Meisner did took lot of elements from the Konstantin Stanislavsky but he developed his own method. He believed most of the method acting techniques taught involved internalization.
According to him, internalization might work with an actor who is extrovert. But since many of the actor tend to be introvert the method makes them even bigger introverts.
To solve this issue, he developed a Meisner acting technique that was based on externalization.
If you are someone who is introvert, you can take lot of effective techniques out of Meisner acting technique.
Here I have compiled Meisner acting exercises that are great for actor who are introverts. Even extroverts can benefit from it.
Also Look At Other Acting Techniques:
Four Meisner Acting Exercises Every Actor Must Do
I personally used these exercise because like Meisner felt that a lot of acting techniques makes you think too much rather than making you do.
And acting is all about doing.
So let’s look at these Meisner acting exercises one by one.
If you have watched video or read book on Meisner acting technique you will know that this was the first Meisner taught his student.
Before you learn speaking your dialogues you should learn to listen.
I have watched old videos of Meisner teaching his student to listen. The simplicity of this Meisner acting exercise is not to think much just allow yourself to listen.
Why listening is important in acting?
If you observe ourselves in day today life, we are all reacting to what happens around us.
We are listening to our parents, our friends, our colleagues, our pets, our kids etc.
Also listening is not about hearing what other say, listening occurs through our whole body.
What does listening through your whole body means?
That means putting your all senses to work.
Let me explain it with some example.
You smell something burning you react by running to the kitchen. That means you are listening through you nose.
You listen your car engine making noise you immediately react by stopping to car to check. That means you are listening through your ears.
You see floor is wet you react by walking around the wet floor. That means you are listening through your eyes.
In sort, it’s the sense are in play when you are listening. So if you want improve you listening power as an actor, you must work on making your senses sensitive to your surroundings.
So how do your improve you listening?
Direction For Listening Exercise
Meisner suggests a simple exercise where you can sit on a chair and just try to listening.
Try to listen everything through your senses.
Make the mental picture of everything that is happening outside.
May be you can hear car going by or people talking.
You can also observe the walls of the room where you are sitting.
Try to get a feel of the temperature or wind that surrounds you.
Listening is perfect acting exercise to do alone.
But I also suggest practice another variation of this Sanford Meisner acting exercise with a fellow actor.
While doing scene you always have to interact with other actor. You talk to them, you try to gauge what the character is trying to do to your character.
Doing nothing is also doing in acting.
So make sure you are good at observation because when you doing nothing you are actually observing.
How to do observation exercise?
The exercise I am describing may not be the exact version of Meisner acting technique exercise but I have added little bit of Eric Morris acting technique.
Eric Morris acting technique takes a lot of inspiration from Sanford Meisner acting technique, hence I feel they both complement each other.
Direction For Observation Exercise:
In this exercise we will focus only on our partner in the scene.
First thing you have do to stand opposite to each other at distance from where you can observe each other from head too.
A 6 foot distance if best, you don’t have to move your head too much to view each other.
Now take two minutes to observe each other.
Observe his or her clothes, expressions, hair, shoes, hands, and anything that interests you about the person standing in front of you.
Next close your eyes and ask the person to change one thing about him or her.
It could be anything about the person. But it has to be only one thing at a time.
Now, open your eyes and try to find that one thing that has been changed.
Repeat this process several times.
This exercise not only improves your observation but also helps you know your fellow actor closely.
It is also a great exercise for the actors working on same project.
Using this Meisner acting exercise you will be able to know the other character much closely.
If you are alone and you want to practice observation exercise you can follow this directions:
Take a chair and sit at a place from where you have many things to observe.
Observe your surroundings for couple of minutes.
Try to take as many details as possible which includes color, shape, smell, etc.
Once the couple of minutes are over, close your eyes and try to recreate surroundings.
If you are not comfortable with resume lies in you can take a notebook and write down all the details that you remember.
The goal here is to improve your the scope of your observation within short time.
Practice this observation Meisner acting exercises daily for at least 10 to 20 minutes.
Within a week or so you will see there is a huge difference how you observe things around you.
3. Emotional Preparation
Emotional preparation is an integral part of meisner acting technique.
Sanford meisner used to have really talked about emotional preparation before the performance.
What does emotional preparation actually mean?
According Meisner, the actor must imagine circumstances to achieve truthful performance.
This is very much contrary to other method acting techniques that finds its roots in Stanislavsky.
These techniques are depended on memory which according to Meisner can be an issue as it cuts of the actor from the scene and takes him or her to the personal life.
To eliminate it Meisner device emotional preparation that solely rely on imagination.
But imagining circumstances is easier said than done.
Mere imagination is not enough, you have to be strongly connected with it.
You should be connected so strongly that real emotions should come out.
So how do you do emotional preparation?
Direction For Emotional Preparation:
Before I give you direction let me give you what you should strive to achieve with this exercise.
You have imagine circumstances to a point where it starts to feel real.
There are many ways to do this Meisner acting exercise because it solely depends on character you want prep for.
So I would suggest pick a character that you are going to play.
And if you don’t have any gig in present, pick a character that you usually do during auditions.
Once, you have picked he character know what are circumstances that dictate the life of the character.
For learning purpose, I am going to pick a simple situation of character who is out of work and doesn’t have money even by a bread.
How do you imagine this circumstances that takes you close to the emotions involved?
By doing it!
You read it right.
You must do to experience the emotions.
For our out of job character, you must try to get by a day without spending any money.
And also go out looking for jobs at few places.
This will give you enough experience of the emotions that are involved in it.
One more thing you have to remember while prep this way is to imagine in your mind that these circumstances are real.
More you live these fake circumstances truthfully more emotionally prepared you will be.
One major issue actor has is that they tend to think too much about their next line in the scene.
You want dialogue to be reactive and natural rather than being rehearsed.
To solve this issue Meisner acing technique gives a beautiful and effective exercise known as repetition.
What is repetition?
You can say it is an extension Sanford Meisner acting exercise on listening.
As a human being we are reactive after we listen to other person and repetition exercise is exactly what it is.
I would suggest you to do the listening exercise before attempting repetition.
In repetition, you listen to the other person and repeat exactly what he or she said.
Seems easy right?
Here is the catch:
You have to repeat the phrase said by other person in exact tone, and emotion as if we are replying to what as if been said.
Just look at this old video of Meisner acting class on repetition:
If not follow this directions.
Direction for Repetition Exercise:
Before I give you direction for the exercise. Let me tell you it requires partner.
So arrange for one.
Having an acting exercise partner always help you learn acting techniques much faster.
Lets get back to the exercise. Follow this direction for the repetition exercise.
Start by standing in front your acting partner.
Stand at a distance from where you can see or observe your partner from head to toe.
Now whatever you observe about your partner just say it out loud.
For example, if you observe his or her black hair.
Your hair is black.
Now your patner should repeat the same but as if answering your call and in similar tone.
For your remark, “your hair is black”. Your partner can say,
Yes my hair is black.
Now you have to answer his call,
Yes your hair is black.
Partner could respond it,
Yes my hair is black.
Whole repitition may look like,
You- Your hair is black.
Partner- Yes my hair is black.
You- Yeah! you hair is black.
Partner- Yeah…my hair is black.
You- So does your shirt is black! (thought change)
Partner- Yes my shirt is black!
You- Yes your shirt is black!
You- yes it is black.
Partner- yes it is black.
and so on.
The key here is listening and observing.
Don’t thing too much about what you would say but just listen and react.
If you are taking too much time to speak means you are thinking before speaking.
Thats wrong way to do the exercise. Start again.
Be as spontaneous as possible. But do not just speak gibberish. Express what you observe about your partner.
In the example, I just showed talked about what you see.
But you can also speak about what you think your partner is feeling.
If you observe that your partner is happy, just say you are happy.
Or if he looks pissed, just say you are pissed.
Another key point or rule about the game is you never ask questions.
You just listen, observe and speak.
Do this exercise few times you will get hang of it.
If you want learn more about this unique exercise, get the book paste (Available On Amazon).
Meisner acting technique is one of my favorite techniques as it helps you stay in the movement. If you master this could give the most natural acting possible. But it would take hours of practice every day to make it an integral part of your acting process.
If you have something to add to these Meisner acting exercises feel free to comment.