given circumstances, the beginning, middle and end of an action, and the size of actions. Sanford Meisner Meisner, like Stanislavsky, Lewis and Adler, felt that action is the heart of an actor’s work. Meisner’s definition of acting implies the need for action: “Acting is living truthfully under imaginary circumstances” (Silverberg, Meisner Approach 9). The meaning for Meisner is that the actor should live truthfully in the imaginary given circumstances of the play, focusing on living through the character’s actions. In his practical work with actors, however, Meisner approached action differently from his colleagues by using what he termed the repetition exercise as a springboard for inner action. Larry Silverberg is a former student of Meisner’s and author of several authoritative books about Meisner’s approach to acting. Silverberg explains the exercise as follows: Two actors sit across from one another. “Partner A” makes a “physical observation” about “Partner B,” such as, “You have a green sweater.” Partner B simply repeats what Partner A has told him. Silverberg said that the “rule here is to have whatever [unprompted] experience you have and repeat,” whether it is laughter or boredom ( Meisner Approach 11-14). This is intended to teach the actors that their
54 response “comes from their partner” (14). Meisner said by engaging in this exercise, “Repetition will induce real emotion and the logic stays mental” (Meisner and Longwell 47). According to Meisner, the actor need not be concerned with emotions; they are simply a byproduct of the events like the repetition exercise with a partner. Actors continue with the repetition exercise throughout their training in the Meisner Approach, and the exercise becomes more involved with more instructions for the actors to follow as they continue to learn about action. Inner action, then, depends on reaction, which Meisner called “Working Off,” and which is comparable to Stanislavsky’s concept of internal action. In other words, the actor must rely on inner impulses to act in response to his partner. “You don’t pick up your cues,” said Meisner, “you pick up your impulses” (72). Although the concept of external action is implied more than expressly spoken, nevertheless, this exercise can potentially guide actors to an initial understanding of internal action and its relationship to external action. However, Meisner’s “Working Off” leads the actor to be reactive, which is in opposition of Stanislavsky’s System where the actor is more proactive in working with his/her partner. Krasner states that the value of the repetition exercise is that it allows the actor to use his own impulses to “verbalize what they perceive in the other actor” (Krasner 144). This kind of work relies on an actor to make use of inner action. “For Meisner, impulse is a response to internal or external stimuli” (145). As the actor reads the external stimuli from his partner, immediately it must be processed through the actor’s own experience, background, and perceptions, namely their filter. The actor must then respond “by acting on the stimuli, creating
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- Winter '15
- Method acting, Stella Adler, Lee Strasberg, Constantin Stanislavski, Stanislavsky