Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Meryl Streep & Julia Roberts: Leading Ladies


Streep and Roberts: Leading Ladies

When Carla was paging through the Road Scholar catalog and came across the title “Leading Ladies: Streep and Roberts,” she exclaimed, “That looks interesting!” Wayne responded, “OK, let’s go.”
We paid little attention to the other two topics included in the package offered that week at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla. — “Close Harmonies, from the Pied Pipers to Manhattan Transfer” and “Hollywood Hits to Broadway Musicals” — but we found them to be as interesting and delightful as the leading ladies section.

We had not realized at the time that Eckerd College is an old timer in the field of adult education and entertainment, having offered Road Scholar programs — formerly known as Elderhostel — since 1977. The Eckerd team is offering 36 programs through April 2016
Joy Katzen-Guthrie, who graduated from Stephens College, was the lecturer for the leading ladies section. She selected film excerpts that helped us appreciate their genius as actresses.

We were especially impressed with Meryl Streep’s ability to become so many different characters convincingly. Streep often would study a language to get an accent right. As we watched, we were moved to laughter, tears and concern for others. We had avoided the film “Sophie’s Choice,” and the excerpt showing Streep having to choose between the life of her daughter and the life of her son brought us to tears.

It was almost difficult to believe that the various characters she played were all the same person behind the accents and makeup. How can Julia Childs, Margaret Thatcher and the witch from “Into the Woods” have anything to do with the characters in “Mama Mia” and “A Prairie Home Companion”? Amazing.

Streep has acted in 62 movies and received Oscar nominations for her first few films. She has received 15 nominations for best actress and four for best supporting actress. She is one of the first actresses to remain in demand for great roles after the age of 30.

Julia Roberts is younger and had had a difficult childhood, as she grew up in a somewhat dysfunctional and less supportive family. In her first film, she was recognized as an actress who could become a multitude of personalities. She has acted in 51 films and received many awards. One of the films, “August, Osage County,” includes both Streep and Roberts. Wayne had forgotten — or repressed — the fact he had seen it. He thought Streep’s character was so mean to her children, one of whom is Roberts, that he thoroughly disliked the movie.

The program “Close Harmonies” was taught by a music expert, Tom Lippert, who took us through the history of vocal jazz groups from the 1940s to today. Often, they made musical instrument sounds as part of their performances. We remembered many of the popular songs.

Groups covered were the Pied Pipers, Modernaires, the Four Freshmen and the Beach Boys. The Hi-Los, the Manhattan Transfers and Singer Unlimited always worked in a recording studio and often recorded the voices many times, making them sound like a major choir. Lippert played the piano well and had good video examples of all of their work.




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