To Meisner or Not to Meisner… And If So, Then Who is the Best Meisner Acting Teacher in Los Angeles?Posted: September 5th, 2011 | Author: admin | Filed under: Acting Advice | Tags: meisner technique, sandy marshall | No Comments »
As a working actress who’s studied at countless schools, and as many different teachers, I’ve noticed the “method” that keeps showing up in various forms is the Meisner Technique. Sometimes it’s very true to form, taught just as Sanford Meisner himself would have wanted. Other times it’s been evolved, manipulated to conform to what a certain teacher is trying to get across. I’ve listened to some of my very talented peers swear by this technique, professing it’s the only one to bother learning. I usually sit there (on the fence) nodding but secretly wondering if I’m missing something.
Don’t get me wrong, when I was a very young and inexperienced (green) aspiring thespian, I was totally taken by Sanford’s legacy. I loved how freeing it was, how honest. But as I learned the technical aspects, the absolute mandatory left brain thinking that comes with professional acting, I began to roll my eyes more and more when I’d hear Meisner disciples pledging their allegiance.
Repetition exercises (the most notorious part of Meisner training) are all good and well (I guess) when “exploring” in theater school. But how does this truly fit into hitting your mark on a film set? Making sure you stay out of your co-stars light? How about learning to talk as if there’s music blaring when you can’t hear the faintest bit of a tune? Where is the “truth” in that? What was more was that I quickly realized that many of the students who excelled at the repetition exercises fell extremely flat when they’d actually have a script in their hand.
I was quickly loosing faith. But why then, did so many fantastic actors stand by this technique? I don’t think I’ll ever completely surrender. What I can say is that Meisner can teach good listening, good observing skills. It can loosen up the “heady” actor, the ones who over-plan and are married to their choices. It can help you learn to “play”. But I would recommend studying with a teacher who has adapted the old style technique to fit modern needs. A teacher who has students who are thriving in the business. A perfect example of this would be Sandy Marshall who teaches out of Los Angeles. She has some really talented students who have leaned to apply the technique to the actual reality of the business.
All that said, my belief is to study as much as you can, don’t take any of it too seriously, and figure out what works for you. Good luck!