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What is the Meisner Acting Technique?

Here at 3-2-1- Acting Studios for kids, teens and young adults in Los Angeles, we don’t subscribe to any single acting technique. We do, however, teach a mixture of many acting techniques just as a dance studio would offer ballet, tap, and jazz training. We encourage our students to read up on a multitude of acting techniques. We believe that technique is very personal, and that an actor must choose a way of working that works for him or her.  We encourage our students to read up on a multitude of acting techniques and methods, which is why we’ve decided to publish a series of blog posts on various approaches to acting. Today, we address the question: What is the Meisner Acting Technique?

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Where does the Meisner Acting Technique come from?

The Meisner Technique is an acting method that was developed by Sanford Meisner after he worked with Stella Adler and Less Strasberg at the Group Theatre.  In 1935, he joined the faculty at the infamous Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City, where he led the acting program — and developed the Meisner Technique — for over 50 years. Upon retiring, he served as the school’s Director Emeritus until his death in 1997.  The Neighborhood Playhouse is still considered the primary home of the Meisner Technique.

How is The Meisner Acting Technique different from other methods?

Unlike method actors, Meisner actors are trained to work externally, from the outside in.  Method actors, on the other hand, work internally, using emotional recall and sense memory exercises.

What types of exercises do Meisner actors do?

The Meisner technique offers actors a way to “get out of their heads” and into their environments.  Again, Meisner actors are trained to work externally, from the outside, by reacting to the stimulus that is thrown at them; they believe that acting is reacting. At the start of any long-term Meisner training program, actors will begin with a series of repetition exercises, in which they will make eye contact with a partner and repeat certain words and phrases. For example, two actors might sit, facing one another, and  say a phrase such as: “Why did you take my shoes?” back-and-forth, over and over again to one another.  While doing so, they react to whatever emotions and subtext organically come up in the process. This approach serves to make actors better listeners — and helps them to be more engaged with their surroundings.

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Who practices the Meisner Acting Technique?

There are many famous Meisner-trained actors, including Grace Kelly, Bob Fosse, Diane Keaton, James Franco, Amy Schumer, Tina Fey and Tom Cruise, to name a few.

Where is the Meisner Acting Technique taught?

There are many Meisner teachers scattered across the world, and there are a few training centers that specialize in the technique. These include: The Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City, The William Esper Studio in New York City, Taller de Actuación Sebastián Ligarde in Miami (the only Spanish-speaking Meisner school in existence), The Baron Brown Studio in Los Angeles, and the Taylor School of Acting in Los Angeles.

Is the Meisner Technique right for me?

Only you can know the answer to this question. The best way to find out…is to try it out!  Do your research, and find a Meisner-trained teacher in your area.  Though reading books or articles on the technique is great, the Meisner Technique is something that must be practiced in group/class environments with other actors. Meisner does not easily translate to Skype or online classes.

Have fun exploring new and interesting acting methods!

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