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The Meisner Technique of Acting

The Meisner Technique of Acting

"Take it from a director: if you get an actor that Sandy Meisner has trained, you've been blessed." - Elia Kazan

Sanford Meisner was an American actor and later on in his career, an acting teacher who created his own system of acting while teaching at New York's Neighborhood Playhouse and the Actors Studio. He attempted to teach actors to bring sincerity and reality to their art.

Sanford Meisner grew up playing the piano and studied it at school before moving into acting in his late teens. In 1931, along with Stella Alder and Lee Strasberg, Meisner became a part of the Group Theatre Meisner had in fact studied with Strasberg prior to this and so was already working with and familiar with Stanislavski’s principles of acting. This theatre ensemble wasn’t just responsible for the groundbreaking theatrical productions of the time but for also changing the way actors performed in America. In1934, Stella Adler went to study privately with Stanislavski in Paris – upon her return she questioned Strasberg’s interpretation of ‘emotional recall’ arguing that the actor’s imagination was a far more reliable and creative tool to use. These new ideas had a large influence on Meisner and the system he eventually created. In 1940 the group disbanded and Meisner went on to teach at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York.

Birth of The Meisner Technique

It was while he was here (he taught at the school for 48 years) that Meisner began to develop his own technique, a combination of the traditional Stanislavskian ideas, Strasberg’s teachings and Stella Adler’s own interpretations of Stanislavski’s system. Meisner’s technique, however, is based on the fundamental idea of an actor’s ability to live truthfully in imagined circumstances. This has a huge effect on how the actor was to live and listen spontaneously in a scene as well as the imagination to bring emotional reality to the character they were playing. To live truthfully on stage Meisner taught actors to not play the emotion of their character but to let emotion build based on the truth of their actions and most importantly on the actions of the other characters around them. Meisner created a series of exercises for his actors all based on the fundamental Meisner principles of not doing something until something happens to make you do it, listening and spontaneous repetition. Meisner’s approach was by design an attempt to “eliminate all intellectuality from the actor's instrument and to make him a spontaneous responder to where he is, what is happening to him, what is being done to him."

The Meisner technique is one that benefits not only actors but also directors and writers, some of these artists are, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Grace Kelly, Gregory Peck, Arthur Miller, James Caan and David Mamet.

Have a my experience at an acting school in New York where I studied the Meisner Technique.

Have a look at our acting school directory.

Here are some guidelines you will want to consider when choosing the right acting school or acting class for you.


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