Wednesday, December 5, 2012

My Meisner Journey: Part One. By Alexandra Gobeille

I honestly don’t know where to begin.

My Freehold Meisner class has been a flood of revelation, emotion, joy, struggle, and inspiration. I have experienced and witnessed the beginning of a great transformation, starting at our core. Robin Lynn Smith is our fearless leader, masterminding this unpredictable adventure, empowering and inspiring us every step of the way. She brings an immense awareness and knowledge to the course, of not only Sanford Meisner, but influential artists and teachers from all over the world. She has incorporated Eastern philosophy, from assigned reading like Herrigel’s “Zen in the Art of Archery”, to Tai Chi based energy work and principles of other martial arts.

Every class is unique. The warm up, movement exercises, guided imagination and free association activities, group work and discussion, introspection and writing, partner work and direction … have all varied and contributed to the strong foundation we are building. They have brought the teachings to life, so we actually experience what we are learning in our bodies, in our full beings. This training has started to cultivate access to more of our subconscious. Each class has contributed to … setting me free.

Free from old acting habits of pushing, indicating, holding. Free from social habits of politeness, self-protecting, apologizing, and faking. Free from thinking. It has been said that it takes 20 years to become an actor. Because during the first 20 years, we are constantly thinking about everything we are doing. Meisner declared the Foundation of Acting is the Reality of Doing.

It’s so simple. Yet our brains automatically intellectualize it, along with every moment we encounter, because we have been conditioned to lead with our heads. Rationalize, think before you speak, get it right, be interesting, edit, edit, edit! And in other words, lie. How many times a day do we actually tell the truth? Follow our gut impulse, our instinct? Recognize behavior in others and hold them accountable? Demonstrate the emotions we are truly feeling? Probably not many. We don’t for legitimate reasons though - our safety, for one. I wouldn’t recommend telling the person on the bus that they’re creeping you out … unless you enjoy getting socked in the face. Or telling your boss they’re being a real @#$%^*$&$#^@ … I doubt they’d say how much they appreciate your honesty and that you made them feel bad.

These social and behavioral protection mechanisms serve a crucial purpose in a civilized society, but they are not useful for our acting. So how do we knock down the solid brick walls, peel back the obstinate layers of ego, fear, and being in a hurry-the three enemies of acting? Well, Sanford Meisner thought of some brilliant ways.

More on that on my next blog post!

Part Two of Alexandra's Meisner Posts can be found here.

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