Sanford Meisner has developed a coherent set of exercises that develop the active listening of the actor and release his spontaneity, giving him access to an organic game more real than real.
The AZOT studio is one of the few in France to approach the entire Meisner Method and its formation.
SANFORD MEISNER (AUGUST 31, 1905 - FEBRUARY 2, 1997)
Sanford Meisner is an American actor and theater teacher who has developed a method of interpretation known today as the "Meisner technique". He was, along with Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler, one of the most important twentieth-century teachers of acting technique, after Constantin Stanislavski.
Sanford Meisner decides to chart his own route after the explosion of the "Studio Group" of which he was a member with Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler. He considered that the techniques of the Actors Studio, taught by Lee Strasberg, were not suitable for actors who were already very introverted by nature and that they needed exercises to allow them to be less in control, less on themselves. Lee Strasberg pushed to the extreme sensory and emotional recall techniques based on the early work of Constantin Stanislavsky, which himself had abandoned at the end of his research, judging these exercises dangerous and can lead actors to the hysteria. For example, at Neighborhood Playhouse School in New York, Sanford Meisner developed many exercises that took account the evolution of Stanislavski's work and inspired by concepts of psychology, intended to increase the actor's ability to be authentic and connected to his partner.
Sanford Meisner, having practiced the piano, considered that in the manner of a pianist, the actor, before playing, had to make his scales to refine his dexterity. He has thus constructed his method as a set of scales in order to make the actor work on all the necessary aspects so that he can "living for real in imaginary circumstances".
THE MEISNER TECHNIQUE
The goal of the Meisner technique is to "get the comedian out of his mind", so that he reacts instinctively to his environment.
The majority of these exercises build on its basic exercise, the "mechanical repetition", which consists in mechanically repeating the observations on the behavior of its gaming partner. This exercise is inspired by "active listening", a concept resulting from the psychology at the base of several methods of psychotherapy (Gestalt therapy, etc ...).
Meisner's approach includes :
independent activities / improvisation
points of view
improvisation on text
All of these exercises form a complete method of acting that addresses all aspects of drama. It allows, among other things, the actor to no longer be focused on the text to leave room for behavior and emotions that are "below".
Learning this technique requires a real desire of the actors. All of these exercises call for an important work on the defense mechanisms that make us avoid what is happening in the present moment. Indeed, when the actors feel at home or at their partner emotions, impulses or a certain dynamic that they haven’t learned to manage, following an impossibility in their personal experience to manage it, they enter a defense mechanism (attack, flight, sideration). Much of the training consists of removing these mechanisms to allow the actor to let go and to allow himself to express his emotions and impulses without judging himself.
The training provided by Sanford Meisner at the Neighbouhourd Playhouse lasted two years.
Many actors were invited to leave the training well before the end of the course, if Sanford Meisner considered that they were not ready to have the authenticity necessary to benefit from his technique of play, asking a great sincerity towards oneself - even a commitment that few are ready to make, and that they would have more success elsewhere.
Actors who had finished the course could, possibly, continue on a third year, to address the advanced game techniques. And after that continue for another two years if they wanted to acquire pedagogical techniques and teach the technique.
But very few people have been introduced to pedagogical techniques. Sanford Meisner would have even refused to teach them to Stella Adler, despite the fact that they were friends, because he didn’t considered her free enough of her ego and was afraid that these techniques would be harmful if they were misused.
Unfortunately, few trainers master these techniques and now teach the Meisner method consistently. Many people who have taken only the first two years of training and not the five years required to teach the Meisner technique feel they can learn this method of such radical efficiency (when it is well taught).
This gives at best a superficial approach to the method, which therefore only functions intermittently, giving from time to time, to the sandstone of chance, very strong moments in the midst of moments when not much happens. A teacher who has not been trained in pedagogical techniques will give classical explanations to actors like "you were not in, etc ..." without being able to provide the missing keys to understand why the actor decided to "cut off" of his partner, in what defense mechanisms he entered, how to get out and reconnect.
In the worst case, it gives the actors frustrating and dangerous experiences, such as some professors authorizing physical violence or trying to provoke violent or insulting remarks that would not have any relation to the current situation, simply to provoke strong and impressive images. Such practices completely miss the objectives of the method, supposed to express the impulses but in ways sufficiently secure to be used on stage, and may even disgust some actors who come to hate this technique or estimate that it is not not made for them.
Among the thousands of students at this school, famous actors like Elizabeth Ashley, Barbara Baxley, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Lee Grant, Lorne Greene, Tammy Grimes, Anne Jackson, Diane Keaton, Lasser Louise, Darren McGavin, Steve McQueen, Gregory Peck, Tony Randall, Jo Van Fleet, Jon Voight, Eli Wallach and Joanne Woodward completed their classes.