Tuesday, January 15, 2013

My Meisner Journey, Part Three of Three. By Alexandra Gobeille

Read Parts One and Two of Alexandra's experience in her Freehold Meisner class (so far) this year!

Instincts are triggered by what’s going on in our partner. And the meaning it has to us.

Meisner’s other essential rule is: What you do does not depend on you, but what your partner does to you.

That’s why focus on our partner is so important. What behavior are we not only seeing in them, but feeling, absorbing? We must be wide open and receptive, Robin says like satellite dishes, energetically letting things in, not just putting your eyeballs on your partner but embracing, experiencing what’s in them, like a sponge or screen door. By leaning into the emotion of our partner, we allow ourselves to be affected. Meisner claimed that your talent is measured by how much you allow another human being to affect you. By accepting the organic response, however it presents itself in you. “What if I’m getting nothing from my partner?” (a common actor complaint) Robin’s response: “There is no such thing as nothing. A human being is a fucking miracle, there is a whole universe in them you will never know the end of.” Thus, there is no end to engaging with another person, and being moved by their humanity. No limit to the strength of connection. We’ve started to experience this power, only from a very vulnerable place.

In this culture, we’ve been socialized to believe that vulnerability = weakness. But this class is teaching me how nothing is stronger because it brings us to the truth. The truth in others, and the truth in us. It unlocks the flow of life within us, the genius within us. It’s like we are slowly working to flip inside out, so that the pure truth at our core becomes exposed, pouring out of our heart and released into the room.

What I have seen, and experienced in this class is not just ‘acting.’ It is living. It is so helpful to watch visceral reactions in my classmates as a mark of real behavior for our acting. I’ve experienced impulses and emotions that are no different from the ones I have in real life. If my partner was provoking me, insulting me, attacking me, my spontaneous responses of frustration, pain, fear … were real!

The first time I had ever impulsively cried in acting happened when my partner and I were doing the exercises, powerfully connected, 100% in tune and there for each other, deep in extraordinary intimacy, and Robin added imagined narrative. Vividly describing the imagined nature and history of our relationship (siblings), she gave colorful examples of what we did together as kids, what we meant to each other. She then said something like “you will know each other for the rest of your lives … you’ll be at each other’s funeral” and I lost it. Everything that had piled up suddenly opened the floodgates. I was overcome by rich, uncontrollable emotion that came right from my heart. All from living in an invested relationship with my partner. Which was imagined! I honestly hadn’t ever experienced that, to such a degree, in my 16 years of acting. I was so used to indicating, demonstrating, playing the emotional results.

As I’ve felt in myself and seen in my classmates, these techniques work. Of course it doesn’t happen every time. We aren’t acutely sensitive and purely instinctive every time we engage. It is easy to be distracted or disconnected, but that is why we practice without end, embodying the methods, constantly reminding ourselves to drop into our bodies and honor our impulses. The more we tell the truth, the better we tell the truth. The closer we get to discovering the parts of ourselves we do not know.

We'll look forward to hearing more from Alexandra next quarter as she continues on into her third quarter of her Meisner class at Freehold. For more information on all of our Freehold classes, go here.

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