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Amada, aspiring actress, Sydney, Australia


Hi Tony!
Most people don’t even take the time to tell a person how to reach their goal. I want to thank you for everything and for responding to my messages. Sometimes I just test people to see if they really care about my career and you do. You can continue to send me some tips on how I can accomplish my goals, because you inspire me a lot. Thank you for caring.
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The Meisner Technique
A New York Acting Teacher Talks

Meisner Technique:

Interview with Acting Teacher Wendy Ward - Part 7

Wendy Ward

In part 6 of this exclusive interview , Wendy talks about Sanford Meisner, the great teacher who founded the acting technique she teaches.

Tony: There are many different acting techniques of which there is the Meisner technique. What is it exactly? Can you explain it? And what are the major differences between this on and some of the others?

Wendy: You’re asking me to sum up a year’s actubg training in a nutshell, Tony.  Okay, well a basic difference is that the way we train is all about being connected to yourself, the imaginary circumstance and the other actor. The idea is to move away from the self-absorption and manipulation that results from believing that your best acting is going to come from this deep place inside of your emotional life or psychology.  Rather, Meisner actors become far more sensitive to the outside stimulus and try to leave themselves alone to allow real feelings and responses to happen organically.  By learning to do that through an improvisational exercise that increases an actor’s ability to listen and be vulnerable to behavior, the actor can go and actually live authentically in the situation without controlling every moment of his or her performance. I still have actors in my Tech I classes who are trying to make their acting “look” like natural life and not understanding that they are actually pretendingToo much control, too much intellectual thought and trying to imitate life are the very things that suck the reality out of the acting.

We do teach a way of approaching emotional work, but it is a very active process of using one’s imagination to explore what could happen in life instead of going back and examining all the details about an event that has already happened.

I have to digress and tell you a funny story.  We just did a show at the studio that was set in a diner, and we served real coffee in real diner mugs.  An industry person asked us why the actors didn’t “act” like the coffee was hot!  He expected to see phony presentational acting of hot coffee instead of noticing that the coffee actually was steaming when it was poured into the mugs which, of course being real diner mugs, are heat resistant!  That’s someone who is really stuck in an old-fashioned view of what acting should be and it was his past introduction to the sensory work in the Method that makes him still believe that stuff is acting.  It’s corny!

But the Meisner Technique has really become one of the most revered types of training.  When I came to New York with a BA in theatre, I was appalled that I had not learned of Sanford Meisner when I was at Duke University. I had already had seven years of training when I learned about this technique, and it startling how much better the Meisner technique was than anything else I learned.

Over the course of my time here in New York, people have started seeing what Meisner training has done for actors and now you have programs all over the country offering some kind of introduction to Meisner. I won’t comment on the quality of a lot of those classes except to say that in the old days you actually had to complete two years of training before you taught it.  And you only taught it if you were asked to “sit” with your teacher before you were given your own class.  Nowadays, everyone is saying they teach it – even a former student of mine who is one of the most mediocre actors I’ve trained.  I was appalled when I heard he was trying to teach a class.  

But people want this acting training because it’s so practical, and it’s so accessible.  Unfortunately, it may eventually be devalued because so many people are trying to teach it that have no idea what they’re doing.

End of part 7. In part 8 of this exclusive interview with Ward Acting Studio founder Wendy Ward, she answers the question, "What would you tell someone who is looking to start an acting career?"

Visit Wendy Ward at the official Ward Studio website.


Here are some other related pages you might find helpful:

Compare the Meisner technique with other acting techniques:

Read here about my personal experience studying with Wendy Ward

23 Benefits of taking acting classes

Everything you need to know about acting classes. Acting School Directory

How To Choose The Right Acting School

8-Step Guide To Preparing Your Trip To New York To Study Acting

A Guide To Starting A Successful Acting Career

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