Sanford Meisner

August 31, 1905 - February 2, 1997

Sanford "Sandy" Meisner taught acting for over 60 years. He was one of the original members of the legendary Group Theatre. He continually innovated in his classroom as he searched for the most simple, direct and effective way to train each individual actor the difficult craft of acting. For a fuller understanding of Meisner's life, read the book, De Tree A We, written by Jimmy Carville and Scott Trost.

To order a copy of De Tree A We, click here.

Why Study the Meisner Approach

Top 6 Reasons Why You Should Learn the Meisner Approach

1) PROVEN SUCCESS FOR 80 YEARS - Meisner taught acting for 60 years. His students achieved remarkable success, winning scores of awards, including 37 nominations for Oscars. Meisner personally trained 20 teachers to carry on his approach and this group has mentored a second generation of acting teachers. Twenty years after his passing, Sanford Meisner's name is used by teachers around the world to describe their approach to teaching actors and directors. 


2) STEP BY STEP APPROACH - Meisner believed that acting should be taught like other artistic disciplines - one step at a time. This approach came from his training as a concert pianist. Other techniques have no clear steps or direction and they too quickly overwhelm the actor with advanced scenes. Meisner developed a series of exercises that helped his students build a solid foundation of acting skills and build the actors confidence as they master each step in the training.

3) TRUTHFUL ACTING - Meisner agreed with Stanislavski that the best acting must be based in truth. His students learned how to "really do" whatever they were doing on stage. Emotions were never pushed out or faked. Meisner taught his students to trust their humanity. If the actors believed in the imaginary circumstances and really did what they were doing in the imaginary circumstances, then the proper emotions would follow. Every exercise that Meisner developed reinforces and strengthens an actor's truthfulness.

4) THE OTHER PERSON - Meisner developed a series of exercises that helped the actor focus their attention on and make use of the other person in the scene. Meisner believed that the most truthful and spontaneous acting happened when the actor was responding to the other person from one unanticipated moment to the next. The actor became the feather and his scene partner became the wind. In Meisner's approach, the other person became the most important person on the stage.  

5) SIMPLICITY - Meisner always looked for the simpliest and most direct way to learn acting. This approach helped spark the actor's imagination and open the actor's heart. Any exercise or approach that was too complex or contained too many details shut down the imagination and closed the heart.  This concept of simplicity and directness has continued to be one of the biggest differences between Meisner's approach and other approaches to acting.

5) INDIVIDUAL APPROACH - Meisner believed that each student had their own unique path to learning the art of acting. He always followed the same principles but would tailor his comments and exercises to suit the needs of each student from one class to the next.




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