Meisner Technique & 'Method Acting'
A brief history
CONSTANTIN STANISLAVSKI AND THE SYSTEM
“All action in theatre must have inner justification, be logical, coherent, and real.”
METHOD ACTING IN AMERICA
The Stanislavski method in America really begins with the establishment of the Group Theatre in New York in 1931 by Harold Clurman, Cheryl Crawford and Lee Strasberg, converts to the Stanislavski teachings. Very soon after its establishment, many now infamous figures of the acting and stage world - actors, directors, playwrights and teachers - joined the school. Among those, most notably Stella Adler and of course Sanford Meisner.
The Group Theatre was run as a not for profit enterprise, a factor which eventually led to its demise in 1941. In its ten years of operation it came to redefine stage craft and the art of teaching acting itself through the development of a new method to acting which was based on the Stanislavski system.
“The human being who acts is the human being who lives.”
NEW DIRECTIONS IN METHOD TRAINING
However by the time of its closure, the Method developed under the direction of Lee Strasberg became a point of contention between some of the founding members. By the time the Group Theatre dissolved, some of the founders and original members had began establishing their own schools. In some cases, they taught acting techniques which, although were still based on the Stanislavski teachings, differed fundamentally from the earlier formulations of the Stanislavski method that had been so popularised by Lee Strasberg.
The points of contention arose from the fact that Stanislavki revised his techniques throughout his life. Earlier formulations of his technique focused on developing the actor's ability to bring truth to performance from the inside out - that is by utilising the actor's memory of their own sensory and emotional experiences. Lee Strasberg's Method is heavily invested on this idea and in his own technique he developed this further into what came to be known as Affective Memory.
“You have to get beyond your own precious inner experiences.”
“Acting is behaving truthfully under imaginary circumstances”
In the case of Meisner, this led to him joining the Neighbourhood Playhouse in 1935 where he developed his own theory based on the Stanislavski System, the highly respected Meisner acting method, The Meisner Technique. He continued his association with the Playhouse until the end of his life. In the 1980's he set up his own school the Meisner/Carville School of Acting in the Carribean first and then in Hollywood. His split his time teaching between the three locations until his death in 1997.
Adler developed her own technique through her own school The Stella Adler Studio of acting which she founded in 1949. Strasberg developed his 'Method' through The Actor's Studio which he joined in 1951.
Method Acting continues to be taught by the students of these great masters of stage craft. Reputable acting schools that purport to teach Method Acting will teach some variant of the Strasberg, Adler and Meisner acting method.