We’ve all been in the middle of a performance when that dreaded voice pops up inside your head – ‘You’re not feeling this are you?’ or ‘Ooh that line was awful’ or ‘Here comes the key moment….nail it….nail it….Damn!’
The infamous 3RD EYE – when you’re evaluating and second guessing every nuance of your delivery in the middle of a scene – can be so damaging to an actor. So much focus during periods of preparation and rehearsal is placed on YOU – What am I feeling? How would I react to that? Would I say that? – that when it comes to actually performing the thing, all that intellectualisation can be crippling to your fluidity and instinct.
In 1933, after becoming disenfranchised with the METHOD, which he found to be a somewhat distressing and torturous approach, theatre practitioner SANFORD MEISNER created a new technique aimed at getting actors “out of their own heads”.
Over his lifetime, Meisner trained thousands of actors including:
Alec Baldwin, Steve McQueen, Grace Kelly, Diane Keaton, Robert Duvall, Jeff Goldblum, Alec Baldwin, Sandra Bullock, David Duchovny, James Franco, Michelle Pfeiffer….and many more.
The Actors Pad caught up with leading MEISNER teacher KATE MARAVAN to give us an overview of the technique and the power it has to unlock our potential.
I am an actress, writer and teacher and originally trained at RADA. In 1997 I met Scott Williams and discovered the Meisner Technique which was a life changing moment! I loved the Technique from the start and could feel an immediate release from being caught in my head and over intellectualising my acting process. I discovered a new found freedom, spontaneity and an ease with flow of expression and emotion. I embarked on an ongoing practice and exploration of the work and began teaching the Technique in 2000. I now teach in the UK and internationally. Meisner Technique has become instrumental in my acting work and it is equally effective in theatre, tv and film.
With my teaching firmly rooted in and focused on the Meisner Technique, I have also been inspired by my explorations into the work of Gabrielle Roth’s 5 Rhythms Dance; Phillipe Gaulier, Kath Burlinson, Authentic Artist Collective; Paul Oertel, Discipline of Freedom; Paula Shaw, The Max and others, to widen and continuously develop my approach.
The key Meisner exercise is called Repetition. It teaches participants to take the attention off themselves and put it on to their partners’ behaviour, allowing it to affect them and cause a spontaneous and authentic response. It encourages a moment to moment capacity to listen/observe and respond with an emphasis on staying firmly rooted in the present.
Repetition encourages us to put our acting/daily habits aside . We explore how to challenge our habitual ways of seeing and responding in order to discover what lies behind our armour and open up all that is available to us.
“In this exercise, two actors sit across from each other and respond to each other through a repeated phrase. The phrase is about each other’s behavior, and reflects what is going on between them in the moment, such as “You look unhappy with me right now.” The way this phrase is said as it is repeated changes in meaning, tone and intensity to correspond with the behavior that each actor produces towards the other. Through this device, the actor stops thinking of what to say and do, and responds more freely and spontaneously, both physically and vocally.The exercise also eliminates line readings, since the way the actor speaks becomes coordinated with his behavioral response.”
I have been increasingly incorporating my own exploration of movement into my classes. The more embodied the actor, the easier it is to be present. Being embodied enables us to listen fully to ourselves and the other and to enter a state of flow in which spontaneous impulse and responsivity in the moment are unencumbered.
If I was to sum up what Meisner Technique is about to me is how to be fully ALIVE, EXPRESSED and PRESENT moment to moment.
I have therefore named my practice, acting, writing and teaching, Present Performance
Kate runs weekly drop in classes at the Actors Centre and at her own practice in Exmouth Market and regularly offers workshops on how to apply the REPETITION to working with text/scripts.
To find out more visit Kate’s website at www.katemaravan.com