Okay gyokoren, I didn't understand half of that, so I hope you can expand a little.
1. What good actor WOULDN'T want to be great at psychological realism? Unless you're aspiring to become a Nickelodean superstar or follow Grotowski to the grave, psychological realism is the basis of a believable performance (or how Meisner would put it, "truthful acting.") What other genres are more important to you, if you don't mind me asking?
2. Not sure what your point here is. With Meisner, you use your imagination to recreate the world presented to you in the text, that's "living truthfully under imaginary circumstances." What did you mean by one hand tied behind the back, and what other acting approach would you put opposite Meisner's in this case?
3. The speed of your preparation comes with practice, like in everything else. You have to train years to become the master of something. Peck, Voight, Basinger, Hoffman, Duvall never seemed to have any problems with working fast and utilizing their Meisner-inspired approach. Yes it's impractical in some cases in television and quick shoots, but then show me what quick-shot television deserves an Oscar for their performances? Then you have someone like DDL of Method who prepares the longest, probably, but you get the best results. No actor's life-time goal is to be a Soap Opera star.
4. Can you expand on this and bring a few examples?
5. Um, what?
6. I personally trained with Mark in Glasgow, for one day. He's good for talking a lot and writing his blog, that's all I'm going to say.
My career is in screen acting, so none are really more important to me. Meisner is mainly what I use so these criticisms are def not meant as an attack. I was just pointing out that it only plays a small part in the greater context of theatre and acting. If you aren't interested in all that other stuff, great. Just learn Meisner. Other people are into different things and need to use other approaches all of which have their limitations.
Some people feel that its approach to characterization would be very limiting and more physicalized external approaches work better for them. I don't have time to write a book and most of it doesn't really apply to me since I'm not somebody that will be asked to play a huge range anyway.
Maybe watch the q&a section of Cate Blanchett's 'Inside the Actors Studio' interview where she talks about it briefly. It's too bad that Fishgurl quit posting because she could make your head explode with this stuff. She can literally tranform before your eyes and it is 100% truthful. Her way is like a combination of Chekhov, Lecoq, Laban, and some other obscure shit that I'm not even familiar with, but if you ask her how she did it in person, she will just give her little "aw shucks" grin and say something like, "Just a little shift in energy." I think she is really a witch that can shape shift! haha
You are speaking in terms of an idealized world. The reality is that most 20 something actors that aren't total geniuses need some of these shortcuts like Lesy Kahn and Billy O'Leary offer. And that is for people that have trained for many years. There is a reason Meisner said that it takes two years to learn his techique and twenty to learn how to use it.
Something else is that you won't get the job anyway if you give a great multilayered read for a skin deep sitcom. You wouldn't fit in with the cast. It isn't about you. It's about the greater tapestry of the show. Besides that, people do get Emmys and Daytime Emmys for their work in tv and landing a job on a soap is no easy matter. A lot of those actors could be much better than you think if they had more time to prepare, but the budgets don't allow for it. And they are doing what most people here will never do which is making a comfortable living from acting. It isn't always pretty, but it is to be respected imo.
If you can get yourself in position to use DDL's process, good on ya. Until then, you are probably fired if you ever got hired at all.
I don't really have time, but there is a reason the British are better at playing heightened language texts like Shakespeare. They aren't caught up in all this method shit. I obviously wasn't trained that way, but i understand that for them it's all about the text.
Read up on a little Zen Buddhism. haha
That is what I figured, but he still makes some valid points
All good professional acting classes are trying to teach you the same set of skills. They just use different exercises to get you there. As Meisner stated them: 1) Your talent comes from your instincts; 2) Acting is self-betrayal; 3) Acting is living truthfully in the imaginary circumstances; and 4) All good acting requires risk-taking. All top actors practice these skills. We all need to digest and make what we learn, our own. Take what you like and leave the rest. Ultimately, we are trying to learn how to do our unique performance of a scene that serves the scene. That's all you can do to get hired. The rest is out of your control. Exercises are for the classroom only (unless they spontaneously come into play in the workplace) and are left behind once we are in the audition room and on the set working. I've blogged about a lot of this at http://www.davidkagen.com/hollywood-acting-jobs-blog/
David, very nicely written and very true. Thank you.
Yes, the exercises themselves are left behind. But their conditioning remains if we have been taught them well and have been diligent in our practice. But you know that being a Carnegie Mellon graduate even though they don't teach Meisner there.
A dancer isn't at the barre while she interprets Odette. A musician isn't practicing scales in concert. But having done those exercises laid the groundwork for their facility and freedom in performance. It's no different with acting. Definitely not so if you have been trained the Meisner way. It's a great foundation.
Well said on the rest.
I studied with R.J. Adams for a substantial period of time and I whole heartedly disagree with your assessment of him when you state, "he can make you awesome with regards to on set technique and when you're on the set".
I thought you said you studied with him, if so, then you should know that your statement is completely untrue. No question that R.J. Adams teaches the craft of film acting above anything else and that includes on set camera work.
Haha! You're misquoting me!
"awesome with regards to ON CAMERA technique and when you're on set"
Unless R.J., Steve, Jeremiah, and the many similar teachers all dramatically changed their curriculums since I last studied with some of them, I feel that I'm accurate in my assessment.
I am absolutely grateful from studying with R.J., Steve, and similar teachers because I became better at:
-Listening and using the other person to tell me how to say my lines
-The close up
-The importance of not blinking when I say my lines on camera
Most of these things are all great for AFTER you book the job and are on set, but there's MORE than just these things to be a great actor be it film/tv or stage.
I've already mentioned what's missing from the Conrad influenced schools, so don't make me repeat them.
Okay, if your quotes mean so much, try this one, "I became better at:-Listening and using the other person to tell me how to say my lines" That is the craft! If what R.J. teaches only applies to as you say, "after you've booked the job', then none of his former students would've reached stardom.
You also claim that it takes a lot more than just listening to be a great actor to be a great actor. You're right, it takes talent and some just don't have it. Stop stabbing your former teachers in the back just because you've discovered ANOTHER approach in your pursuit of the craft. Stop trying so hard to convince yourself that you've made a good decision. Be quiet already.
You might also try looking up the definition of "arrogance".
To interrupt the bickering about the validity of other approaches that are not Meisner, another criticism of Meisner that I forgot to mention is its complete eschewal of affective memory training. However, that really started with Stella Adler and was just carried on by Sandy. Stella, who hated Lee Strasberg, liked to say that Stanislavski had completely removed it from his system in favor of imagination and action when he had in fact not. Whether that was from a misunderstanding because of the language barrier in Stella's SHORT meeting with him or selective memory and intellectual dishonesty because she didn't like it is something we will never know. One of my teachers was a Russian actress who had been trained by Stanislavski's direct disciples and her take was that affective/emotional memory was still part of the overall system to be used as needed. Just not a main emphasis as it had been in his earlier experiments. Also note that the Russians even seem to disagree about this. But who is to say that even Stanislavski was right about everything? Any good Meisner teacher will tell you that he or she teaches the technique in hopes that it will help the student find her own. Nobody has all the answers and at some point you have to become your own artist.
And still another criticism is that Meisner designed his system to train students in groups. Not individually. Therefore, it moves everyone along at the same pace when the reality is that different actors have their own individual strengths and weaknesses and learn at different rates. So, some actors who are already good at at the most basic listening and reacting exercises will become impatient and want to move on while others could use more time with them and never really get it. Whether that comes down to some actors just having big egos and thinking they are better than they really are just depends on the individual.
Very well said David. People should read and reread this!
I disagree that Meisner technique does not train students individually.
I studied for 2 years under Bill Alderson and was his assistant for a year.
No one moved along "at the same pace." No one. I watched and acted in Mr. Alderson's 1st, 2nd and graduate classes and everyone was at their own level. Some were asked to move forward, some were asked to leave as they were not progressing. Most 2 year programs are taught by different teachers adding to the confusion for most students. Mr. Alderson teaches every single class.
I received generous individual attention as did my fellow students. Mr. Alderson focused on our strengths and made us aware of our weaknesses. I already had a BA in Theatre before studying with Mr. Alderson. I didn't have a good foundation nor was I a versatile actor until after working and watching his students for 3 years.
That's the benefit of training with a 1st generation teacher who was taught by Meisner, then hand picked by Meisner to teach alongside him at The Neighborhood Playhouse and who then ran the Playhouse for 20 years. Most "Meisner" teachers teach their own version. Not Alderson.
I think you misunderstood me or maybe I didn't make myself clear. That is unless Alderson has different students doing different parts of the years simultaneously in the same class which would be weird because Sandy did NOT do it that way.
Of course people are taught as individuals within the context of the group. It isn't like they are programming robots! haha You said yourself that Alderson asks students that aren't progressing to leave. Sandy even kicked out Larry Moss of all people because he wasn't getting it and I doubt it was because he wasn't trying.
The beauty of this process is that every step builds off the last and when the class moves on, the class moves on. Some will grow more than others, but they can't keep somebody around who isn't getting it and is lagging behind. It would be bad for everybody else.
The bottom line is that it is a two year program which is arbitrary or at best based on a theoretical "average student." Some really gifted people could probably digest the whole thing in a year or less. Others that are not as talented might take longer than two though I suspect they are not actors to begin with.
It's great that you got to study with Alderson. I'm sure he is a great teacher and it's a real bragging right that he was the first. However, most of these other teachers that were approved by Sandy or Bill Esper know what they are doing, too. They are careful to maintain the integrity of the technique and would take it as a grave insult to suggest that they are teaching "their version."
My teacher was also first generation, but who knows? Some of the Esper trained second generation teachers might be even better. A lot of people say that while Sandy created the technique, Esper is the better teacher because he doesn't carry Sandy's psychological baggage. And if Esper is a better teacher, why would he not be able to train teachers better, too? He also approved more women and everybody knows that women make better teachers because we are naturally more intuitive.
Has Alderson approved anybody to teach? If not, has he said why?
Esper and Alderson taught alongside Mesiner. And David Mamet was also taught by Alderson, not just Esper. I know Mamet writes to Alderson often. Mamet's signed pic is in Alderson's office.
Jon Voight states on Alderson's website as well as in person (I have met him) that Alderson is the best Meisner teacher there is. Voight and Alderson were both students in the same class at The Playhouse. They remain very close friends.
Alderson doesn't teach students to be teachers. He teaches them to be actors. But, James Franco's teacher, Bob Carnegie at Playhouse West was taught by Alderson. And then Carnegie and Jeff Goldblum (Also an Alderson student) opened Playhouse West.
Also, look at the bios of the folks who now run The Neighborhood Playhouse. Most of the faculty were Alderson students.
So yes, Alderson does turn out teachers. But that's not why students attend.
Alderson has just as many celebrity and working actors as Esper. Why is Esper better known? Simple. Esper spends more on marketing.
Esper is a good teacher. But even he admits he has changed the technique. That's not for me. I want 100% Meisner as Meisner wanted it. That's what you get with Alderson.
Steve does say fairly often that Charles Conrad is the reason he has a career today.
Personally, I've done over two years of traditional Meisner training and thoroughly enjoyed it and got a ton out of it. I've studied with Steve Eastin as well and watched actors with no training, after a few months of working with Steve the way Conrad taught, blow away a lot of the work I saw in my two years of Meisner training. I'm talking about doing scenes with no prior choices, preparation, script analysis, etc etc be way more powerful with myriad emotions compared to scenes with all the cerebral techniques.
I think typically actors cannot trust that surrendering to the moment and allowing the subconscious to kick in will be more than enough. Just some of my thoughts. In the end you do have to find what works for you and sometimes less is more, as is the case with the way Eastin teaches. My two cents.
^ That isn't what I saw when I was there. Sometimes somebody would hit on something, but it was not consistent. More often it looked like the bland, boring talking heads you see in the student work on his website. The proof is always in the pudding. http://eastinstudio.com/videos-2/
I loved Steve and think what he teaches can be a useful tool. I am glad it's in my box for if I get a last second rewrite AFTER I have done all the other invisible work. But it is just one tool. A dayplayer level tool if it's all you know.
Can you name a single well known actor who claims him or any of the other teachers that teach that approach as his main teacher? No. There aren't any and he has been teaching for a long time. All those people that studied with Conrad studied somewhere else, too.
What gyokoren said is interesting. I don't think I have ever seen somebody that studied Meisner and claims it as her main way of working be able to dispassionately pick it apart like that. I like to work with Meisner actors, but they can be annoyingly gung ho about it as if it is the only legitimate way to work and sometimes sound like fundamentalist Christians quoting the Bible when they quote Meisner as if he were the ultimate source of all acting wisdom. Cool.
I totally agree with Stumbleine that many of today's gifted actors and teachers have moved way beyond their initial training whether it be Meisner, Stanislavisky or big "M". They've developed their own unique styles and philosophies based on their own individual working experiences. Otherwise, they'd be nothing but robots.
I for one do believe there is any such thing as a pure Meisner program, most are just shallow imitations of the "original" and nobody can teach that except the man himself as he's long gone.
Aren't there teachers who were hand-picked by Meisner because they teach the way he thinks is best? I don't think the label of "shallow imitation of the original" really applies to Esper's and Alderson's classes. I'm sure there's more to that. Amo has confirmed that Alderson is old school and teaches what Sandy used to teach.
Unfortunately, the majority of us on this board are in our 20s and 30s and thus, missed out on studying with the original Master Teachers like Meisner, Adler, and Strasberg or even the ones who followed after like Larry Moss, Roy London, Peggy Feury, or Milton Katselas.
But to say the 6 schools that teach the traditional 18 month programs in LA are nothing but shallow imitations is FALSE.
Alderson, Ruskin, Barter, Taylor, and Baron all studied with Meisner, himself, and were approved to teach the technique by Meisner, himself. Baron/Brown and Mestnik were approved by Esper, whom many consider one of the greatest champions of keeping Sandy's work alive.
Regardless of whom you might be biased towards or who's more senior, these 6 schools have dedicated their lives to keeping the technique alive and probably wouldn't be around if they were just shallow imitators.
I can say who the shallow imitators are, but my riot gear is at the dry cleaners.
In other words, Baron/Brown and Mestnik are 2nd generation Meisner teachers and the rest are 1st generation. That makes a big difference in my book.
(I totally agree with Stumbleine that many of today's gifted actors and teachers have moved way beyond their initial training whether it be Meisner, Stanislavisky or big "M". They've developed their own unique styles and philosophies based on their own individual working experiences. Otherwise, they'd be nothing but robots.
I for one do believe there is any such thing as a pure Meisner program, most are just shallow imitations of the "original" and nobody can teach that except the man himself as he's long gone.)
So wrong and untrue. Robots? Mesiner is all about bringing the actor back to himself and using real, individual emotion. How is being true to yourself being a robot? Yes, everyone learns to know themselves and to find their own way to work, but many reputable actors incorporate Meisner constantly in their work. Obviously, you've never taken an Alderson class. He is so very careful to stay true to Meisner himself. The man is pushing 80 years old, yet he is so very consistent in staying true to the curriculum and the pacing of Mesiner.
I'm helping Bill with his book now, and was his assistant. Michael Nouri, Jon Voight, Robert Duvall, all use Alderson's and Sandy's teachings.
Nestor Carbonell (The Dark Night, Lost) came to my second year showcase at the studio and speaks highly of Bill and his students, as does Allison Janney, Luis Guzman and Nicholas D'AGosto (From Masters of Sex). All these are Alderson students.
I've met most of these folks. And most of those teaching now at The Neighborhood Playhouse were Alderson, Esper and Meisner students.
You are ill informed about credible Meisner teachers and what they teach. I also have a BA in Theatre, but my acting is 1000% better from my two years with Alderson. I use his and Sandy's teachings in every audition, callback and performance. My imagination and my instinct are on fire because of what I have learned and what has been opened in me. I am very grateful to Bill and Sandy.
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