more.

She could play an older woman with a partner, a sex life. In three big recent Streep roles, in "The Seagull," "Mother Courage," and "The Devil Wears Prada," the wildly different women are unpartnered, one of the ways entertainment deals with people it considers marginal. The gay best friend, the older woman, the recent immigrant. You're not quite a real--no sex for you.

But if she produced her own show, she could play the sex, partnership, intimacy thing the way she wanted. Perhaps sometimes yes and sometimes no.

The magic trick part of acting is one of the really cool parts. People who can do it can do it in more directions than they are usually allowed to. Meryl Streep choosing and commisioning her own scripts could be a lot of different kinds of people.

And thereby expand, in a fun way, our ideas of what older women can be, what women can be, what people can be. Let's go.

(I had forgotten, till I googled, that the Loretta Young show--1953-1961--led to similar shows where women played a different woman every week--shows done by June Allyson, Barbara Stanwyck, Ida Lupino and others. The Loretta Young Show was the longest running, but it was the creator of a movement. I'd love to recreate the movement now that people can imagine more ways for women to live because they see them right before their very eyes. Right now, googling The Loretta Young Show and choosing the high up Museum of Broadcasting entry is really interesting. I knew that I remembered some kind of association between The Loretta Young Show and the Dinah Shore Show, but I couldn't pin it down. In the Dinah Shore Show, which involved singing and chatting with guests, Dinah Shore had on a different outfit every time she re-entered, and she re-entered often. Lots of clothes to look at. In The Loretta Young Show she introduced and outtroduced the show in really dressy clothes, and then went into the show where she played middle and working class characters. I could get into that feature reappearing. Get as much fun as possible out of things, eh? Red carpet opening, acting to follow.

And introducing things skillfully can create more room. When there was a very big deal production by Oprah Winfrey of a Zola Neale Hurston story it was very skillfully introduced as being about choice and power. It was about a young woman who ran away from her perfectly decent boring much older husband. Having the introduction point out ways to think about that was wise and kind to both the viewers and the characters. Saying quickly and clearly why any given piece seems worth doing to Meryl Streep would let more people in. That would be liberal in the sense of open and generous.)