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Creative Moments

Sanford Meisner is a legend in the acting world. Though he started out in method acting, he moved away from it to create a wonderful, natural approach to the craft. In a Meisner acting class, you might be more apt to be asked "what are you doing", rather than "what is the play or scene about?" The repetition exercise is a tool used by Meisner actors.

I remember back when I got my very first "more than two lines" acting role. It was for a movie of the week. When I was filming The Conviction of Kitty Dodds, with Kevin Dobson and Veronica Hammel, we had a break between scenes. I was chatting with Kevin about acting and somehow the techinque came up and he demonstrated the repetition exercise with me. It was fun and I could see where it would be useful, although I'm a Chekhov gal to the core.

Anyway, if you'd like to explore the Meisner Technique, I found what I think is a terrific resource. It is a very special DVD-set of the Meisner Master Class. This set is comprehensive. In fact, it is the only videotaped recording of Meisner teaching his principles of acting. These DVDs offer artists of all disciplines the opportunity to learn directly from a master who is well-established as a significant teacher of the craft in the 20th century.

Although short clips of this material aired in the 1984 PBS special "Sanford Meisner: Theatre's Best Kept Secret", the remainder of an astounding 28 hours of footage remained archived and unavailable until the release of this special DVD-set. If you want to experience The Meisner Technique, as taught by Meisner himself, this may be your best bet online.

Click here to Order from Amazon, Securely - The Meisner Master Class DVD Set

An Acting Tip From Kevin Dobson:
Something else that Kevin said while we were filming really stuck with me. I had a small supporting role in the film. Of course, Kevin had a much larger role, as Kitty Dodd's love interest. I remember asking him about some aspect of his character, I don't remember the question now, and his reply gave me pause.

After all this time I'm paraphrasing and forgive me Kevin if I don't get it exactly right but basically what I remember you saying is that your character was there to serve her story ("her" being Kitty Dodds, the role played by Veronica Hammel). There was a quite noticable humility in the choice to consciously approach the time on screen in that way. I respected what you said a lot and it changed how I looked at the much smaller roles we usually get a shot at here in the south (that's changing now, thank goodness!)

If an actor of the caliber of Kevin Dobson feels he is there to serve the story of the main character's story, how much more the smaller roles? I noticed that he brought everything in his performance to bear on that concept, that his character was there to help tell her story. It took all the ego out of it. By the way, Kevin, do you still have the sitcom pilot script I gave you? Hearts'R'Us? I have hope to this day that it will become something one day.

I'm 62 years old and am just now beginning to feel comfortable with all aspects of this crazy business called acting. There are still parts of it that make me want to run screaming into the hills (the barbaric audition process, for starters) but acting remains the one thing that can still excite me. I love it and I want to do it well.

Being brutally honest here, I realize that I'm just now (after 30 years in the business) learning how to let me authentic self be truly present and to let go of all the crap that so often surrounds the situation.

There are always going to be ego struggles and personality quirks to deal with on the set. Sometimes these will be mine; sometimes, they emerge from others. Whatever the origin, the clear path to a good performance dictates that the ego challenges be left behind before the camera rolls. That has become my goal. I know how to act but can I can I remember that in the middle of some perceived or very real snub or ego trip response or personality conflict?