An evening with Colbert and Streep

Two greats from the State star in Montclair Film benefit at NJPAC.


Jerseyans Stephen Colbert and Meryl Streep chatted over dry martinis to the delight of 2,800 admirers as part of Montclair Film’s eighth annual fundraiser in Prudential Hall on December 1.


Returning to NJPAC (“a beautiful place with even more beautiful people,” Colbert opined), the humorist and host of CBS’ The Late Show settled in with America’s most Oscar-nominated actor to exchange memories, career advice and sharp-witted remarks about the political scene. Streep mused on the highs and lows of acting, beginning with her fifth-grade debut as a robot, completely hidden in a cardboard box, to recent screen portrayals of Katharine Graham and Florence Foster Jenkins.


Born into a family that hopscotched from Summit to other towns, including Madison, Basking Ridge and Bernardsville, Streep credited her public high school education for introducing her to musical theater. At Vassar she was drawn to costume design, a pursuit echoed in her role as Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada. (Streep confessed that she was channeling director Mike Nichols with her line “Why is no one ready?,” now playing in the latest crop of viral GIFs).


Laughing exuberantly and obviously pleased that Colbert was in the interviewer’s chair, Streep still candidly addressed her self-image problems as a novice actress and her artistic struggles at Yale School of Drama. A cast mate’s dropped prop turned into good luck when it also shattered her stage fright during her first professional theatrical outing in Trelawny of the “Wells” at Lincoln Center, she recalled.


Streep described acting as “a silly thing,” but was moved to join the ranks when she saw Geraldine Page and Colleen Dewhurst perform in New York. She referred to players as “natural empaths; it’s part of their job description” in a world depersonalized by social media. “I am a curious person and there’s no better job than the one I have,” she confirmed.


Streep borrowed a mantra from her husband, sculptor Don Gummer, in offering advice to an aspiring actor during a Q&A with the audience: “Start by starting.”


The evening, a benefit co-produced by NJPAC and Montclair Film – New Jersey’s leading film non-profit – opened with a double welcome from Montclair Film Executive Director Tom Hall and Gov. Phil Murphy.


Dec. 10, 2018