Sanford Meisner’s Approach to Acting
What is Meisner Training anyway?
That takes quite some time to answer, and we're happy to discuss that in your interview. In short, Meisner has nothing to do with sense memory or other aspects of "the Method" although it too is based on Stanislavski's theories about acting. It has to do with taking on the imaginary circumstances in such a way that you are not pretending to be a character or trying to imitate natural life but actually living under the imaginary circumstances of the script in a truthful and emotionally honest way. It emphasizes instinct over intellect, and, while you will learn to work within a director's concept, you won't spend as much time talking about the acting as actually doing it.
We refer you to Sanford Meisner's book On Acting or the history of The Group Theater as related by Harold Clurman in his book The Fervent Years as the best sources to learn more about the work.
"Oh, I did some Meisner before!" (Are you sure?)
Over the past twenty years, Meisner acting training has become the most sought after acting technique in the country -- probably in the world. To those of us who have been teaching the work for decades, it's no surprise. Meisner has stood the test of time and continues to be the most relevant and important training an actor can receive -- especially for actors seeking on-camera careers. The problem is that now many teachers claims to teach Meisner -- many without ever having completed the training themselves and almost all without having been asked to sit with a master teacher to learn how to teach it. So beware -- if you're not studying with a master, you could be getting training that isn't even Meisner.
No matter where you have studied Meisne before, you're sure to be surprised at how high Wendy raises the bar and how much more there is to the technique than you originally thought. Frankly, you'll realize you really haven't studied Meisner until you've studied with her.
Thoughts from Some of Our Working Graduates
“More independent film directors need to think about acting and think about how they’re directing actors, because they’re so involved in the writing and technical issues that they are not putting thought into their relationships with their actors. I think nine months of Meisner training was time very well spent! I’d be happy to roll up my sleeves and get dirty and do it again, to develop the habit of really showing up and bringing my A game every class. —Julia Halperin, Director La Barracuda, Now Foyager
"Appreciate the time you have in the training to turn over and unearth and explore every facet of yourself that can be brought into the training. It's not something to just pass through and at the other side you get a certificate that says you're a great actor -- it's the actual experience in the room. It's going to be over, and you're going to need it. So use it when you have it... and take notes!" —Clayton Dean Smith, Director Off Track Betty
"Whenever things are going hard or I want to make a decision, I always think back to my time at the Ward Studio because...I found a way to make it happen, to do the whole program. I think it's really important for the rest of your career. It gives you really great tools as an actor but also as a director. The lessons I learned from Meisner -- committing to every project, to be genuine, to be truthful -- it's important just for working with people wherever you are in your life." —Merel Smitt, The Netherlands
"Because I have the strong foundation of the Meisner technique, I just know every second, nothing can happen to me. Whatever people throw at me... I just know what I'm capable of. I can adapt. I'm not the kind of actor who says, 'Well, but I don't feel it right now.' The foundation I got in the craft is really, really good. You just have to learn to work with other people. If you're professional and you put in hard work, people will work with you over and over again." —Torben Karstens, Germany
"Meisner helps you maintain your self-respect. Don’t get distracted by other actors and how they have trained. You’re always going to come across actors who are incredibly self-conscious. Meisner helps you let go of that kind of thinking. It stops you from being judgmental. You learn quickly what a leveler the Meisner Approach is. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from. You can be someone who has been doing professional film work for twenty years and be in class with someone who has never done acting work. You’ll go through the same course and you’ll find out very quickly how very equal we all are and never know from one class to the next who’s going to have one of those days where everything works and everything falls into place or who’s going to have one of those days that nothing is working no matter how much experience you’ve had." —Petra Glieson, Melbourne, Australia
"I actually get about a minute or two minutes to look at the script before I start. It has to be genuine. What I learned from my Meisner training is specificity and reality of doing. You may not think you can do that in a recording booth but I know that one of the reasons that I am as successful as I am is I know how to do that quickly! Once you are confident in your skills... and your training is strong and your instincts are good, the only way you learn how to handle it [the industry] is by doing it." —Cathy McGraw, Voice Over Actress New York City