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Sigourney Weaver delivers wisdom and laughter at Saint Mary’s

Courtney Eckerle | Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The theme from “Ghostbusters” began playing Monday night in Moreau Theater as the crowd filtered in. The rhythmic clapping began immediately, not led by the students in attendance, but mostly by the more “mature” crowd — even a few of the Sisters of the Holy Cross were in the audience. It was more than obvious the sold-out theater was psyched for Sigourney Weaver.

Weaver revealed herself to be an inspirational woman who attacked roles both on and off the stage by letting loose the “thunderbolt of [her] education” when working on scripts and stories. However, her stories described first forays into the world of acting that were not always so prolific. The self-proclaimed “super dork” from early childhood, she summed up her missteps and criticism in the beginning of her acting career with hilarity and some wisdom.

“When someone asks you how you got someplace, it’s never a nice path,” she said.

Weaver was once fired from a production of “You Can’t Take it With You” after a week for being “too tall.” She was told by not one, but two heads of departments at The Yale School of Drama that she had no talent and would never amount to anything — they were fired a few years later. It’s a story of the virtue of stubborn behavior and elbow grease if there ever was one. The saying goes that well-behaved women never make history, and Weaver is certainly not among those women.

Anecdotes from her career kept the audience laughing and in awe. Once, she was walloped by a charging silverback gorilla on the set of “Gorillas in the Mist,” and Bill Murray threw her over his shoulder on their first meeting before “Ghostbusters.” She certainly had a lot of old Hollywood tales to share, growing up the daughter of NBC television pioneer Pat Weaver and an English actress, who once working with Vivian Lee described her as, “ravishingly beautiful, but swore like a sailor.” She threw the audience into laugher when describing one of her father’s events, which featured Milton Berle, describing him as “the Will Ferrell of his day”.

The Margaret Hill Series is a fantastic event by Saint Mary’s that really should be getting as much attention and credit as possible. Stunningly arranged and put together, it is an invaluably intimate encounter with consistently esteemed and inspiring personas at the top of their craft. Not only do drama master’s classes get a personal and mutually fulfilling day with the Margaret Hill visitor each year, but the entire community gets a informal glimpse into the life and work of people who are inspiring, whether acting is a pursuit or not.

Weaver passed on two sage pieces of advice during the evening performance.

“I’ll tell you, there are no rules,” and “The greatest creative tool you have is failure.”

These brilliant tidbits portray Sigourney Weaver as a woman who is constantly evolving and educating herself and trusting her own instincts and knowledge. This made her an especially poignant choice for the college as a model of the independent, educated and graceful women Saint Mary’s has made it its mission to graduate.

Contact Courtney Eckerle at cecker01@saintmarys.edu