Meisner technique

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The Meisner technique is an approach to acting which was developed by the American theatre practitioner Sanford Meisner.[1]

The focus of the Meisner approach is for the actor to "get out of their head", such that the actor is behaving instinctively to the surrounding environment. To this end, some exercises for the Meisner technique are rooted in repetition so that the words are deemed insignificant compared to the underlying emotion. In the Meisner technique, there is a greater focus on the other actor as opposed to one's internal thoughts or feelings associated to the character. The Meisner technique is often confused with "method" acting taught by Lee Strasberg, since both developed from the early teachings of Konstantin Stanislavski.


Meisner training is an interdependent series of training exercises that build on one another. The more complex work supports a command of dramatic text. Students work on a series of progressively complex exercises to develop an ability to first improvise, then to access an emotional life, and finally to bring the spontaneity of improvisation and the richness of personal response to textual work[2]. The techniques developed the behavioral strand of Stanislavski's. The technique is used to develop improvisation skills as well as "interpreting a script, and creating the specific physical characteristics of each character the actor played".[3]

An example of a technique Meisner invented to train actors' responses is called the Repetition Exercise:

"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."[3]

About Meisner[edit]

"To be an interesting actor – hell, to be an interesting human being – you must be authentic and for you to be authentic you must embrace who you really are, warts and all. Do you have any idea how liberating it is to not care what people think about you? Well, that's what we're here to do." — Sanford Meisner[4]

Meisner developed this technique after working with Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler at the Group Theatre and while working as head of the acting program at New York City's Neighborhood Playhouse. He continued its refinement for fifty years.

"In 1935, Sanford Meisner, one of the founding members of The Group Theatre (along with Stella Adler, Bobby Lewis, Harold Clurman, and Lee Strasberg), joined the faculty of The Neighborhood Playhouse. Over the years, he developed and refined what is now known as the Meisner Technique, a step-by-step procedure of self-investigation for the actor now globally recognized and among the foremost of modern acting techniques."[5]

"Meisner believed that the study of the actor's craft was rooted in acquiring a solid organic acting technique. It was a cornerstone of his teaching that this learning process occur not in a theoretical, abstract manner, but in the practical give and take of the classroom, where as he once said, "the students struggled to learn what I struggled to teach." Through that struggle the gifted student, over time gradually begins to emerge solidly in his or her work."[5]

In 1980, a group of his alumni got together to preserve his teachings for future generations. Sydney Pollack directed a master class taught by Sanford Meisner. It was transferred to digital film in 2006. The Sanford Meisner Master Class is the only video record of Meisner himself teaching students.[citation needed]


The William Esper Studio was founded in 1965 as a school for the performing arts in Manhattan, New York. The school is considered an internationally recognized authority on the acting technique of Sanford Meisner.[6] Its founder, William "Bill" Esper (1932—), is often referred to as the best-known of Meisner's first generation teachers, and his most "authentic protege".[7]

Taylor Acting Studio (formerly called The Sanford Meisner Studio) in Burbank, California, is the only school that still works with the Meisner Estate and the only school that still teaches at Sanford Meisner's home in the Caribbean on the island of Bequia. Taylor Acting Studio has been Awarded Best Acting School in Los Angeles by Backstage magazine every year since 2010. [8]

Since 1987, Robert Carnegie of Playhouse West in North Hollywood, CA, who was trained by Meisner, continues to train and develop the future generations of Meisner actors at his studio.[9]

Joanne Baron is known for her dedication to the work of Sanford Meisner and is a teacher of the Meisner Technique.[10] She owns the Baron Brown Studio and trained with Neighborhood Playhouse alumnus and master Meisner teacher William Esper, who founded the MFA and BFA Professional Actor Training Programs at Rutgers University.[6]

The Sanford Meisner Center, headed by Martin Barter, was the last school that Sanford Meisner worked with until his death in 1997.[11] Martin Barter oversees the teaching of the final version of Meisner's technique[12] both in Seattle, Washington and Burbank, California.

The Meisner Technique Studio in San Francisco, California was founded by Jim Jarrett, who was given Sanford Meisner's blessing to teach The Meisner Technique. [9] [13]

List of Meisner-trained actors[edit]

Actors who have trained in the Meisner technique include:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Foster, Hirsch (2000). Actors and Acting (Hardcover ed.). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521669597. Retrieved 17 September 2015.
  2. ^ "Compagnie AZOT - Méthode Meisner". (in French). Retrieved 2018-11-28.
  3. ^ a b "About the Meisner Acting Technique". Robert Epstein's Acting Studio. Retrieved September 18, 2015.
  4. ^ Jarrett, Jim. "The Meisner Technique". Meisner Technique Studio. Archived from the original on 27 September 2015. Retrieved 13 February 2019.
  5. ^ a b "About Us". Neighborhood Playhouse. Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre. Retrieved 18 September 2015.
  6. ^ a b "About William Esper". The William Esper Studio. Retrieved 19 September 2015.
  7. ^ "The Actor's Art and Craft (review)" (PDF). Project Muse. The Johns Hopkins University Press. Retrieved 18 September 2015.
  8. ^ Smart, Jack. "Readers' Choice L.A.: Alex Taylor on Meisner, Authenticity, and Believing in Yourself". Backstage. Backstage LLC. Retrieved 12 February 2016.
  9. ^ a b Playhouse West Retrieved February 13, 2019. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  10. ^ Schiffman, J. (2010-7-15): Hey Teach, Backstage. Retrieved 2010-9-25.
  11. ^ "Obituaries". Retrieved 2016-05-20.
  12. ^ McCULLOH, T. H. (1996-05-30). "Sanford Meisner Center Adopts 'Think-Tank' Role". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2016-05-20.
  13. ^ The Meisner Technique Studio Retrieved February 13, 2019. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  14. ^ Wallace, Chris (June 2014). "Alexandra Daddario". Interview. Retrieved March 3, 2015.
  15. ^ "Between Takes at CBS - Amanda Setton". CBS. Retrieved 2013-10-29.
  16. ^ "Amy Schumer Biography". TV Guide. Retrieved 2014-04-15.
  17. ^ Christoph Waltz - Dill Pickle. YouTube. Event occurs at[time needed]. Retrieved 2013-08-19.
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i
  19. ^
  20. ^ Itzkoff, Dave (19 June 2013). "James Gandolfini Is Dead at 51; a Complex Mob Boss in 'Sopranos'". The New York Times. p. 2. Retrieved 19 June 2013."Mr. Gandolfini, who had studied the Meisner technique of acting for two years, said that he used it to focus his anger and incorporate it into his performances."
  21. ^
  22. ^ Urban, Karl. "Actor Biography" (PDF). Johnson & Laird. Retrieved 17 September 2015.
  23. ^ "Gilmore Guys: A Gilmore Girls Podcast - Gilmore Gabs - Keiko Agena".
  24. ^ "Keiko Agena". Buddy TV. Buddy TV. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  25. ^ Resume: Pitillo, Maria - Innovative Artists
  26. ^ "How Did This Get Made? - Origin Stories Bonus: Michael Paré".
  27. ^ "Actorium - Meet Us". Actorium. Retrieved 31 May 2016.
  28. ^ Elise Bauman / Natasha Negovanlis - 'Heard Well' radio interview. YouTube. Event occurs at[time needed]. Retrieved 28 November 2017.
  29. ^ "Nestor Carbonell Quotes". Retrieved October 23, 2016.
  30. ^ "Sandra Peabody - Acting, TV/Film". Lakewood Center of the Arts. Retrieved June 18, 2016.
  31. ^ "Top Acting Classes NYC • Rutgers University". Retrieved 19 October 2017.
  32. ^ Stephen Colbert shmoozes about family deaths. YouTube. Event occurs at[time needed]. Retrieved 2013-08-19.
  33. ^ "Conversations with Tatiana Maslany of ORPHAN BLACK". YouTube. Retrieved 2014-05-11.
  34. ^ Wheaton, Wil. "in which i remember to keep it simple". Wil Wheaton dot Net. Retrieved 17 September 2015.


  • Banham, Martin, ed. 1998. The Cambridge Guide to Theatre. Cambridge: Cambridge UP. ISBN 0-521-43437-8.
  • Courtney, C. C. 2000. "The Neighborhood Playhouse." In Krasner (2000b, 291-295).
  • Hirsch, Foster. 2000. "Actors and Acting." In Wilmeth and Bigsby (2000, 490-513).
  • Hodge, Alison, ed. 2000. Twentieth Century Actor Training. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-19452-0.
  • Kraner, David. 2000a. "Strasberg, Adler and Meisner: Method Acting." In Hodge (2000, 129-150).
  • ---, ed. 2000b. Method Acting Reconsidered: Theory, Practice, Future. New York: St. Martin's P. ISBN 978-0-312-22309-0.
  • Longwell, Dennis, and Sanford Meisner. 1987. Sanford Meisner on Acting. New York: Random House. ISBN 978-0-394-75059-0.
  • Postlewait, Thomas. 1998. "Meisner, Sanford." In Banham (1998, 719).
  • Silverberg, Larry. 1994. The Sanford Meisner Approach: An Actor's Workbook. Workbook One. New Hampshire: Smith and Kraus. ISBN 978-1-880399-77-4.
  • Wilmeth, Don B, and Christopher Bigsby, eds. 2000. The Cambridge History of American Theatre. Vol 3. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge UP. ISBN 978-0-521-66959-7.

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