The Taster Session: What is Acting?
Updated: May 29, 2018
By Sophia Papadopoulos
For a long time now, the Meisner technique has been an acting approach that both stage and screen greats rely upon. It’s often mentioned in interviews, course structures, articles and workshops, hailed as the driving force behind a truthful performance.
However, as an actor who had no concrete idea of what Sanford Meisner stood for but who wished to learn more without the immediate commitment of training, the Taster session as The Actors Temple was the perfect solution.
Consisting of a single four hour session, you are introduced to the Meisner technique and its principles, given an insight into the training at The Actors Temple and can even watch an extract of what students are currently learning. Perfect for beginners, students or professionals, it gives you an idea of how this approach can completely change your relationship with acting and your career as a whole.
An Introduction to Meisner
The session began with an introductory chat from Simon about the Meisner approach and the fundamental thoughts behind it. Simon really engaged us in discussion about what acting is and provoked us into scraping the surface of this word. I think a lot of the time we forget about why we are up onstage and often make it about ourselves - the dreaded ‘me, me, me’ trap. The truth is, acting is storytelling - it’s about the audience and ‘doing’ something to communicate a story/message/question etc to a group of people. Touching upon Meisner’s infamous quote - Acting is behaving truthfully under imaginary circumstances - so much of what Simon was saying made sense and yet I hadn’t fully contemplated it before. As a society, we usually live life untruthfully - his anecdote to explain this was how we compliment the hairdresser about the haircut we hate or attend a dinner party and smile through gritted teeth. One of the reasons for why I love to perform is because it allows audiences to see a true depiction of society reflected back to them and (hopefully) provokes them to question their own lives. Therefore, this idea that we need to always find the truth in acting really resonated with me.
What was great about the Taster session was that we got to really see some of Meisner’s exercises in practise. Without giving too much away (because you really should try it for yourself!), we explored how we should truthfully perform actions on stage rather than ‘acting’ them out. We explored this idea of ‘given circumstances’ (which is an often talked about phrase) and how gut reactions are important in embodying an emotion - a lot of the time we are guilty of not allowing our bodies to respond.
The main exercise that we explored however - and a huge part of the Meisner technique as a whole - was called Repetition. Simon explained that this is the basis of the Meisner approach and not only does it feature heavily in all of the courses but there are also weekly workshops so students can keep up the practise. We each got to step into the space and explore the different variations of Repetition - this ranged from simply repeating what your partner says to you for an extended period of time, to repeating and adapting to changes in their behaviour.
The Taster session also gives you the rare opportunity to talk to current students and find out if this is the acting approach for you. Not only did they recount their experiences and what that they had gained through the training, but the four hours culminated in a show of what they are currently learning. This was a lot more advanced than the work we were doing but it was really interesting to see how this Repetition exercise can feed into scene work and also play a big part in Improvisation!
I learnt a great deal about Meisner in those four hours and consequently have enrolled in the month long part-time Foundation course. This introduction to the Meisner technique was really useful in not only teaching us more about the approach, but it also allowed us to experience a snippet of the training and how it can benefit your acting. Most importantly, it made me realise that this once difficult task of making acting consistently ‘truthful and believable’ didn’t seem so impossible anymore; I finally was given some concrete exercises and approaches to slowly but surely achieve this.
If you want to attend a Taster session, you should have a look at their page or contact The Actors Temple to find out more. They have a range of daytime and evening sessions coming up which is great for people who are worried about it clashing with their working hours!
After studying English Literature and Theatre at the University of Leeds and becoming an active member of the university’s Theatre Group, Sophia realised acting was the right path for her. After living in France for a year to feed her love for travelling and tutoring, she’s now back in London to follow the actor/blogger dream. She loves exploring all things ‘drama’ and hopes to one day be in productions that can give a powerful voice to important issues and delve into challenging roles. She is currently studying at The Actors Temple on The Foundation Course and is a keen blogger busy travelling around interviewing alumni, trying out new classes, reviewing the latest shows and ultimately exploring this world of ‘acting’!