My friend it is not what you think it is and it is more than you think it is. It’s remarkable that this training is still somehow so under the radar for how long it has been around and for how many amazing actors continue to come out of this approach. I find Meisner is treated with an almost “that’s cute” attitude from many elites of craft and training. Few have legitimately laid themselves at it to know the gifts that come from such a unique and almost eccentric methodology.
I, as you may have guessed, am a fan.
Meisner has and continues to reveal its seemingly endless depths to me. I have no reason to believe it will not do so for as long as I speak it’s virtues, of which there are many.
Such a simple idea. This is where I lovingly roll my eyes. Yes. Repeat. Repeat the last thing that was just said to you. That’s it. At its mechanical core, that is what it is. I’m not sure you would call it an acting “technique” in any way. What it does do? It returns you to a state of being. To fully live and experience a moment as it’s happening with another human being.
This would sound a little new agey if it weren’t made by a man in the 1930’s.
Some may feel resistance to what I’m saying, I can only share what my experience of it taught me. I’ve witnessed it in action firsthand and I have breathed the freedom it offered.
Freedom on the high wire. Sanford Meisner famously compared acting to doing a high wire act. A most unusual comparison. Most of my other teachers talked about tennis and boxing. Not Meisner.
A high wire.
Because it’s about stepping out into an unknown. Showing great attention, courage and focus — strong and malleable — aware of the tiniest of movements and to respond in kind with full trust. Trust in your ability to be present and trust in your partner to be there. Hopefully they’re not trying to hit a ball at you or punch you in the face.
Though if they do, your trust in presence will guide you to the truth and you don’t really know what that is. If you’re paying attention you just might find out and it’s probably more amazing than you could have ever come up with on your own.
This is what they mean when they say an actor must have a “relentless pursuit” for the truth. Except it’s not really a pursuit. It’s not out there to go and “get”. It’s right in front of you waiting for you to notice it. All you have to do is open up to let it in.
Does that sound liberating?
It is. It really fucking is.
Evan C. Schulte