Demystifying The Meisner Technique: An interview with student Ting Fung
Ting Fung is a 29-year-old paralegal who completed her Foundation Course at The Actor's Temple in Spring 2019. She is now my class-mate in the 12 month Core Training taught by Jo Romero. This course is designed to help the actor to hone their instincts and express authentic emotions by putting all their attention on a scene partner. Ting and I meet in a darkened Studio 2 ahead of class one evening. We are three weeks into the course and just starting to get our bearings.
What expectations do you have for this Core Training?
Any expectations I might have are linked to what I've read about Sanford Meisner or The Meisner Technique. When we were doing the Foundation Course, Jo recommended a book [Actor's Art and Craft by William Esper], so I've got a rough idea of at least three quarters of what to expect. I'm intrigued to see how that plays out and what it will be like in practice rather that just reading about it. I think if you let yourself, you're capable of having profound experiences. Outside of here, I've always said that I highly recommend that anyone, even if you don't want to do acting, should go ahead and do it because it's a wonderful exploration of human beings.
Is your curiosity and interest in human psychology something that makes this technique particularly appealing?
I was saying to Harry [our lovely classmate] yesterday that I call myself a bit of an emotional vampire. There is something wonderful and intoxicating to me to sit in the audience and watch. I've been fortunate to be in classes with people who have allowed themselves to go on that journey. That's an important thing to note. When I was doing the foundation the people that I was in a class with had been to a taster session and their comments were that some of the people weren't always as open or generous with their fellow actors. Obviously, it depends what everyone is comfortable with.
How are you finding balancing a full-time job as a paralegal with demanding training?
Very tiring! That was part of my nervousness in coming back because I found it emotionally demanding when I did the foundation. Something that we've discussed in class before is you can feel like you open up emotional floodgates, and because we're less practised in closing the floodgates you can end up feeling a bit crap.
Maybe because it's so early you're still figuring this out but: Do you had any wisdom to share about how to keep it together and close the floodgates?
I'm not gonna lie, I haven't yet found something that's 100 percent worked for me. That was part of the reason why it took me so long to come back - barring the fact that I was also waiting for Jo to teach some core classes. I know that some people have recommended meditation as a potentially helpful exercise. If you really need help, speak to your teacher or your class members. Speak to someone, and try to figure it out.
Are you content for this training to be an experience of personal meaning or do you want to get some tangible professional result out of it, in terms of a future in acting?
I definitely do want to get some tangible professional result out of it. It's why I'm here.
What type of professional development would make the course worth your while, or do you feel it's going to be worth its while anyway?
That's what I'm leaning towards. In and of itself I can already feel like it's helping me to develop as an actor in terms of just being present and finding ways to access my emotion in a truthful way. I'm not sure about what you said about measuring it in terms of professional development because I think that comes with more knowledge of the business of acting. I know there are classes here so I just need to go to some of those!
Is there anyone in the creative industries whose footsteps you want to follow in, or, if you want to go your own way, anyone who inspires you to do that?
I love Adam Driver so much! After I watched Marriage Story I was like, 'A bit of me wants to be Adam Driver'. In terms of who inspires me: at the moment I am looking a lot to East Asian actresses, like Sandra Oh and Awkwafina. It's great that they're being recognised for their work. I really enjoy that. I don't know if this is insulting to say about them but I don't think they're considered conventionally attractive and I appreciate that the focus is more on their talent than their looks. As an East Asian girl, I've always had this perception that I had to look a certain way purely based on what I'd seen in western cinema.
Make sure to check in next week for Movies Stars That Meisner: Sam Rockwell!