DeBlogs > Tyler Esselman > winter-quarter-with-sanford-meisner

Winter quarter with Sanford Meisner

The fourth year of the BFA Acting program here at The Theatre School is largely an exit year. We take classes like audition technique, acting for the camera, and voice over to help prepare us for the realities of being a working actor in Chicago or elsewhere. Important stuff like how to format headshots and resumes, and how to interface with agents and casting directors is covered. All of this in addition to some more acting technique. One of the pure acting technique classes this quarter is Advanced Meisner and it is a fascinating course.

Many of you have probably heard, at least in passing, of actors using Meisner technique. It is a study of the teachings of a man named Sanford Meisner. The idea, as with most acting training, is to help the actor personalize text to a high degree and be able to fully exist with his or her scene partner in the moment. The training starts with what is known as “repeating”. This is where two actors will sit across from one another, observe each other, and state what they see. For instance, I may say to my partner “You have a blue shirt.” And then he or she would repeat, “I have a blue shirt” and I would say my statement again until one of us made another statement. Eventually, the goal is to be able to make statements about what your partner is doing or feeling and the partner can agree or disagree with them and make observations about you. 

It is an excellent tool by which to drop in to meaningful presence with your partner. Another aspect of the training is personalization and emotional preparation. This uses the given text of a play and helps the actor make it mean something very deeply to him or her in preparation for a scene. Ideally, this preparation takes the actor to a vulnerable place in some way and then when they enter the scene, they do not have to consciously think about it. It will be there in them and they can be fully present with their partner and the circumstances of the text. 

The emotional prep stuff can be scary. It leads to some very strong reactions during the training but, as far I have seen, can also lead to some decidedly truthful and vulnerable work if handled in the correct way. We’ve only had one class so far but I’m looking forward to diving deeper into this training. It’s a great class to have at this stage of my training.

Tyler’s Hot Track of the Week:
I’ve been feeling sentimental this week and Marvin Gaye always has a way of encapsulating what I am feeling or what I want to feel. Here’s the real jam for the week.