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Reading Sanford Meisner On Acting

Another student in my Meisner class told me he’s been reading this book and it’s helped him out a lot. I started reading it yesterday and it’s already been very helpful. The first thing I’ve noticed is that our class went much faster than Meisner did with his classes. After two weeks, we were where he was in over a month.

Moreover, it seems he was a little less strict with his repetition exercise than our instructor has been. This is true for a few aspects of the exercise. First, our instructor seems to want us to keep repeating each line for quite a while. I know there’s a fine line between flowing in repetition and doing a scene, but I always felt like we were closer to repetition than doing a scene while our instructor seemed to feel the opposite. I’m not saying I think she was wrong, just that we were more right than we thought. Also, one thing Meisner seems to emphasize is that we not say anything until we feel we need to say it, until our partner does something that makes us want to speak. This has been something I’ve felt is necessary and yet I’ve felt our instructor pushing us to answer quickly and passionately… problem is I often don’t feel like answering right away and the passion isn’t there.

Overall, I think the book is giving me more of a perspective on what Meisner intended with his technique. I have been gleaning little bits from my class, but I’ve also felt sort of helpless and lost for a good portion of it. This book is filling in the gaps and answering lots of questions. Before our final session, I intend to read and re-read the first few chapters of the book since they cover what we’ve done in class. Hopefully, I’ll understand it better and perform better for our last session.

One thing I’m seeing more and more is that I have to get out of my head with this exercise. It’s frustrating because we moved so quickly into adding levels of complexity to the exercise that I almost have to stay in my head in order to just keep afloat. What I mean is that we have several levels to each exercise: my activity, my expectation of who’s coming to the door, my interpretation of the knock at the door and finally the need of the person on the other side of the door. We take all this into account and then do the repetition exercise. Problem is I never became totally comfortable with the raw exercise itself: two people repeating a line.

Anyway, I think I’m learning a lot, especially now that I’m supplementing the class with the book. Hopefully I’ll be better prepared by the time we meet again and I’ll do better work.

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