A New Class

Tonight at 6pm I will start a new acting class in Thousand Oaks, Ca. It's certainly scary but it's also really, really, exciting.

I tell the story of walking into the Neighborhood Playhouse 24 years ago a complete newbie. I was told by my Community College acting teacher that I should get into The Neighborhood Playhouse because "Sandy Meisner never graduated an actor that wasn't ready and talented." I called the school and asked if "She" (Sandy) was still teaching there and if I could apply, that's how new I was to the whole thing.

I applied, was denied, and did what a lot of us do, I turned that denial into determination to get in. I had no notion of techniques or style or what they taught really, I just knew I did not like hearing I wouldn't be part of it. I begged for an interview, argued with Hal Baldridge about being ready for this school, and did get accepted, still not doing much research into the school or Mr. Meisner.

That first day Mr. Alderson walked Mr. Meisner in and they sat down. As they were fitting him with his microphone so we could hear his controlled belch style of speaking, John Graham, a classmate whispered  "The man, the myth, the legend" and I thought, "…really? He's a legend?" I had no idea.  Mr. Meisner then spoke, He told us that we would learn to tell the lie of the script or play with nothing but the truth. That acting was "living truthfully under the imaginary circumstances" and I remember feeling like my whole world came together and finally made sense and my head about exploded. No one asks for the truth. No one. But he told us, artists must.  And there I sat, this naive kid from Pa. with this legendary man who not only gave me permission to tell, but essentially demanded, my truth! My gosh it was a personal revolution.

I received this today from Richard Spedale a NYC actor I met 20 years ago when I did Bus Stop in NJ with Jerry Hall,  he sent me this concerning Meisner work…

I saw from first year alone, that writers and directors would SO
benefit from studying the Meisner technique, because the process really
puts TRUTH at the very center of all the work, whether it be the
actor's behavior, or the storytelling, or whatever. The truth is the
universal quality that ties all art together, I suppose. And when we
see the truth in front of us, it is unmistakable and irresistable.
Growing up in the crazy household of my very dysfunctional family, the
truth was a rare commodity. And I clung to the truth so desperately
when everyone and everything around me seemed to be pushing me in very
"un"truthful directions. I guess that's why I'm so passionate about
this technique. I can remember nearly jumping out of my seat on many
occasions in class, just watching the activities unfold.

I read this and said "me too!"  The technique binds us because the truth binds us. I love where he wrote:  The truth is the
universal quality that ties all art together, I suppose.
That makes sense doesn't it?

So tonight I will do my best to introduce this world to a few students who come to learn what their truth is. The funny thing is most folks who want to learn to act, don't know that's what they really want, they really want their truth to come out and be shared. Sure enough, it happens… they have a truthful moment in class and they're hooked on nothing but the truth. So help me Mr. Meisner.

Leave a Comment