top of page

Sustainability Worldwide

Public·25 members
William Franco
William Franco

The Meisner Technique Explained and Extended: The Actor's Art and Craft by William Esper



The Actor's Art and Craft: William Esper Teaches the Meisner Technique book pdf




If you are an aspiring or professional actor who wants to improve your craft and learn from one of the best teachers in the world, you might be interested in reading The Actor's Art and Craft: William Esper Teaches the Meisner Technique. This book is a comprehensive guide to the famous acting method developed by Sanford Meisner, as taught by his longtime colleague and friend William Esper. In this article, we will give you an overview of what the Meisner technique is, who William Esper is, what the book covers, and why you should read it. We will also answer some frequently asked questions about the book and the technique.




The Actor's Art and Craft: William Esper Teaches the Meisner Technique book pdf



Introduction




What is the Meisner technique and why is it important for actors?




The Meisner technique is one of the most influential and widely used acting methods in modern theatre and film. It was created by Sanford Meisner, an American actor and teacher who was part of the Group Theatre in New York in the 1930s. The Group Theatre was a collective of artists who experimented with new ways of acting based on realism, social issues, and psychological depth. Some of the other members of the Group Theatre were Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler, Harold Clurman, and Elia Kazan.


The Meisner technique is based on the idea that acting is living truthfully under imaginary circumstances. It aims to help actors develop their imagination, concentration, emotional honesty, spontaneity, and responsiveness to their scene partners. The Meisner technique also emphasizes that actors should not rely on their preconceived ideas or personal experiences, but rather on their moment-to-moment impulses and reactions.


The Meisner technique is important for actors because it helps them create believable and compelling characters with rich inner lives. It also helps them overcome self-consciousness, clichés, habits, and mechanical performance. By practicing the Meisner technique, actors can achieve a state of creative freedom and authenticity that makes their work more engaging and enjoyable for themselves and their audiences.


Who is William Esper and what is his contribution to the Meisner technique?




William Esper is one of the most respected and renowned acting teachers of our time. He was born in 1932 in New Jersey and studied acting at Rutgers University. He then moved to New York City and became a student of Sanford Meisner at The Neighborhood Playhouse School of Theatre. He studied with Meisner for six years and became his assistant teacher for another eleven years.


In 1965, Esper founded his own studio in New York City, where he has been teaching ever since. He has also taught at Rutgers University, Yale School of Drama, Harvard University, Carnegie Mellon University, Duke University, among others. He has trained thousands of actors over his six-decade career, including famous names such as Jeff Goldblum, Kathy Bates, Amy Schumer, Sam Rockwell, Patricia Heaton, John Malkovich, Kim Basinger, Christine Lahti, Jennifer Beals, William Hurt, Peter Gallagher, Timothy Olyphant, Gretchen Mol, Tracee Ellis Ross, etc.


Esper's contribution to the Meisner technique is that he has preserved its original essence while adapting it to contemporary needs and challenges. He has also expanded its scope by incorporating elements from other disciplines such as voice work, movement work, script analysis, character development, etc. He has written two books on his approach: The Actor's Art and Craft (2008) and The Actor's Guide to Creating a Character (2014), both co-written with Damon DiMarco.


What is the book about and what can readers expect to learn from it?




The Actor's Art and Craft is a practical handbook that explains and demonstrates how to apply the Meisner technique to various acting situations. It is based on Esper's first-year curriculum at his studio, where he teaches beginners how to build a solid foundation of acting skills from scratch.


The book is written in a conversational style as if Esper were talking directly to his students in class. It follows a fictional group of students as they go through a series of exercises designed by Esper to teach them different aspects of the Meisner technique. The book also includes comments from Esper on their progress, mistakes, and achievements.


Readers can expect to learn from this book how to:


  • Develop their imagination and concentration through repetition exercises



  • Express their emotions truthfully through emotional preparation exercises



  • Create realistic relationships with their scene partners through independent activities exercises



  • Improvise freely within given circumstances through knock at the door exercises



  • Analyze scripts and scenes through breaking down beats exercises



  • Create believable characters through point-of-view exercises



  • Perform monologues and scenes with confidence and clarity through final scene exercises



The Meisner technique in practice




The basic principles of the Meisner technique




The Meisner technique is based on a few simple but powerful principles that guide actors throughout their training and work. These principles are:


  • "Acting is doing." This means that actors should focus on what they are doing physically rather than what they are thinking mentally. Acting is not about showing emotions or ideas but about pursuing actions that have meaning and purpose for their characters.



  • "Acting is living truthfully under imaginary circumstances." This means that actors should use their imagination to create believable situations that affect them emotionally. Acting is not about pretending or lying but about being honest and authentic within a fictional context.



  • "The reality of doing." This means that actors should base their actions on what they actually see, hear, feel, and sense in their environment rather than on what they imagine or remember. Acting is not about inventing or recalling but about responding to what is happening here and now.



  • "The foundation of acting is listening." This means that actors should pay attention to what their scene partners are saying, doing, and feeling rather than to what they themselves are saying, doing, or feeling. Acting is not about talking or expressing but about listening and reacting.



  • "Don't do anything until something happens." This means that actors should wait for an impulse or a stimulus before they act rather than act out of habit or anticipation. Acting is not about planning or predicting but about discovering or being surprised.



The progression of exercises in the Meisner technique




The Meisner technique consists of a series of exercises that gradually increase in complexity and difficulty as actors progress in their training. The exercises are designed to help actors develop specific skills that are essential for acting such as imagination, concentration, emotional honesty, spontaneity, and responsiveness. The exercises are also designed to help actors overcome common obstacles that hinder their performance such as self-consciousness, clichés, habits, and mechanical performance.


The main exercises in the Meisner technique are:


  • Continuing the article: Repetition exercise. This is the most fundamental and famous exercise in the Meisner technique. It involves two actors sitting across from each other and repeating a simple observation about each other, such as "You have blue eyes." The actors must not change the words but only the way they say them, based on their impulses and reactions. The purpose of this exercise is to train actors to listen and respond truthfully to their partners, without planning or judging their actions.



  • Emotional preparation exercise. This exercise helps actors access their emotions before entering a scene. It involves an actor imagining a personal event or situation that triggers a specific emotion that matches the scene's given circumstances. The actor then uses this emotion as a fuel for their actions in the scene. The purpose of this exercise is to help actors avoid faking or forcing emotions, and instead use their imagination to create genuine feelings.



  • Independent activity exercise. This exercise challenges actors to perform a physical task that has a strong personal meaning and objective for them, while being interrupted by another actor who tries to start a repetition exercise with them. The actor doing the task must try to complete it while also following the rules of the repetition exercise. The purpose of this exercise is to help actors create realistic relationships and conflicts with their partners, while staying focused on their own objectives.



  • Knock at the door exercise. This exercise introduces actors to improvisation within given circumstances. It involves two actors who have an imaginary relationship and a situation that they have agreed upon beforehand. One actor knocks at the door of the other actor's room, and they start a scene based on their given circumstances. The actors must not plan what they are going to say or do, but rather improvise based on their impulses and reactions. The purpose of this exercise is to help actors create spontaneous and believable scenes that are driven by their characters' needs and wants.



  • Breaking down beats exercise. This exercise teaches actors how to analyze scripts and scenes by dividing them into smaller units of action called beats. A beat is a change in the relationship or situation of the characters that affects their objectives and tactics. The actors must identify the beats in a scene and label them with a verb that describes what their character is trying to do or get from their partner. The purpose of this exercise is to help actors understand the structure and dynamics of a scene, and how to play their actions effectively.



  • Point-of-view exercise. This exercise helps actors create distinctive characters by exploring their point of view on various topics and issues. The actors must choose a topic that they have a strong opinion about, and express it in a monologue or a dialogue with another actor who has an opposing opinion. The actors must not argue or persuade each other, but rather state their point of view clearly and honestly. The purpose of this exercise is to help actors develop their characters' personality, attitude, values, beliefs, etc.



  • Final scene exercise. This exercise is the culmination of the Meisner technique training, where actors apply all the skills they have learned to perform a scripted scene in front of an audience. The actors must prepare their scene by doing emotional preparation, independent activity, breaking down beats, and point-of-view exercises. They must also rehearse their scene several times until they feel comfortable and confident with it. The purpose of this exercise is to help actors showcase their artistic growth and achievement through a polished and professional performance.



The benefits and challenges of the Meisner technique




The Meisner technique has many benefits for actors who want to improve their craft and become more creative and expressive. Some of these benefits are:


  • It develops actors' imagination and concentration. By using repetition exercises, emotional preparation exercises, independent activity exercises, etc., actors learn how to use their imagination to create vivid and realistic circumstances that affect them emotionally. They also learn how to concentrate on what they are doing and what is happening around them, without being distracted by irrelevant thoughts or feelings.



  • It enhances actors' emotional honesty and spontaneity. By using emotional preparation exercises, knock at the door exercises, point-of-view exercises, etc., actors learn how to access and express their emotions truthfully without faking or forcing them. They also learn how to improvise freely within given circumstances without planning or predicting what they are going to say or do.



  • It improves actors' responsiveness and communication skills. By using repetition exercises, independent activity exercises, breaking down beats exercises, etc., actors learn how to listen and respond truthfully to their partners without judging or censoring themselves. They also learn how to communicate clearly and effectively what they want or need from their partners without being vague or ambiguous.



  • It helps actors create believable and compelling characters. By using point-of-view exercises, final scene exercises, etc., actors learn how to develop their characters' personality, attitude, values, beliefs, etc. They also learn how to perform their characters with confidence and clarity without being self-conscious or mechanical.



The Meisner technique also has some challenges for actors who want to master it. Some of these challenges are:


  • It requires patience and commitment. The Meisner technique is not a quick fix or a shortcut for acting. It takes time and effort to master its principles and exercises. Actors who want to learn the Meisner technique must be willing to commit themselves fully to the process and practice regularly until they achieve proficiency.



  • It demands vulnerability and openness. The Meisner technique is not for the faint-hearted or the closed-minded. It exposes actors' emotions, impulses, and reactions in front of others. Actors who want to learn the Meisner technique must be ready to face their fears, insecurities, and weaknesses, and share them with honesty and courage.



  • It challenges preconceptions and habits. The Meisner technique is not for the rigid or the habitual. It questions actors' assumptions, ideas, and methods about acting. Actors who want to learn the Meisner technique must be willing to let go of their ego, control, and comfort zone, and embrace new ways of thinking and acting.



The Actor's Art and Craft book review




The structure and style of the book




The Actor's Art and Craft book is structured as a series of 28 lessons that cover Esper's first-year curriculum at his studio. Each lesson consists of three parts: an introduction by Esper that explains the purpose and goals of the lesson; a transcript of Esper's class that shows how he teaches his students; and a commentary by DiMarco that summarizes and analyzes the main points and insights of the lesson. The book is written in a clear and engaging style that makes it easy and enjoyable to read. The book combines theory and practice by explaining and demonstrating the Meisner technique through examples and exercises. The book also uses humor and anecdotes to illustrate and enliven the lessons. The book is designed for both beginners and advanced actors who want to learn or review the Meisner technique from one of its most respected and experienced teachers.


The main themes and insights of the book




The Actor's Art and Craft book explores several themes and insights that are essential for understanding and applying the Meisner technique. Some of these themes and insights are:


  • The importance of being present and truthful in acting. The book emphasizes that acting is not about pretending or lying but about being honest and authentic within a fictional context. The book teaches actors how to be present in every moment and truthful in every action by using their imagination, concentration, emotions, impulses, and reactions.



  • The role of listening and responding in acting. The book stresses that acting is not about talking or expressing but about listening and reacting. The book teaches actors how to listen actively and attentively to what their partners are saying, doing, and feeling, and how to respond spontaneously and appropriately to what they perceive and sense.



  • The difference between doing and indicating in acting. The book distinguishes between doing and indicating as two opposite ways of acting. Doing means pursuing actions that have meaning and purpose for the character; indicating means showing emotions or ideas that have no connection to the character's situation. The book teaches actors how to avoid indicating by focusing on doing what their character wants or needs from their partner.



The balance between freedom and discipline in acting. The book recognizes that acting requires both freedom and discipline as two complementary aspects of the craft. Freedom means having the ability to improvise creatively within given circumstances; discipline means having the skill to follow rules and guidelines that enhance performance. The book teaches actors how to achieve freedom by practicing discipline Continuing the article: The strengths and weaknesses of the book




The Actor's Art and Craft book has many strengths that make it a valuable and enjoyable read for actors who want to learn the Meisner technique. Some of these strengths are:


  • It is clear and comprehensive. The book explains and demonstrates the Meisner technique in a clear and comprehensive way, covering all the essential aspects and exercises of the method. The book also provides examples, tips, and advice from Esper's experience and expertise as a teacher and a practitioner.



  • It is engaging and entertaining. The book is written in an engaging and entertaining style that makes it easy and enjoyable to read. The book uses humor and anecdotes to illustrate and enliven the lessons. The book also recreates the atmosphere and dynamics of Esper's class, allowing the reader to feel like they are part of the learning process.



  • It is practical and applicable. The book is not only a theoretical guide but also a practical handbook that shows how to apply the Meisner technique to various acting situations. The book provides exercises, assignments, and challenges that help the reader practice and improve their skills. The book also offers guidance on how to use the Meisner technique for auditioning, rehearsing, and performing.



The Actor's Art and Craft book also has some weaknesses that may limit its usefulness or appeal for some readers. Some of these weaknesses are:


  • It is lengthy and repetitive. The book is quite long, with 304 pages and 28 lessons. Some readers may find it tedious or overwhelming to read through all the material. The book also repeats some concepts and exercises several times, which may seem redundant or boring for some readers.



  • It is biased and opinionated. The book reflects Esper's personal views and preferences on acting, which may not agree with everyone's tastes or opinions. The book sometimes criticizes or dismisses other acting methods or teachers, which may offend or annoy some readers. The book also assumes that the Meisner technique is the best or only way to act, which may not be true for everyone.



It is outdated and limited. The book was published in 2008, which means that some of its references or examples may be outdated or irrelevant for today's actors. The book also focuses


About

SELF SUFFICIENT, COST EFFECTIVE, ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY, G...

Members

bottom of page