Why Study the Meisner Technique?


Meisner Trained Actors Create Fully Realized Human Behavior

In 1935, Sanford Meisner began his teaching career at the Neighborhood Playhouse and developed over many decades one of the most fool-proof ways of instilling actors with fundamental skill and technique. When taught accurately, the full two-year actor training should accomplish two things; year one creates a truthful acting instrument rooted in fundamentals, and year two teaches the actor how to read and interpret a script, break it down, and create a character.

Most actors pretend and indicate. They do not listen; they wait for their cues, ready to “act” their line readings. The most important reason to immerse yourself in the Meisner technique training is to develop your ability to truthfully do under an imaginary circumstance. That is where acting takes place. This means you must develop for yourself an inviolate sense of truth, and acquire the ability to respond personally from unanticipated moment to unanticipated moment.

An actor must be able to listen truly. It is the bedrock of acting and is the seed for a truthful reality. Of all the characteristics of the Meisner actor, the ability to truly listen is the most significant. This requires the actor to have their attention off of themselves, out of their head, and onto their instinctive impulses, with the capacity to respond personally in every moment. This takes an acting instrument that is vulnerable and sensitized. This is another wonderful quality of a Meisner trained actor.

We are all parented, socialized and educated, and have developed many ways to protect ourselves from being hurt or embarrassed. Those defenses must be chiseled away if you want to be an exceptional actor, one who can truly create vivid, organic human behavior. The Meisner Technique accomplishes this, but it cannot happen in six weeks or even six months.

The brilliance of the Meisner Technique is it instills these important fundamentals so that they are second nature. Meisner training, which begins as simple repetition, evolves into a very profound and sophisticated improvisational exercise that hones an actor’s ability to do truthfully The brilliance of the Meisner Technique is it instills these important fundamentals so that they are second nature. Meisner training, which begins as simple repetition, evolves into a very profound and sophisticated improvisational exercise that hones an actor’s ability to do truthfully under imaginary circumstances.

Famous Meisner actors like Robert Duvall and Diane Keaton are testaments to the effectiveness of this method. The Meisner Technique focuses not only on the emotional life of the character but also on the emotional connection between scene partners. It encourages actors to respond naturally and to live truthfully in the moment.

Whether you’re an interesting actor looking to hone your craft or a novice interested in exploring new acting techniques, the Meisner Technique offers a pathway to authenticity and emotional depth. With its roots firmly planted in the traditions of the group theater and its unique approach to acting, it stands as a beacon for those seeking to achieve truthful performance.

By studying at a Meisner Technique studio, you will not only learn the repetition exercises and principles that Sanford Meisner created but also embrace the emotional preparation needed to create honest performances. The training transcends mere techniques; it shapes the actor’s approach to the craft, ensuring that each word, gesture, and emotion is grounded in truth.


Meisner Training Creates A Vulnerable And Emotionally Deep Actor

Many untrained actors can be confused or misinformed about the place of emotion in acting. Most amateurs or those poorly trained believe that the more emotion you have, the more talented you must be. This causes actors to be self-indulgent, with a compulsion to show an audience that they are alive, or strain and squeeze every last drop that is inside of them.

The Meisner Technique, particularly the first year work, teaches the actor how to truly come to life in three different ways: through truly listening and taking personally what is being said to you, through truthfully doing, and finally through emotionally preparing off-stage to connect to a previous circumstance.

This is where Meisner made the biggest departure from the training created by Lee Strasberg, known as The Method. Meisner did not believe that actors needed to use literal past life experiences (sense memory or emotional recall), to manipulate themselves emotionally. He and many actors found it uncreative and unhealthy.

The Meisner Technique teaches the actor how to prepare off-stage through the power of imagination and daydreaming emotionally. Harnessing what we already do in life spontaneously to craft is a very powerful part of the Meisner actor’s skill. Throughout the nine months of first-year work, an actor becomes keenly aware of the difference between quality vs. quantity when it comes to emotion. The fluidity of emotion is the mark of a well-trained Meisner actor; one who understands that inner life must ebb and flow from moment to moment.

The Meisner Technique extends beyond mere emotional depth by equipping actors with the tools to access the most torturous personal emotions without causing harm to their mental well-being. This is achieved through a series of carefully curated repetition exercises, focusing on the actor’s responses to stimuli in a controlled environment.

Guided by a skilled Meisner Technique teacher, actors learn to tap into their emotional reservoir, creating authentic performances that resonate with audiences. The practice emphasizes the interconnectedness of actors, encouraging a symbiotic relationship where each scene partner’s actions and reactions fuel the other’s performance. This approach to acting promotes a dynamic, living truthfully, where every word spoken and every gesture made is rooted in the character’s emotional state.

The Meisner Technique transcends traditional acting methods with its emphasis on the behavioral response and its sole focus on the moment. It builds a foundation where the actor’s face, voice, and body become instruments of genuine expression, rather than vehicles for rehearsed imitation. Whether on the streets of New York City or in the studios of Hollywood, actors trained in the Meisner Technique stand out for their ability to deliver honest performances, unburdened by affectation or artifice.


The Sanford Meisner Technique Teaches Actors How To Be Spontaneous With A Script

When Meisner was teaching his acting classes in NYC, he understood that his exercise work had no value if it could not be applied to scenes. Most actors, if they train at all, put together a hodge podge of workshops and scene study classes, which leave many feeling like they still don’t know what they are doing.

Crafting is everything for an actor, and to consistently create truly vivid, organic, human behavior, it must happen in a simple, precise, and personal way. Any serious actor should know how to craft a previous circumstance, an acting relationship, shared circumstances, and objective, and then pin down their actions.

Meisner training instills this ability so that it is second nature, and then teaches you how to bring this to text with instincts, spontaneity, and freedom. Bad actors wait for their cues, and “act” at the other people on stage or camera. There is no real experience taking place.

A trained Meisner actor knows how to be fully present, out of their head, connected personally to the issues of the character, with the capacity to respond personally in every moment. A Meisner actor does not adjust to the text, do line readings, or manipulate themselves emotionally to fit a line. They have the skill to subvert the text to their inner life rather than the other way around.

Meisner actors do not practice how they say their lines, figuring out the best way to indicate what the character is doing or feeling. They possess one of the most important qualities to any outstanding actor, spontaneity. That is where your uniqueness resides, in your spontaneous response.

Ultimately, the ability to break down and interpret a script, with insight into psychology and character issues, and then allow the moments to unfold inevitably yet spontaneously, is the mark of a trained Meisner actor. This is when an actor becomes an artist, capable of illuminating the human condition in all its aspects.

Sanford Meisner’s approach, deeply rooted in the traditions of group theater and influenced by the teachings of Lee Strasberg, led to the development of specific physical characteristics and techniques that aid actors in connecting with their characters. The Meisner Technique emphasizes the word repetition game, a fundamental repetition exercise that trains actors to truly listen to their scene partner, reacting spontaneously without preconceived notions.

Within the structured environment of a Meisner class, actors explore improvisational methods that break away from rote memorization and foster a genuine emotional connection. Whether working with two actors or a full ensemble, the Meisner Technique teaches how to navigate the dynamic landscape of human interaction, allowing the actors to draw from their own system of beliefs, memories, and feelings.

The actor’s journey under the Meisner Technique is not confined to the four walls of the Actors Studio; it extends to real-life applications. The approach to acting cultivated by Meisner produces not only good acting but a profound understanding of the character’s life and background. It encompasses the emotional recollection of the actor, weaving it seamlessly into the character’s narrative.

Famous Meisner actors such as Gregory Peck, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, and Jeff Goldblum are testaments to the transformative power of this technique. Whether playing an interesting actor on screen or portraying complex characters on stage, their performances showcase a mastery of the Meisner approach, where every word, gesture, and nuance is a truthful reflection of the character’s essence.

By embracing the Meisner Technique, actors transcend mere imitation, achieving a level of authenticity that resonates with audiences and critics alike. From the streets of New York City to the Hollywood limelight, the Meisner Technique’s influence is evident in the work of actors who dare to delve into the depths of human emotion and experience, unafraid to expose their vulnerability and embrace their unique artistic voice.

Meisner Technique

The Meisner Technique in its entirety is a professional actor training program that takes two years to teach. Any reputable Meisner teacher should be trained in the technique as an actor with years of professional experience, an also should have been mentored as a Meisner teacher by a true master who has a reputation for accurately teaching the work.


“I was placed in the intense reigns of Charlie Sandlan.  I became a better artist, actor, friend, sibling and daughter because of the studio. Even now, I crave the studio every day. What I learned is present in my work every day. I truly believe in everything they stand for.”

Marco Bettencourt Urbina

Jes Macallan

Maggie taught me that I could control my work, my acting, and to throw all of the bullshit out that I had in my head about ‘what I should be doing’ and to just listen and respond honestly, in the moment. She gave me a craft. She is, quite simply put, THE BEST.”

Marco Bettencourt Urbina

Leslie Bibb

Maggie Flanigan taught me the true meaning of artistry, passion, and professionalism. I am certain that I continue to work as an actress because of my training with Maggie. At every audition and every performance, her guiding voice is with me. It is a gift beyond measure.”

Marco Bettencourt Urbina

Andrea Anders