Analyzing how a character fits into a scene in a detailed way is an essential component of the Meisner technique and should be part any Meisner acting class in NYC. By breaking down each scene, looking at how it fits into the overall story, and how and why the character is in the scene is known as scene study. The best actors analyze their character in depth-their interactions with the other cast members, the motivations and nuances of all the relationships-really in Meisner acting no detail is considered irrelevant. With the Meisner Technique actors will even consider what a character is doing offstage as the story is evolving, and look at at how and why their characters is about to enter a scene. This shows the utmost respect for the craft of the playwright, who has spent countless hours determining who a character is, why they are part of the story, how they relate in each scene to the other characters and the story itself. Actors must steep themselves in these basic principles of story construction and dramatic theories to master the Meisner Technique.
The craft of acting is built upon fundamentals, especially when studying the Meisner technique. A systematic approach, Meisner acting classes help students understand and dismantle the barriers they have developed in their personal experiences. These barriers can get in the way of mastering the emotional landscape of other people, the characters they play. Once an actor has mastered a wide array of emotional reactions, impulses, physical movements, patterns of speech etc., it becomes easier for them to move from character to character and continually develop new ones. This background of hard work also allows actors to understand more deeply a scene in a play and the dramatic purpose of their character within it.
As an actor’s study of the craft progresses, they will find that they can more easily move from one emotional reaction to another, be more willing to take risks in the midst of a performance and more vividly imagine the life and complete emotional “makeup” of a character. While exhausting at first, breaking down personal emotional barriers and ultimately replacing those with a new, vast library of impulses, feelings, reactions can be a very rewarding experience, especially when it has the highest payoff–a truthful, energetic performance onstage.
Scene study done in a detailed, systematic way is the secret weapon of some of the best actors working today. Those actors that leave an audience breathless because they are so completely a character that they have literally morphed into another human being is the ultimate acting. By doing scene study work often and for longer periods of time actors gain the ability to immerse themselves fully into a play as it progresses, reacting in a seemingly spontaneous fashion every time a scene is done. The focus is completely upon the other actors and on vividly imagining the new reality and creating it every moment onstage.
Analysis of a character’s point of view is something the Meisner Technique believes very strongly in during the process of scene study. Doing an intense study of every detail, from what they eat to what they wear, how they speak, how they cry, what makes them tick-these are just a few of the imagined details about a character that will allow the actor to understand and translate the reason they are in a scene to begin with. The more this skill is mastered the more open an actor is to playing out a scene without any preconceived notions of how they will respond, move or speak. The more deeply these details have been mastered, the more freely the best acting impulses will flow up out of the deeper psyche of the character and become real onstage.
Admitting that you know very little as an actor is a scary yet, wonderful place to be. Once you understand how little you know of a character, the more likely it is you will wrestle more with the person you are to become, find common ground, or imagine a completely new emotional landscape to call home. This will always challenge you as an artist and as a person. But, no art is ever created without this struggle and this must remain the objective of any creative work that is worth doing. And this is ultimately what the Meisner Technique is about.