Sept 23 – Repeat After Me


So day two of Meisner class.  We started doing the basic stretchy acting warm-ups that I’ve tended to do in every acting class. We did some more acting exercises as well, the basic stuff, but nothing Meisnery yet.  Then it came.  Robin, our instructor, lined up two parallel rows of chairs facing each other, separated by about six feet.  Between them she placed two chairs facing each other about three feet apart.  From this arrangement the people in the two parallel rows, would be able to see the profiles of the people in the center, and the people in the center would be looking directly at each other.

She gets two volunteers.  The two suckers, I mean, students went up and sat in the chairs, hands in laps, trying to seem relaxed.  She explained the exercise.  It is Meisner’s famous repetition exercise.  The version we were doing was called the Basic, and as we progress more complexities will be layered on to this most basic of forms.

The Basic consists of exchanges between the two actors in the middle.  One person is chosen to start, let’s call her Alice.  The other actor we will call Bob.  Alice will close her eyes, and try and clear her mind.  Then she will look at Bob, and whatever physical attribute she first notices that pops into her head she will say.

Alice closes her eyes, and then looks up at Bob.  She notices he is wearing glasses.  She then says, “Glasses.” Bob listens then repeats “Glasses.”  It goes on like this

Alice: Glasses.
Bob: Glasses.
Alice: Glasses.
Bob: Glasses.
Alice: Glasses.
Bob: Glasses.
Alice: Glasses.
Bob: Glasses.
Alice: Glasses.
Bob: Glasses.
Alice: Glasses.
Bob: Glasses.
Alice: Glasses.
Bob: Glasses.
Alice: Glasses.
Bob: Glasses.
etc, etc, etc…

After a while Robin will stop the actors, and then Bob would start by looking away, and then back at Alice, and then says the first attribute that pops in his head. For instance, “Hair”. The progression again goes on until they are stopped.  After a few rounds of this, the actors in the middle are switched out and some new ones come in.

It is a bit like watching a tennis match.  Sitting on the sidelines, I could see my fellow actors heads swiveling left, then right, as they listened to and watched, the riveting exchange.

After we all went the first time we got to do a second round, this time getting to be a little more descriptive.  People were saying things, like wire-rimmed glasses, and long brown hair, and red t-shirt. Not poetic, but functional.

We finished the second round and then were given our homework assignment.  We needed to meet at least three people between now and the next class to do this exercise with for a half an hour.

Because we are all spread out over the greater Seattle area, most of us decided to meet in mutually accessible locations, like coffee shops located between people’s homes.  So if you were in a Starbuck’s and saw two people sitting across from each other saying “Nose.” “Nose.” “Nose.” “Nose.” “Nose.” for minutes on end, most likely they were actors studying Meisner.

Or they were crazy.

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