Acting Techniques

The Meisner Technique

Ready to continue learning about the Meisner Technique?
You can view sample Meisner acting exercises below or scroll down the page to read about Meisner actors and Meisner’s book on acting. You’ll also find some information to help you decide if Meisner acting schools
are a good choice for you.

To learn the basics about Meisner acting, read  our first page on Sanford Meisner, or click here to become an actor.

3) Sample Meisner Acting Exercises

Sanford Meisner developed several acting exercises to help actors be
in the moment and real on stage. Here’s a few examples:

Word Repetition Game
Two actors face each other. One actor starts by saying something about the other actor (for example, “you’re pale”). The other actor responds by repeating the words (“you’re pale”). The two actors repeat the line over and over back and forth, as if it were a ping-pong game. The trick is to resist artificially changing the intonation to make the line sound interesting. By listening to each other, the actors take the focus off themselves.
The next level of the exercise is to repeat the lines from each actor’s point of view…
“You’re pale.”
“I’m pale?”
“You’re pale.”
“I’m pale?”
When an actor picks up a cue from his partner and feels a true impulse to make a new observation, he does so.
“You look upset.”
“I look upset?”
“You look upset.”
“I look upset?”
Later on, you can do this exercise with the lines from the script you’re working on.

Improvisation exercise
One actor picks an activity that is difficult and requires all their attention (for example, learning a script for an audition the next day). The other actor comes into the scene charged with given circumstances he invented (for example, the actor imagines he or she just got the part of a lifetime). The two actors do a word repetition game, taking their cue off each other’s behavior.

4) Is the Meisner Acting Technique for You?

    • The Meisner technique is great if you feel self-conscious as an actor. If you’re having a hard time being spontaneous or relating to the other actors on stage, this may be right for you. Since it will help you take the focus off yourself, it’s also a good acting method to deal with stagefright.
    • A working knowledge of Meisner acting will come in handy when you work with very spontaneous actors who give a different performance every night or every take. On the other hand, exclusive use of Meisner techniques can be tricky when you’re dealing with a non-responsive actor or when you’re auditioning and not getting much from the reader.
    • The Meisner technique is particularly effective for film acting because it delivers very subtle performances from actors and a lot of different takes for a director to choose from. Since the method of Sanford Meisner is very internal though, you’ll want to complete your studies with movement, speech and voice classes, as well as a good character workshop.

5) Famous Meisner Actors

James Caan, Griffin Dunne, Robert Duvall, Peter Falk, Jeff Goldblum,
Jennifer Grey, Allison Janney, Diane Keaton, Grace Kelly, Christopher Meloni,
Chris Noth, Gregory Peck, Tony Randall, Joanne Woodward

… and many more.

The must-have Meisner Acting Book

Sanford Meisner on Acting
by Sanford Meisner and Dennis Longwell

This book follows a 15-months acting class taught by Meisner,
so you’ll get some good practical insight into his exercises and how
to apply them to scenes you’re working on.

Ready for the next step?

If you’re interested in studying the Meisner technique, take a look at the
Neighborhood Playhouse in New York where he taught for many years.
You should also check out the
Meisner Center
in Los Angeles.


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