Sept 21 – Meisner
So I have started the Meisner Program, or what I like to refer to as advanced acting class to my friends who don’t know who Sanford Meisner is, or the history of his style of acting training. It probably isn’t really advanced, although you are required to have some base level of experience before you start, and are screened through an interview process to make sure that you know what you are getting into.
I actually interviewed for the program last year, but it was recommended to my by Robin Smith, the instructor, that I wait until I had more experience. She would have let me in because I did have some experience taking Freehold classes, and had been in one Freehold play, and also that I had gotten my blackbelt in Aikido, which demonstrates a certain amount of willingness to stick with something difficult.
Still, she thought if I got more experience I would get more out of the class. I chose to follow her advice and put it off for the next year. I can see now that she was correct, and that what I learned in the year between, was invaluable, and I am much more ready to milk this class for all that my current level of abilities can.
So class started. I think I entered with an advantage, because I already knew half the class. Over the summer I did my second Freehold play, The Man Who Came to Dinner, by Kaufman and Hart. All but one of the cast members from that play were in the Meisner class, in addition to two people I had taken other classes with. Out of the 17 students, I knew 10 of them already.
The first day there was a lot of talking. The usual, introduce yourself, what do you want to get out of this class sort of thing. We did some basic acting type warm-ups and some basic acting exercises. Nothing Meisner specific yet, just the sort of stuff you do in Acting 101.
One of the fun things we did, to give some variety to the say a little about yourself thing is called Video Pen Pal. You get up in front of the class, and you get a minute and a half to present yourself as if you were being recorded on video as an advertisement for a pen pal, or dating service. So you get up and ramble on about yourself for the set amount of time. “I was born in California, I moved to Seattle when I was 20, I like kittens, walks on the beach, and reading mid-19th century German philosophers….”
Then someone else in class gets to do what is called Playback. They get to go up and recreate as much as they can your portrayal of yourself, repeating what you said, as best as they can remember, and trying to reproduce your mannerisms, and convey your overall personalization.
So you get to ramble on about yourself, while everyone is watching you, and then you get to see someone else ramble on as if they were you, while everyone is watching them. Nothing there to make anyone feel uncomfortable.
Acting is so fun.