Meisner, Movement & Presence

Everything Acting and Embodied

Leave a comment

Audition Mistake #2

Last week I wrote about presence.  As in, Presence.  About fighting what’s true in the moment and killing any chance of being who we really are because we’re…fighting what’s true in the moment.

There is nothing more important than living in the danger of the moment.  Its uncertainty.  Its vulnerability.  Its complete unpredictability.

I’m repeating myself on purpose, because this is the crucible of acting we all seek to avoid, EVEN WHEN WE KNOW WE DON’T WANT TO AVOID IT.  And I’m repeating myself because I believe the next biggest mistake is in preparing for auditions.  And while it’s true that a surprising number of actors don’t prepare enough, it’s even more true that most of us use the wrong preparation.

What is the wrong preparation?

Deciding how to say the lines.

It’s probably better to under-prepare than to decide how every line should be said and then deliver those decisions.  My friend, Don Foley, used to do any co-star audition as an improvisation–he barely looked at the lines, let alone memorized them.  He thought it was fun to throw himself into it, using his real self, and learn the lines as he went.

He booked, a lot.

So if the wrong preparation is about line readings, what is the right preparation?

Well, that’s a class–to really talk about preparing every aspect of walking into and then taking the room.  But the start is:

1) Figure out what kind of role it is.  What does the role serve?  What is the function of the character?

2) If it’s supporting, guest star, or leading role, the next step is to really delve into how you identify with the character, and then start to replace the people and events they talk about with people and events from your life, so that everything is as real and specific as possible.

The biggest mistake actors make is in deciding how to say the lines instead of creating a world that is emotionally rich.

3) For co-star roles, the opposite is true.  To create too much for a one or two-liner means you’ll steal focus, and it also means you don’t understand what your role is for (always to support someone or something else).  For co-star roles, the prep is to not act, and just do it as you would in life in a similar situation.

And with this, and all other prep, the job is then to go in, tell the emotional truth of your body and the moment (in your tone, in your emotions, in your personality), trusting that the understanding you’ve developed will filter in as it should.

Like I said, a start.  Presence is dependent on truth, and that means allowing yourself to experience your nervousness or any other feeling.  Preparation is about bringing yourself into the role…either by not acting, or by the most profound identification you can find.

Go forth and act!

And if you want to learn more, Uplevel Your Auditions is coming this fall.  Email if you’d like to get on the email list.


Leave a comment

Courage Means Willing to Risk Everything–Sandy Meisner


In studying the Meisner technique, actors learn to release their inhibitions, to let go of social filters, to connect with each other, to do what the other actor makes them do.  No one ever talks about being “nice” in acting.  Actors show the true humanity–the qualities and actions most of us hide.

Initially, of course, it’s hard to say unfiltered and uncensored thoughts, but most of us learn to love it.  My teacher, Fred Kareman, used to say that once you learned the technique you would be more free to be yourself when you were acting than at any other time.  Gone are “I” statements, skillful models of communication.  You swear.  You get tender.  You fall in love.  You openly show hurt.

I think actors are the most courageous people on the planet, and that we are driven by a need to become visible, to create publicly, in the moment, out of our human understanding.  Risk, and the risks involved in acting, interest me as an actor, first of all, but also as a teacher.  What do I understand about courage and risk?  What do I want to teach about it?

For myself, I approach the craft of acting as my teacher about myself and life.  The real courage isn’t in being socially unacceptable–at least not for me, since in some ways I’ve always lived there.  The courage is in admitting how high the bar is in the business, how big an ask it is to want this, how much I have to believe in myself to try.  And the risk is in aiming for that bar.  Because what I understand about acting, like any other kind of art, is that I have to throw myself out into the world as I truly am.  Not as I hope to be, wish I was, might be someday.  But as I am now.  With my secret (or not-so-secret) intellectual arrogance, with my bad attitudes, with my impatience, with my wide ever-reaching vulnerability, with my neediness.  It is myself that I must ruthlessly hold to the highest standards, because outside of Boston’s small community, those are the standards of the industry.

So yes, it’s fun to be bad in the repetition exercise, to release into inappropriate intimacy, anger, humor–and there is risk in this, no doubt.  But no matter how far in you go, there’s always more.  People call it truth.  I call it life itself.  Fred was right, in a way.  You are the most alive when you leave trying to be perfect behind.  And just show how screwed up and human you really are.

I can’t wait for the next time I get to do it!  And the next time I get to watch actors go for it, and find it, and leap into that joy.