Meisner's sin. (*updated )

I care more about acting than I do about any specific technique. I care more about the individual actor than any legacy or being a purist.

People say Meisner is the only teacher they know that gave the actor an “out” by letting them use whatever works for them, they were allowed to use anything that would get them into the required emotional state, but that is not entirely true.

Usually, this innuendo is directed toward Lee Strasberg, but Lee was the one that first said, do whatever it takes. he didn’t care; you could pull a hair out of your thigh if you had to; you Just get where you need to be.

Instead, it is a sensorial experience, under imaginary circumstances, infused with a kernel of truth (strong personal meaning) that “might” lead you towards an emotion.

I am in the NOW…AND…Suddenly my phone rings (auditory) I pick up my phone I see my wifes name on it (visual) “what does she want?” I think “she is back home at this hour-did I forget something”, I slide my hand on the phone to accept the call “what?” (dialogue) I can hear her voice it is different she takes shallow breaths and she holds them just to spell out a few words…”what is it babe…?” “she…” “she ate something she is on the floor…”, “who ? Who is on the floor?” now I feel my blood rising, my hands are Sweaty, my phone feels heavy (touch)…”i think she is not breathing”… you see where I am going with this right?

Are there external exercises that can actually help you and me as a teacher? yes! but the purists will just dismiss them as exactly that “impurities”

Is this the way?

is there something missing?

Sense memory exercises

(it’s been said that if you say the word “ego” three times in a row in front of the mirror, all the great teachers of acting will appear before your eyes)


Memory is the mother of all muses.



"I was trained in Meisner, too, and most students will admit they work consciously off personal experience to make daydreaming work. Duvall even confronted Meisner's teachers with that fact.

Meisner himself said he’d teach sense memory if he had students longer as there was nothing wrong with it as it brings something real to life.

If you read him closely, he is dancing around the broad true definition of affective memory (sense and emotional memory) all over the place and his use of the Group's technique of "particularization" uses personal references directly (a Lee term/process).

Sadly, Meisner was too influenced by his Freudian therapy, reducing everything emotional to ambition (aggression) and sexual motivation. Strasberg rejected Freud's reductive analysis of the unconscious while accepting the basic notion of an unconscious. He was far more influenced by the behaviourist school like the Russians and followed the emerging neuroscience in his later years. Meisner was himself defined by anger and sex. He was a furious man dealing with a rejection of his sexuality for most of his adult life.

Naturally, Freud's reductive notions of human motivation fit him perfectly. Those formative emotional memories were boiling in him, so a Stanislavskian/Vakhtangov "as if" (all daydreaming is) of the present tense, active, analogous, fully imagined as happening circumstances easily dipped into Meisner's subconscious affective memory (sense and emotional memory) for its always necessary living emotional roots. Just another more indirect way to tap affective memory (sense and emotional memory).

Maybe Meisner couldn't quite grasp this, or maybe he did and played semantics. He, like all of them, only means the emotional memory exercise when he says affective memory, so maybe he never grasped the big physiological picture.

His tools work, but their biological explanations are either incomplete or wrong. Sadly, his students were not in the Group, so they do not have Meisner's unstated breadth of influence. Also, Meisner's structuring of improvisations as the steps in actor training essentially mirrors Lee's rehearsal process in the Group, something no one realizes.

Repetition is a late add-on for Meisner, only starting in 1958–1959 (I've read the original experiments with it at Fox Studio in the late '50s). But the improvisation steps in his training long pre-date Repetition.

Stay well."



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