For the past few months, I have had the honor and privilege to attend a true, rigorous acting school. Being an out-of-state student (Chicago Pride all the way!) New York has given me a breath of fresh air and this school has given me a new outlook on acting. I'll never forget my first day of acting class: there I am clad In all black ready to take on whatever challenge I'm faced and ready to perform! Ideas running through my mind, scenes playing in my head! This was it!
Only thing was, that isn't what happened. Not at all. I didn't even get my first scene until at least five weeks in. What did happen was even better.
The first day of class my teacher told me to do an action without thinking. I immediately started thinking. I use my brain constantly so to do something without thinking but knowing I had to do something without thinking made my mind go into overdrive. It was then that we started to learn the Meisner Technique.
Sanford Meisner was an American actor who created a new outlook on acting. It was designed to get the actor out of their head and focus on the things around them mainly their scene partner or partners. And this was the start of something new for me.
In high school for me, it was never about what was around us, it was all about the character, the character, the character and how we presented the character. It was all about the idea and not what was there.
The first semester of the academy was peeling back the layers of ideas and revealing me. We did so much repetition. An exercise where you and your partner take in each other and bring up everything and I mean EVERYTHING you notice and say it out loud.
At the end of the day, it was me and what I noticed and how I took it in based off of my partner. It was completely different than what I was used to. But it was all for my benefit. The new slow way was something my mind had needed. In the past, my mind would be jumbled with lines of the script always worrying which line came next and how I was going to say it. I was caught up in the idea of how a line should be said and not what was actually happening around me.
When I got my very first scene and I was sitting in the chair taking cues from my scene partner (who was amazing!) I realized that we were doing repetition just with words that the playwright had given us. That's when it hit me that this Meisner Technique wasn't going anywhere.
But as time went on, I realized the things that were going on around me were just as important if not even more important than the words I was saying. Because at the end of the day actions speak louder than words.
My advice to any beginning actor or actress is to take a class on Meisner technique because it will free you up to more choices. Even though my first year of college is almost over my Meisner journey has just begun!