20 plus years ago, PW did teach the traditional program as Meisner intended it to be. This comes from someone who was at PW for years and had the fortune of being in the masterclasses when Sandy would visit.
I have worked with more than one person who spent a year or two and then went to Alderson or some other Meisner school that taught the traditional 2 years and they all didn't think PW was on the same level. Great school in general but not the best school if you want to learn Meisner in the most traditional way. Their words, not mine.
And no, I never take the credibility of people who only study at a school for a few weeks or months.
You've been there for a while and seem to be doing well so it's great to have someone currently with PW and loving it to chime in here.
As long as they're one of those schools that fairly advances people and not one that tries to keep people there as long as possible in order for them to finally study with the top dogs, then it's cool.
Bob Carnegie was taught by Alderson. I hear he is a good teacher, but doesn't teach every class.
This to me would be confusing, having different teachers.
Ruskin is the same way, a friend told me who studied there. At least Alderson is with you every step of the way and even works with students outside of class, if need be. He would work with us on weekends as we prepared for scene night.
Another Fact: Meisner wanted the Playhouse to shut down after he retired / died.
Yes, Elizabeth Mestnik studied with and was approved to teach the Meisner technique by Esper.
She has more elective offerings than most Meisner schools and different teachers teaching them, but she is mostly the traditional 2 year program which probably won't start up again until Fall.
Alderson is doing a 3 month intensive that started April and ends in June. This is NOT a replacement to the 2 year program that he usually teaches. The intensive is most likely a sampler for those curious about it.
Wow, time flies! I realized that I'm coming close to the end of my 2nd year training. So here are my reflections on Meisner.
I am biased towards the traditional 2 year Meisner training, especially for those who did not have the benefit of going to a prestigious BFA/MFA/Conservatory program, because it's one of the few forms of training that I've seen that gives you the all around tools for being great at film/tv, stage, AND auditions. I wish I had done this before I ever took an audition or on camera class.
Most people think that all you do in Meisner is repetition. WRONG! That's at most a 1-2 month long thing to teach you to how to REALLY listen and to take the attention off of yourself and onto the other person. The repetition is also opinionated so you're also learning subtext (what's underneath what you're saying) while you're doing the repetition. Gradually, you do improvisations/independent activities where the repetition is eventually dropped and become REAL improvised scenes where there is a relationship, who, what, where, etc. These improvisations serve a purpose to prepare you for scenes that will use the tools learned from the improvisations.
You start scenes as soon as the 2nd-3rd month. For the first few scenes, you are told to learn the lines by rote with no choices or deep analysis but to know the lines flat and to work off of the other person to tell you how to say your lines, basically, making it conversational. BUT as you progress through the scenes, you gradually apply elements of script analysis to deepen your scenes. NO, this is not heady stuff like writing essays or a detailed backstory or history, BUT knowing simple AND specific things like your relationship, the moment before (done by Emotional Preparation, a Meisner tool), subtext, given circumstances, as-ifs, personalization and interpretation, time periods, styles, etc.
Besides sharpening my ability to listen and react even more, my biggest take-away from the 1ST Year was Emotional Preparation which is usually taught in the middle of the 1st year. This tool, in brief, is using your imagination or an “as if” to create the moment before and to truthfully have the required emotion at the start of a specific scene.
The Second year is probably the most unique of any kind of training I've personally encountered.
The biggest thing that I got from the Second year was Character Impediments and Dialects. You still continue the improvisations and scenes but you're taught how to NATURALLY and TRUTHFULLY play drunk, stoned, injured, blind, mentally slow, etc. or with an accent. I can't think of any other current training in LA, that gives you a process in doing these kind of things honestly.
You also delve even deeper into script analysis and breaking a scene down during the Second Year. And once again, NOTHING too intellectual. You're taught to make the academic work involved in acting organic and part of your subconscious so it doesn't get in the way of acting with your instincts. The script analysis is important because you start dealing with very difficult monologues like the Spoon River anthologies and scenes where just learning the lines is NOT enough.
At the same time as you learn script analysis, you also stretch your creativity and imagination as one of the unique exercises during the Second Year is "Nursery Rhymes." This exercise is fun in that you take a Nursery Rhyme like "Jack and Jill" and you create multiple interpretations by tweaking around the relationship, the who, what, where, when, why, etc. By doing this, you give the nursery rhyme a deeper story and are able create a completely different scene out of just the words of the Nursery Rhyme.
I think Rose misunderstood me about Meisner and range on that other thread or maybe I wasn't clear enough. It goes to show why I should never try to teach! haha
I didn't mean to imply that learning Meisner will necessarily keep you from having range. That would be silly. I just meant that some FREAKISHLY rangy actors might find it limiting because it doesn't include some of the specific, external based tools the ones I know find useful. All acting techniques are are going to be limited in some way when taken by themselves and most including Meisner can adapt well to "add-ons." For instance, Esper set up the BFA/MFA conservatory at Rutgers and chaired it for years. It is very much Meisner based, but they still bring in a Chekhov teacher second semester of second year besides studying other voice and movement oriented techniques all along.
The thing is, you would be better off studying in New York if you want those tools in any real depth. Somebody correct me if I am wrong, but I don't think anybody in LA teaches Laban movement analysis or Yat Malmgren's practical extension of it and I don't know where you would go to get somebody to take you through Lecoq's progression from neutral mask to red nose, Viewpoints, biomechanics, etc. There are a couple of Chekhov teachers, but that is about it to my knowledge. It doesn't look like the LA Meisner studios even teach Williamson movement which was specifically designed to go along with it.
I don't think you can really draw many conclusions about a technique based on which huge movie stars were trained in it, either. Definitely not when it comes to range. First off, the freakishly rangy actors I know are like that anyway. It is like they have some extra gears to their talent that we mere mortals don't that can be nurtured and made more consistent through different techniques. Besides that, there are a lot more screen actors who are capable of playing a huge range than are allowed to do so and that includes the stars. It is really only a few in a generation who are and you will see that they were all trained in different ways. This business loves to pigeonhole and how they broke out of that I don't know. If you are one of those actors who has that kind of range and feel like you can't be fulfilled as an artist without using it all the time, you might be better off sticking with regional theatre where it is valued more. In Hollywood, it's more of a curio and really kind of confuses the business. I forget which one, but I was looking at the different studio websites and one of the name teachers put it well in a video. "Why should they hire somebody who could be that when they can hire somebody who IS that?" (It was Aaron Speiser.) I know it makes some people cringe, but that about sums it up for 99% of screen actors.
Affective memory versus imagination, blah, blah, blah? So what? Try everything and use what works. There is no "right" way other than in the context of the class you are taking. What Stanislavski really told Stella Alder, what my Russian teacher says, the letters back and forth between Strasberg and Stan's first generation disciples, and where Stan was really at near the end of his life is immaterial. He was still exploring just like everybody else and if he had a mistake it was that he was trying to find a single panacea for great acting that does not exist because every actor is different. I prefer imagination, but I know actors who had the exact same training as me who are just as good or better that use affective memory or a combination all the time.
I see some other things on this thread that are giving me a headache, but I will leave them alone since I have already written way more than I had planned. I'm at home for the first time in a year so I will just take an aspirin and get over it since acting is the last thing I should be thinking about right now. haha
Sadly no on in LA that I know of teaches Laban or Lecoq.
I know the few Chekhov teachers in LA work with masks and clown noses.
Probably the only type of movement class really taught in LA is Alexander technique.
I found this place. I'd be wary of anyone who teaches Michael Checkoff though:
I'd get kicked out of this school for dropping the f-bomb too much.
If you read a little further along that sentence, it is just because of the "thinking hard."
I've studied all of that and more during my BFA, and to be completely honest, while they can be helpful, *personally* I didn't find them that necessary. Albeit, it really was interesting to learn, research/write about and actually practice all of that; pure Chekhov and Grotowzki exercises, and especially Meyerhold's Biomechanics etudes were my favorites and I was actually pretty good at them. I enjoyed those a whole lot. We even had a known Russian teacher come over from Russia for a long masterclass, where I served as a translator. Alexander Technique was another favorite of mine, which is something you'd want to do on an ongoing basis as an actor.
Some students went to Paris with one of our teachers to study Lecoq in greater depth, which is something I couldn't do; that could be helpful in a way, but again, I don't believe is necessary. Among the more obscure stuff, I also really disliked Alba-Emoting Technique. It worked, and it's good to have this in my toolbox, but I'm definitely not a fan of the approach and it will always be my last resort. Also, for comedic purposes, we did quite a bit of circus, which I also hated.
I'm trying to make a point here that not everything people study in drama schools (and all that less well known, mystical European stuff) is always necessary or even good for actors, but then again - it might just be that I'm less talented or not well educated to "get" the value of ALL those practices. I've always felt more connected to the theory of Meisner Technique anyway, which sadly nobody teaches in England.
Just my two cents.
On a second note, I would like to say thanks to TT, gyokoren, Amo, and others who shared their Meisner experiences here. AWESOME stuff!
Wow, you're the first person I've seen on this board to say you studied Alba-Emoting.
Earlier this year, some teacher from New York was giving free seminars about it and doing intensives while she was in LA.
I wasn't that impressed because it seemed more about generating emotions, rather than allowing emotions to come out as a by-product of reacting to something.
Precisely. And that's exactly what it is.
I pointed out to my course mates the fact that normally you would want those emotions to come naturally during the scene/from text rather than force them through breathing, but nobody has taken my observation seriously. I didn't have the confidence then, nor the necessary knowledge, to argue this with the teacher.
The tool can come in handy though, and I can confirm that it does work in terms of generating "emotions".
Doesn't Harold Guskin, acting coach to Glenn Close and the late,great James Gandolfini teach the same technique in his book Stop Acting, or some such similar title.
As I remember, the recommended practice is something like this: pant quickly from your gut, or diaphragm, while focusing on the emotion or state you want. For me, that's a useful trick for rehearsal but if you try to deploy it in performance kinda backfires.
I was speaking more to the availability of those techniques in the New York studios as opposed LA since Rose has already said she doesn't want to go to college, but it is definitely true that you learn some things in drama school that don't resonate or won't be relevant to anything you will do in the real world. I'm like Audrey Hepburn's hipster grandchild or Natalie Portman meets Winona Ryder at Bonnaroo, so how often am I going to need to know how to safely whack somebody with a fucking quarterstaff??? haha However, that can also be a strength in that it backs you into a corner and forces you to learn things you would not have chosen on your own and those things can sometimes surprise and lead to discoveries. Mileage may vary, but it was my experience.
For me, it was the Meisner component that surprised more than anything else. Nothing that I knew about the technique attracted me at all other than it came with some nice catch phrases that were impossible to disagree with. I even called it "Torture Technique" or "Meiznuh Toatchuh" while I was learning it even though I saw obvious growth from some of my classmates who were having huge breakthroughs. I was a professional level dancer before I started acting and the way I had been trained in that art was to really tune in to my partner or what it was that I was physically doing to tell the story so the first year felt like a big nothingburger except that it included verbiage and I think I really grew from it more than I at first realized. It wasn't until third year when we were putting what we had learned into constant practice in rehearsal and performance that I realized it was what the craft mainly boiled down to for me.
If I knew then what I know about myself now and got to design my own conservatory, it would entail Meisner, Linklater voice, accents and dialects, Alexander, Lecoq, basic combat, and proper camera and mic technique from the beginning with lots of in house experience using them. I could have learned aspects of the other things that I actually use in short workshops. The thing is, some of my classmates would tell you something completely different and there is no way I could have known that before I started. It's why I think it is so important for newbie actors to experiment with a lot of different things. Somebody that used to post here a lot had a great Bruce Lee quote in his signature line. Let's see if I can find it. It was Scoobings. Here it is.
The whole thing in six months? Any beginner who could really digest the whole thing in that time is much more talented than me. I bow to you! haha
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