THE SOUTHERN CASTING CALL Archives / GENERAL DISCUSSION / Archives / 09-24-2009 / Meisner Technique vs. Method Acting

Topie: Meisner Technique vs. Method Acting
August 13th, 2009 11:31 PM
NCActor Question from a newbie here.

What's the easiest way to define the difference between the Meisner technique vs. Method acting. Which is better ? Any comments ?
Thank you.
August 14th, 2009 12:31 AM
actiisc2 Both are descendants of "The System" developed and taught by Konstantin Stanislavski at the Moscow Arts Theatre during the early part of the 20th Century. Stanislavski's System was a unique approach for actors, and was designed to create a very naturalistic and realistic style of acting.

When the Moscow Arts Theatre visited New York in the late 20's, American actors were so taken by the realism and natural emotions that they were seeing onstage, that they began studying "The System" for themselves. Soon, they formed a theatre company dedicated to this style of acting, known as The Group Theatre, which was founded in 1931 by Harold Clurman, Cheryl Crawford, and Lee Strasberg.

In 1941 the Group Theatre opened a school of its own to teach what they now called "The Method." This school was, and still is, known as The Actors Studio, and Lee Strasberg was it's leading teacher until his death in 1982. He taught his version of "The Method" - and actors who graduated from the Actors Studio are often called "Method Actors."

However, some teachers at Actors Studio disagreed with certain approaches taken by Strasberg - most notably his use of "Affective Memory" exercises. And several of these teachers broke off from the Actors Studio to form their own actor training schools. The most notable of these teachers were Stella Adler, Uta Hagen, and Sanford Meisner.

Each had their own slightly different approach and understanding of Stanislavski's work. Meisner, who thought Strasberg's approach was too cerebral, championed a more emotional approach to acting. He developed a very structured training program at The Neighborhood Playhouse, and is most famous for his "Repetition Exercise," although his contribution to the craft of acting goes well beyond just this one exercise. His structured approach to the craft, and emphasis on emotional reality and preparation, requires that any teacher of his methods must be certified by the Neighborhood Playhouse before being allowed to teach Meisner's technique.

Stella Adler taught at her own studio, The Stella Adler Conservatory, as well as being on faculty at NYU. Uta Hagen, together with her husband Herbert Berghof founded HB Studios, where I myself studied in New York. Both Stella Adler and Uta Hagen championed techniques of imagination and substitution, along with full emotional and intellectual preparation, combined with in-depth script analysis.

No one approach is better than any other. All the techniques in modern acting aim for the same result: "The creation of Reality in an Artificial environment."

And, as with all things artistic, the well-trained actor will often use a variety of techniques to reach the desired result. Indeed, most actors will study many different approaches to acquire the most well-rounded craft, and the strongest technique that will work best for them personally. I recommend that all of my students study with as many different teachers, and explore as many different methods as they can - in their search for a personal way of working which will serve them and their art in the best possible way.

You may be interested in reading more on the different techniques. I would suggest these books as a great starting point:

The Great Acting Teachers and Their Methods by Richard Brestoff
Respect for Acting by Uta Hagen
A Challenge for the Actor by Uta Hagen
The Technique of Acting by Stella Adler
Sanford Meisner on Acting by Sanford Meisner and Dennis Longwell

I hope this helps!

August 14th, 2009 06:43 AM
JB What a GREAT Post, Martin!
August 14th, 2009 08:40 AM
Mistimtnblue Good Lord, Martin!! I read this with my jaw slightly dropped because I am in awe of your knowledge! You are a walking, talking encyclopedia of acting and THANK YOU for always being so willing to share your wealth!! :)
August 14th, 2009 11:18 AM
clowningaround I hope you keep copies on your hard drive of all the fantastic tidbits/helpful information you put out on this site. They will all come in handy down the road, not to mention all the typing you can save yourself.

As I was reading, I had a question in mind; however, you answered it for me later on in the narrative.

August 14th, 2009 01:24 PM
smiley396 Wow. Great information. Thanks Martin.
August 15th, 2009 12:28 PM
Snarkie What it all boils down to, is what works the best for you.

Take everything you learn, and than apply it to what best fits your situation for that particular part.
August 16th, 2009 10:36 AM
Vanelle I use a combo of both mixed with my Vanelle-ness... :))