Meisner Technique

sandy meisner

The Meisner Technique is an acting technique developed by the American theatre practitioner Sanford Meisner. Students develop an ability to improvise, to access an emotional life, and finally to bring the spontaneity of improvisation and the richness of personal response to text. The most fundamental exercise in Meisner training is Repetition: Two actors face each other and ‘repeat’ their observations about one another back and forth. An example of such an exchange might be: ‘You’re smiling.’ ‘I’m smiling.’ ‘You’re smiling!’

Meisner is based on the work of Russian thespian Constantin Stanislavski (1863 –  1938), as are a number of acting techniques, including Lee Strasberg’s. As in all Stanislavskian-derived approaches, for a actor traditional line memorization methods that include vocal inflections or gestures are avoided. It is taught that doing so merely increases the chance the actor will miss a ‘real moment’ in service of a rehearsed habit or line reading. Solid preparation supports the spontaneity, an idea articulated by Martha Graham when she wrote, ‘I work eight hours a day, every day, so that in the evenings I can improvise.’

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