Meisner Technique: Learn to Love Struggle
Aspiring actors looking to study the true fundamentals should do extensive research on the Meisner technique regardless of which overall method of study they ultimately choose to focus on. The Meisner technique made a huge impact on the practice of American theatre. This systematic, progressive method of study involves a great deal of intensive work on both the self and at the craft of acting.
First and foremost, Meisner teachers will guide the students in their acting classes into breaking down the barriers they have developed over the years. Preconceived notions about what anger is, how a person should react when they are sad, what a “regular” person feels when they are disrespected are the types of impulses a person might find natural. However, until they have exhaustively studied every possible variation on each of these emotions, worked to discover what a character might do and have that become their new natural impulse, then they will not be able to act authentically.
It is important to remind students in acting classes that being an actor is a wonderful privilege that requires a deep understanding of human nature. An actor that conjures up a character without a great deal of study takes a huge risk. We are all human and we recognize a lack of authenticity quickly. An actor must go well beyond thinking superficially about what a character would do and then do it because the thought process, even if only a microsecond, will put false note of hesitation just prior to the action and/or dialogue.
The ultimate goal of a student trained in Meisner techniques is to have imagined and taken in the thoughts, feelings and responses of the character so deeply that their focus is ultimately on the other actors and the happenings throughout the work. They respond immediately and spontaneously moment by moment, concentrating on the other actors and the events as they unfold. Done successfully this gives a performance a vibrancy and and edge that actors merely reciting lines in a rehearsed are unable to give.
Evil, ironic humor, long suffering, deep rage, these are characteristics that are often in danger of becoming a caricature if they are overblown. Acting is far from being a simple craft however, simplicity is the cornerstone of great acting. That is why acting classes are necessary to study these nuances and hone the skill with other actors time and time again.
All actions an actor takes on must come from a place very close to the heart. Intellectual understanding of a story and the characters in it is paramount but, without an intense heart soul connection to the text the truth of the story will be lost. The Meisner technique uses word repetition exercises as a core aspect of the method. By bouncing the material back and forth countless times between actors they will eventually achieve a response that is natural, ingrained and truthful. These impulses must be imagined and taken in and stored so that they are immediately accessible as the text of the play moves along.
One challenge an actor may be privileged to face is that of a long running theatre piece or many, many takes of a scene in a movie. Keeping this kind of performance fresh can be difficult. The Meisner technique, when studied long and well, helps these types of performances remain vibrant, with the actor being able to make fresh choices every performance. By channeling into the unconscious, natural character specific responses will flow and yet be subtly different every time.
Learn more about Meisner acting. Stop by the Maggie Flanigan studio where you can find out all about the best Meisner acting classes in NYC.