„What happens to you does not depend on you, it depends on the other fellow.”
Sanford Meisner, a founding member of America’s legendary Group Theatre of the 30’s, created a system of acting exercises that directly deal with
one of the biggest challenges for an actor,
namely the truthful behavior in imaginary circumstances.
The main key to achieve this goal is the displacement of the
attention outward, especially on to the partner to learn to react spontaneously, instinctively
and truthfully from moment to moment.
The scene and the character evolve from the interplay of reactions
and the acquired assets, to be truly in the moment.
To gain emotional freedom and a deep identification with the character, Sanford Meisner calls through its exercises to recognize and release personal limitations.
The basis of Meisner’s Technique is simple – the belief that the actor should act in real space, so that the viewer conversely can experience real events. Furthermore, everything builds on the principle that the largest theatrical expressiveness is created when the actor, from his own behavior, truly responds to the circumstances and the other people in the room.
“The foundation of acting is the reality of doing.”
Meisner had a problem with Stanislavsky’s system and its version, represented by Lee Strasberg, that neither set enough confidence in the ability of the actors to establish the reality of a scene simply by reacting to each other from moment to moment. Meisner’s approach was to ask complete attention of the actors to mutually and truly “read and respond to each other”.
Meisner trained the actors to follow their instinctive impulses to produce true behavioral responses at each instant. This also goes beyond pure improvisation, but also to convert the script and to develop specific characteristics of the character. He was convinced this would remove the old obstacle of actors that predetermines and “fixated” their acting through a series of physical actions and intentions through which they lose their real organic response to what actually happens in the room.
“You don’t have to play a character, it’s in the reality of doing it.”
In this way, Meisner revolutionized the acting, because it allowed the actors
to freshly create each performance within the constraints of text and production, simply by being present and experiencing it from moment to moment.
“Acting is living under imaginary circumstances”
This also meant a radical break with Stanislavski´s perspective because with Meisner there is no longer a distinction between actor and character,
nor between the world of the theater / cinema and the world of
the play. The fourth wall became an unnecessary concept, just as
“entering the role.” With Meisner there is only the interaction between
people in the room – “the reality of doing.”
“The text is a boat, and sits on the river. So you have to have the river, the
emotional life, FIRST, otherwise the boat won’t go anywhere.”
– Sanford Meisner –