Susan Alexandra Weaver held captive an entire audience of Saint Mary’s College students, faculty, and Michiana residents as she fondly recollected the variety of acting roles she played before she became the well-known actress the world knows as Sigourney Weaver.
There, she stood in the O’Laughlin auditorium speaking to listeners as an old friend, mentoring them all, telling humorous stories about her climb to success. She brought Hollywood and Broadway with her but left stardom behind. To listen to Ms. Weaver is to forget her well-known role in Alien or the awe of being a Golden Globe recipient, Academy Award nominee, her iconic movie posters which dressed the stage, or even that she has five movies premiering this year—one, Abduction releasing this weekend. Her purpose at Saint Mary’s College was to inspire and encourage students to perfect their craft while emphasizing the importance of an education.
“I bring my education to everything I do.” Weaver said. “When I get a script, I let loose the thunderest knowledge of structure and story…”
Believing great stories will always have good actors, Weaver aligns herself with this rule when selecting a role. As a Yale alumna, she applies the education of her MFA in theatre toward choosing a character whether it in film or theatre.
What makes Weaver such captivating woman are in fact the superwoman roles she plays. Her break-out role as Ripley Scott in Alien portrayed a strong warrior who was the last soldier standing within a unit of men against a deadly antagonist. In Gorillas in the Mist and Avatar, her roles demand respect as these characters served as either an animal rights activist or humanitarian. Weaver even mentioned that her role as Dr. Bennett in Abduction was originally casted for a man.
To listen to Sigourney Weaver is to hear a woman talk about how her dreams came to fruition just because she stayed dedicated to doing what she loves to do. She admits that the road to stardom and success included its share of meandering roads and sometimes zig-zagging roles she played which did not seem to connect with the big picture as an accomplished actress. The stories she shared in O’Laughlin’s auditorium included hurdles of small parts, quirky roles and stage plays performed out of abandoned buildings. According to Weaver, those were good times but still, “anguish is all part of the process.”
Accompanying Weaver at Saint Mary’s College was her husband of 27 years, Jim Simpson, Artistic Director of Tribeca’s The Flea Theater. Together they taught two Saint Mary’s College masters classes showing students how to develop characters on stage and on screen. Weaver generously commented on the camaraderie of Saint Mary’s College students and their willingness to learn, having a “passion and curiosity that reignites [her own]”.
Even after landing her break-out role in Alien and filming several other movies, like Ghostbusters, Working Girl, Ice Storm, and Copycat, Weaver went back to her first love sneaking theatre roles in between making movies. She performed in stages plays like Beyond Therapy, As You Like It, Old Times, and Hurlyburly where she was nominated for a Tony Award for her role as Darlene. She even performed at The Flea Theatre in Love Letters as Lydia. It appeared that Weaver taught the Saint Mary’s College’s masters class more so with this background.
Her love for working with young people extended with an invitation to visit The Flea Theater.
Weaver credits the courage of pursuing her acting career to teachers, her work ethic to her father, Sylvester L. Weaver Jr., the drive to sustain and challenge acting roles to her husband and respected directors, and staying grounded towards the blessings of parenthood.