Meisner Technique Review

Meisner Technique Review

From Mirror Up To Nature

by Tee Quillin

“Anyone looking for a little theatre education would do well to buy the new 8 hour dvd of Sandy Meisner teaching a master class in 1980…”

My Advice: Go buy it right now.

Meisner Technique Review: The name Sanford Meisner has become iconic in the world of Acting. He co-founded the Group Theatre in 1931 along with other theatrical heavyweights as Stella Adler and Lee Strasberg. The Group Theatre was established, in part, to bring the teachings of Stanislavsky’s “Method” of Acting Training to America. Not long after the Group was founded, Meisner branched off and began work on his own acting technique and history was made. His list of celebrity alumni reads like a Who’s Who of Hollywood.  Thankfully, in 1980, a group of his alumni got together to record his teachings for posterity. They simply could not allow Mr. Meisner to pass away without capturing his method and teaching style on video.  This DVD represents the first time this video recording has been made available to the general public. It consists of nearly 8 hours of training with Meisner and a small group of students in one of his classes across two DVDs and it is nothing short of magic.

The viewer should be aware however, that the audio and video quality is not up to today’s standards. To make matters worse, Mr. Meisner himself is shown here after having gone through three surgeries to circumvent cancer and after having to re-teach himself how to speak. The beauty of this is that he becomes a living representation of one of his own maxims: “An ounce of behavior is worth a pound of words.” Still, without the provided subtitles, he would be nearly unintelligible on this recording. Adapting your ears to Mr. Meisner does not take long and you quickly understand that it’s well worth the effort.

In order to facilitate this training for the viewer, the original recording of 1980 contains commentary with Martin Barter (Artistic Director of the Meisner Center and acting instructor). Anywhere it’s needed, Mr. Barter interjects his comments and explanations of Mr. Meisner’s theories and exercises. This commentary is invaluable. There are no “special features” on this two-disc set. Normally, that would be a huge sticking point for me. I’m a sucker for good bonus material on DVDs. However, on this set, not one ounce of the space of the DVDs is wasted. The primary content is all that matters in this set. The mere fact that these lessons have been captured is paramount to any other material that could have been added. Really, what bonus material would be worthy of this DVD?

Anyone looking for a little theatre education would do well to buy the new 8-hour DVD of Sandy Meisner teaching a master class in 1980 and the book on directing

Sandy’s use of repetition is so undogmatic and practical as to make it a whole new exercise. What is great about the DVD is it is edited to show real tedious boring detailed NECESSARY moment by- moment scene work and shows the viewer the process.

Any actor can learn so much from this work. It is a gem. Sandy’s practical use of so much that is only intellectualized about acting will be an eye-opener for many. He knows how to do it.

No book can come close to detailing direction — certainly not the preferred college texts — yuck — but this one is the best at describing the how’s and why’s of the process in a real-world setting.