Introduction to the Meisner Technique
A six week course with Jim Maxwell
Wednesdays and Sundays
November 3rd - December 19th.
Classes will be Wednesday evenings 5:30PM - 7:30PM and Sunday afternoons, 1:30PM - 3:30PM, at the Hooker-Dunham Theater and Gallery.
The first class on November 3 will be an intro and overview at no cost. The tuition for the remaining classes will be $25.00 per class, $275 total.
INTRODUCTION TO THE MEISNER TECHNIQUE
Dear Acting Student,
The hugely influential acting teacher Sanford Meisner taught that acting is truthful behavior under imaginary circumstances. After all, everything in theater is fictional: costume, scenery, plot, words—these are all fiction, all circumstantial. The actor brings the one true thing, which is behavior. The refinement of that definition is that truthful behavior emerges from truthful doing, really doing something to achieve an objective:
The most important single element to me in Stanislavski, as also in Sudakov and Rappaport, is the reality of doing. An actor whose craft is securely rooted in the ability to live truthfully, which infers to do truthfully, under the imaginary circumstances of the play can perform in any style. In no sense is the Stanislavski trained actor limited to naturalism.
--Sanford Meisner, The Tulane Drama Review, Vol. 9, No. 1 (Autumn,1964), p. 155; Published by: The MIT Press, Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1124785; accessed: 01/11/2011 21:11
This is the essential insight that Meisner, himself influenced by the great Russian acting teacher and director Constantin Stanislavski, developed into a training program at New York's Neighborhood Playhouse. I am trained in the Meisner technique as it came to me from the brilliant teachers Richard Edelman and Manuel Duque, both of them assistants to Meisner in the early years at the Playhouse.
The classes are designed as an introduction to certain basic questions. All acting classes are in a sense introductions because they are preparatory, they are not performance itself. So we introduce the basic questions and see if we can make progress in answering them: What does it mean to really do something under imaginary circumstances? What's a doing? What are imaginary circumstances? How are these things useful or useable for the actor? How do I prepare myself for the work in front me as an actor, which is to say, how do I put myself into action? Where do I put my attention and where do I get my energy?
The advantage of asking and attempting to answer these questions is that they are generic to the craft, not to particular types of plays or styles of acting. In fact, we do not work on character, movement, voice, important as these and other skills are in the actor's complete training. We focus on finding and experiencing your unadorned self in action, unburdened by text or the accoutrements of production, and to that end we work on a series of exercises and action problems, initially working solo and eventually with another person.
I approach this knowing that 12 classes in 6 weeks is barely a toe in the water; yet for beginners and experienced actors alike there is great value in beginnings, continual beginnings in the acquisition of craft. I also believe that to work in the acting studio is to recognize the many ways we are in relationship with others—in conflict, in harmony, in a thousand different ways. I quote Frances McDormand, who says it best: "I'm not an actor because I want my picture taken. I'm an actor because I want to be part of the human exchange."
Jim returns to his home ground, acting and teaching. From country disc jockey in Lansing, Michigan while getting an undergraduate degree in radio and television from Michigan State, doing some acting in the theater department, he went on to an MFA in acting at Penn State, where he had the good fortune to train with two brilliant teachers, Richard Edelman and Manuel Duque, both of whom were assistants to Sanford Meisner in the early days of Meisner's highly influential work with actors at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York. While headquartered in New York in the following years, Jim traveled to regional theaters around the country and continued classes with Richard, Manuel, and with Michael Shurtleff. Favorite roles include Treplev in The Sea Gull, Horatio in Hamlet, Bluntschli in Arms & The Man, Tom in The Glass Menagerie, Austin in True West, and Marlowe in She Stoops To Conquer. For livelihood and family, also for the challenge of it, Jim went to
Meet the Instructor!
Vermont Law School. He clerked for Justice Ernest W. Gibson III at the Vermont Supreme Court, served as deputy state's attorney for Windham County and stayed with the law in private practice. Through these years he has continued teaching whenever possible, locally and teaming with Richard Edelman for workshops in New York and California. In the past few summers he has played the Father in Sarah Ruhl's Eurydice, various roles in Mother Courage, and Tartuffe, all directed by Karla Baldwin for Apron Theater at Next Stage in Putney. He appears as Bill Blakely in Bryan Santiago's short film Grafton, gold award winner for Best TV Pilot at the International New York Film Festival for 2021.