What is the Meisner technique?

Meisner technique

The art of shaping actors into professionals is not something everyone is blessed with. However, this was not the case with Sanford Meisner. He was a 20th-century legend and his legendary technique breathes across the globe even today.

What was the motive behind his technique?

Meisner believed that an actor would be successful when he can truthfully live within his imaginary circumstances. The lives of actors revolve around making audiences believe that they are the character they are playing. Meisner stated that this would become easy only when the actors are in peace and truthful about the character themselves. This concept developed the Meisner technique.

How is the Meisner technique Different?

Unlike Strasberg’s approach, Meisner does not suggest actors recall past circumstances in life that are similar to their current acting scene. Meisner believed in training actors in a way that they can imagine and create safe circumstances for themselves to live in. It is a technique that is meant to take actors physically and mentally out of their comfort zone. With this, actors can simply slide into the skin of their characters.

Even today, directors who receive actors that have been trained with the Meisner technique are relieved and satisfied. Let us look at a few factors that make such actors stand out among the rest:

Improvisation

Meisner was of the opinion that instinct forms a major part of acting. An actor would need to be courageous to be able to do a scene a little differently from the script. However, a successful shift would liberate the actor and make their future performances effortless. He not only considered improvising extremely valuable, but he believed it to be a precious resource of acting. Thus, trusting your instinct and being able to improvise was a part of the Meisner technique’s checklist.

Doing and not just acting

For Meisner, you would become a better actor when you would “literally” play out a scene instead of just acting to do so. Let us consider a scene where one actor has to convince the other to go for a trip with them. While playing the part of the convincer, you must act so well that the opposite person does not need to “act” convinced. That is because he would be convinced in reality. While this might seem complicated, it was exactly why the technique is still well known.

The actions of others

In acting, most of your reactions are based on what your co-actor would do. Could you imagine hearing an exceptionally loud scream after just a tiny needle prick? How would you react to a situation that seems extremely unreal and fake?

What Meisner simply meant was that you must never give a reaction while acting which you would not give in real life. When an actor realizes that they solely need to act as they do in real life rather than reacting, acting becomes liberating.

Imagination

The most important factor in the Meisner technique is imagination. According to him, an actor cannot have lived all the situations that he might have to play. This is why imagination became of utmost significance. Meisner believed in the external factors of acting. Whether it be researching, talking to friends, or losing yourself into imagination, it was all a part of his technique. All of the research synthesized would allow the actor to create alternative realities successfully.

Reiteration

Acting out scenes with co-actors is normal. However, Meisner brought in a different way of doing so. Meisner did not want the over-analyzing part of the human brain to affect one’s acting ability. Thus, he brought in a technique of constantly repeating sentences until some physical change occurs. For example, X’s shirt is black in colour. In such a situation, X and Y will keep saying “My shirt is black” and “Your shirt is black” repeatedly until something else happens. If Y moves his leg, the dialogues will then change to, “You moved your leg” and “I moved my leg”. According to him, this would make the actors give their complete attention to the scene, away from any distracting thoughts and actions.

While a lot of exercises might seem trivial, it is always small practices that lead to bigger things. If doing all of this alone seems complicated and tough, we have a solution for you.

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