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Sanford Meisner on Acting Paperback – July 12, 1987

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Sanford Meisner has been called "the theater's best-kept secret," and Sanford Meisner on Acting by Dennis Longwell gives some insight into what techniques the hugely influential drama teacher used in his 50-plus years of work. One of the founding members of the Actors Studio (with Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler, and Harold Clurman), Meisner developed his own special lessons based upon his understandings of the great Russian teacher Stanislavsky. Turning away from the sense-memory exercises common among his colleagues, his training focused instead on a realistic approach to imagination and creativity. Unlike many other educators associated with "the Method," Meisner had little tolerance for self-absorption or striving after strong emotional effect, instead preaching that clarity of purpose and efficient use of the psyche are the actor's greatest tools. Longwell's book follows a class of eight men and eight women through one of Meisner's 15-month courses at New York's Neighborhood Playhouse, with extensive transcripts taken directly from Meisner's notes to the students on the basis of their exercises. With an introduction by director Sydney Pollack, one of the many influential artists who studied with Meisner (the book includes accolades from Maureen Stapleton, Arthur Miller, Gregory Peck, and Eli Wallach), this is an excellent introduction that helps to demystify the work of a great theatrical teacher. --John Longenbaugh

From Library Journal

Meisner, a member of the Theater Guild and the Group Theater, has devoted most of 50 years to teaching acting and is one of the great unsung resources in American theater. This book is not an acting text, but a journal of a 15-month course taken by 16 adult actors. We follow them as they progress from early exercises through preparation to detailed scene work. Meisner emphasizes emotional truth and acting as the reality of doing. His students find the course difficult, but most improve markedly. Not all survive. Though Meisner is not well, he is a superb teacher and his enthusiasm is undiminished. This is required reading for all actors and those interested in acting. Thomas E. Luddy, English Dept., Salem State Coll., Mass.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1 edition (July 12, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394750594
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394750590
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (111 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,035 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

84 of 88 people found the following review helpful By Christon Basham on May 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
I am currently studying the craft of acting at one of the 3 year professional acting acadamies here in LA. I very much enjoyed reading this book and have done so at this point several times. I would most highly recommend it to anyone thinking about or currently studying the craft of acting.
In the first chapter (Setting The Scene: Duse's Blush), we are giving a chronology of Meisners life and how he came to be such a great and beloved teacher. It is also in this first chapter that Meisner recounts the story of Elenora Duse, a legendary Italian actress who played the role of Magda in Hermann Sundermanns Heimat. In the first scene of this play, as the story goes, she is a young girl that has an affair with a guy from the same village, and she has a child by him. Twenty-five years later, or thereabouts, she comes back to visit her family who live in this town, and her ex-lover comes to call on her. She accepts his flowers and they sit and talk. All of a sudden the actor realizes that she is blushing, and it gets so bad that she drops her head and hides her face in embarrassment. Although we learn that this does not happen every performance, it is this blush that is the epitome of living truthfully under imaginary circumstances. This is Meisners definition of all good acting.
The foundation of acting, is the reality of doing. It is this basic premise that is the spine of this book of exercises intended to bring the actor closer to their emotional self. It is an approach that is based on bringing the actor away from the intellectualizing of character analysis back to his emotional impulses and to acting that is firmly rooted in the instinctive.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Javier Galito-Cava on February 21, 2003
Format: Paperback
I agree... Sandford Meisner is by far one of the best kept secrets in acting. I stuided the Meisner Technique approach to acting with the wonderful Rachael Adler and it has absolutely changed me. Not just my acting but my life as well. This is a MUST HAVE for ANY actor. Whether this technique is right for you or not, the information you will get from this book will most defenitely help you understand what makes good acting.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 31, 2002
Format: Paperback
I did a 1/2 semester project on Meisner's acting techniques for an acting class (we had to compare and contrast another technique with the Stanislavski technique most of us are familiar with). at the conservatory I attend, and found this book answered just about all my questions. It was an interesting read, but from a research standpoint, would have been easier to use had it not been in journal style. However, I have come acrossed nothing better as a resource exclusively dealing with Meisner. Read something about the Group Theatre as well, which may just lead to study of some techniques of some of Meisner's contemporaries and help you to combine styles to find your own unique approach to the art.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By A. M. Rosa on November 7, 2001
Format: Paperback
I would have to say that this is one of the best books on acting around. Although I am too young to have ever studied with Meisner, I am a student of his technique, and I think that this book helps give you a brief insight into what this extraordinary man had in mind. He professes a no nonsense approach to acting, "The reality of doing," that will truly benefit an aspiring artist. Meisner's belief of actually feeling something as opposed to faking something seems self evident, but was revolutionary for his time. Why substitute a response, when you can actually experience the emotion. If you are supposed to be angry actually get angry, don't fake angry. I do however have to agree with the other reviewers in saying that a book is no substitute to actually finding a good teacher with a good core group of students to work through the technique. You come to acting through feeling it, not intellectualizing it. In that you need to actually do it to feel it. It takes a long time, a lot of discipline and perserverance, but it is an extremely rewarding pursuit. The book helps as a guide post, but it is by no means that road that you will need to travel to develop your art.
As with any great teacher, Meisner's lessons can be applied to more than just the subject material. There are several Life's Lessons in this book, and I would even recommend it to people who are not actors or students of theater.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 26, 2001
Format: Paperback
Since I studied with Sandy for two years at the Neighborhood Playhouse and continued to study with him in his private class after I graduated from the Playhouse, I believe that I can speak with some authority. The book that Dennis Longwell has edited does an admirable job of describing the organic process of learning to act. Please note that reading is not a substitute for "the reality of doing."
Sandy was an extraordinary pragmatist and a man of deep sensitivity. However, he was unsentimental; astringent; and gifted with a wonderfully mordaunt sense of humor. He once said, "I like to think that I prepare artists to survive in a world that doesn't always want them." In a way, he was preparing his students for battle. If he was tough, he did so only in order to be kind. Personally, I really liked him and I always think of him with real affection. Learning from him personally was a privilege and an honor.
All in all, he was one of the most extraordinary people whom I have ever known, as well as one of the most influential. In a field all too often occupied by charlatans, he took a stand against pseudo-intellectuality and some self syled amateur psychiatrists posing as men and women of the theatre. His close friends included Harold Clurman and Stella Adler, whose influence he never failed to credit.
Sandy didn't live in an ivory tower, or teach in some backwater college. He was truly a man of the theatre, with more than 30 Broadway credits. In fact, he was a very good actor. You can see for yourself in the 1958 movie THE STORY ON PAGE ONE, written and directed by his close friend, Clifford Odets.
If you aspire to be an actor, you can get an idea from this book of what is involved in learning the Meisner Technique. Sandy had no "b.s.
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