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Actress Glenn Close speaks at Saint Mary’s

| Tuesday, March 16, 2010

As a 12th generation Connecticut Yankee, actor Glenn Close found her inspiration and strength in her two grandmothers and her mother to pursue her dreams.

Close visited Saint Mary’s College Monday as the Margaret Hill Endowed Lecturer. In “An Evening With Glenn Close,” Close spoke about her journey as an actor in the College’s O’Laughlin Auditorium. She shared stories from her life and told tales of past auditions, her childhood and her family.

Close introduced herself with an anecdote about a woman who spotted her at the airport and mistook her for Meryl Streep.

“Your perception of those characters have deeply influenced your perception of me,” Close said.

Close said she based some of her characters after her grandmothers’ strong personalities. Both of her grandmothers were talented — one dreamed of being a famous singer, and the other longed to become an actor.

Close said neither of her grandmothers was allowed to pursue their dreams, so Close said she knew her grandmothers were watching over her while she chased her goals.

Close said she was also inspired by her mother’s intelligence and strength, even though she never graduated from high school or attended college.

She said her mother is “the most well-read, strongest and compassionate women I will even know.”

Close described her childhood as “magic.” She said she spent her childhood playing outdoors with her siblings and also spent hours on her own in the woods.

“Our catch phrase was ‘let’s pretend,'” Close said. “I just never wanted to stop playing. Living in my imagination was something I never had to work at.”

When she was seven years old, her mother and father decided to join a cult. Close said she remained faithful to the group for 15 years and struggled to conform to the expectations of the cult. Finally, Close said she left the cult and was accepted to William and Mary College in Williamsburg, Va.

Close said college was a way of freeing herself.

“It was in the theatre department that I spent most of my time,” she said.

At William and Mary, Close was inspired by one of her professors, Howard Scammon. Close said Scammon came to all of her plays in her early professional career up until his death.

After working in several professional productions, Close decided to work with a professional acting coach to improve her audition skills.

“For a long time, I was really bad at auditioning,” Close said.

Working with acting coach Harold Guskin, Close learned several important lessons, which she said she’s applied to her career as well as her life. Close said one such lesson was to remember to breathe.

Close said that in order to continue to learn her trade she went to every rehearsal.

“I saw that acting companies brought together to achieve a common goal are chemical,” Close said.

Close has played a variety of characters on stage, in film and on television series.
“All these characters represent a lot in my life and the learning curve in my career,” she said.

Though she has been successful in her career and has been awarded many of the parts she wanted, Close said she was greatly influenced by others.

“I’ve had so many brilliant people constantly whispering in my ear,” Close said.