Using the Meisner Technique.

Sanford Meisner is one of the most respected and influential acting teachers of the 20th century. Meisner, Stella Adler and Lee Strasberg are generally regarded as America’s three greatest acting teachers. They were founding members of The Group Theatre, 1931-1941. Meisner and his fellow actor Stella Adler fell out with their director Lee Strasberg over his use of Emotional Recall, a technique in which the actor used personal emotion from his own past memories to feed the acting process. Meisner and Adler chose to use the imagination to stimulate emotion and involvement in a play’s imaginary circumstances. He began teaching at New York’s Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre in 1935. He developed what is known as “The Meisner Technique,” influenced by The Stanislavsky Method.

Students of the Meisner Technique work on a series of progressively complex exercises to develop an ability to improvise, to access an emotional life, and finally to bring the spontaneity of improvisation and the richness of personal response to textual work. The technique emphasises “moment-to-moment” spontaneity through communication with other actors in order to generate behaviour that is truthful within imagined, fictional circumstances.

One of Meisner’s famous quotations that illustrates the emphasis on “doing” was “An ounce of behaviour is worth a pound of words.”

“Allow your impulses out without censoring or judging them. Pushing for emotional results is invariably an attempt to make the scene more ‘dramatic’ or ‘interesting’. Nothing is more interesting or dramatic than an actor working off the truth of the moment.”

“The hardest thing to achieve is simplicity. We always complicate everything, either out of dishonesty or out of a desire to show off or prove something. Direct communication is powerful and difficult and dangerous. You have to commit yourself wholly to the task, and you have to be true and clear all the time.”