The Meisner Technique
“The foundation of acting is the reality of doing”
Sanford Meisner was a founding member of the famous theater collective of the 1930’s, The Group Theater. During his time spent there training as an actor, Meisner was exposed to the teachings of Russian theater practitioner Constantin Stanislavski. When asked to head the acting program at The Neighborhood Playhouse in 1935, where he remained for almost 50 years, Meisner began to take what he learned from his time with The Group Theater, along with the discoveries of Stanislavski, and develop what is now known as The Meisner Technique.
Meisner founded his technique on the principle that acting is “the ability to live truthfully under imaginary circumstances.” Not prescribing to the actor training where the student must delve in to their past memories in order to fulfill a role, Meisner believed the actor’s imagination was to be trained in order to fulfill the demands of the script’s imaginary circumstances. Through improvisations known as The Repetition Exercise, Meinser honed the actor’s instrument to respond truthfully to everything that was happening to them. Listening was paramount in his technique, allowing the actor to expose their spontaneous, truthful responses to their partner and environment.
Meisner believed “the foundation of acting is the reality of doing.” When the actor is really doing, it is only then their unique talents are exposed. A moment-to-moment reality is created, allowing the actor’s impulses to ride freely on the text.