11
Apr
13

Sunshine Coast Meisner Training for Actors

 

Meisner Training is an interdependent series of exercises that build upon one another. The more complex work supports a command of dramatic text.

Now, for the first time, the technique comes to the Sunshine Coast.

 

Starting at 7pm Wednesday April 17th at the Heritage Theatre in Gympie, the program offers actors of all skill-levels an unparalleled opportunity to advance their command of their craft in a fun, friendly and supportive atmosphere. Yes, it’s a Gympie venue. Yes, you should find a way to get there. Why not do a shout out on our Facebook page and find others who will car pool and train with you?

 

To secure your place in the program email  tony@interactyouththeatre.com.au or call 0418 881 063

 

 

Meisner students work on a series of progressively complex exercises to develop an ability to improvise, to access an emotional life, and finally to bring the spontaneity of improvisation and the richness of personal response to text. The technique assumes that by emphasizing “moment-to-moment” spontaneity through communion with other actors, behaviour that is truthful under imaginary circumstances may be generated.

 

Meisner emphasized doing with early training heavily based on actions. The questions “what are you playing?” and “what are you doing?” are frequently asked in class to remind actors to commit themselves to an objective rather than a script. Silence, dialogue, and activity all require the actor to find a purpose for performing the action. By combining the two main tasks of focusing one’s attention on one’s partner and committing to an action, the technique aims to compel an actor into the moment (a common Meisner phrase), while simultaneously propelling him forward with concentrated purpose. The more an actor is able to take in the partner and the partner’s surroundings while performing in character, the more Meisner believed they are able to leave himself or herself alone and “live truthfully.”

 

The most fundamental exercise in Meisner training is called Repetition. Two actors face each other and “repeat” their observations about one another back and forth. An example of such an exchange might be: “You’re smiling.” “I’m smiling.” “You’re smiling!” “Yes, I’m smiling.” Actors are asked to observe and respond to others’ behavior and the subtext therein. If they can “pick up the impulse” — or work spontaneously from how their partner’s behavior affects them — their own behavior will arise directly from the stimulus of the other.

 

 

Later, as the exercise evolves in complexity to include “given circumstances,” “relationships,” actions and obstacles, this skill remains critical. From start to finish — from repetition to rehearsing a lead role — the principles of “listen and respond” and “stay in the moment” are fundamental to the work.

 

As for all Stanislavskian-derived approaches, for a Meisner actor traditional line memorization methods that include vocal inflections or gestures makes no sense. Doing so merely increases the chance the actor will miss a “real moment” in service of a rehearsed habit or line reading. Meisner actors learn lines dry, “by rote,” without inflection, so as not to memorize a line reading. When the line is finally to be delivered, its quality and inflection is derived from the given moment.

 

The improvisatory thrust of the technique should not be misconstrued as permission to wing it or to go unprepared. Meisner training includes extensive work on crafting or preparing a role. As students mature in the work, they get to know themselves and can make use of this self-knowledge by choosing actions compelling to their particular instrument. They “come to life” through informed, provocative choices. Actors prepare emotional responses by “personalizing” and “paraphrasing” material and by using their imagination and “daydreaming” around a play’s events in highly specific ways that they’ve learned are especially evocative to them personally.

 

When circumstances are advanced, this preparation must be accomplished with specificity and depth, or else the actor’s attention simply cannot move away from self and onto the moment. Solid preparation supports the spontaneity, an idea articulated by Martha Graham when she wrote, “I work eight hours a day, every day, so that in the evenings I can improvise.”

 

James Kable

James Kable has been teaching young actors since 1995, when he first started tutoring at QUT. Since then he has taught hundreds of hopefuls the rudiments of the craft. 

 

From 2001 to 2003 he conducted workshops all over Queensland as part of the Queensland Theatre Company’s Regional Partnerships Program and was a regular tutor at the company’s Theatre Residency Week. In 2004 he studied method acting under Martin Barter at the Sanford Meisner Center in Los Angeles and in 2005 he became the inaugural full-time acting teacher at the Lasalle College of the Arts in Singapore. Upon his return to Australia, he began teaching and directing for the Australian Acting Academy.

 

Since 2005 he has been very proud to be an Artistic Associate atZen Zen Zo Physical Theatre Company, tutoring the interns and the core company in aspects of naturalistic acting, using theMeisner technique as a primary teaching tool.

 

As an actor, some of the highlights include the roles of Garcin in Sartre’s No Exit, Barney in Summer of the Seventeenth DollOliver in As You Like It and Jimmy Porter in Look Back in Anger, all at La BoiteHe has played Verlaine in Total Eclipse, Mortimer in Marlowe’s Edward II, created the role of Nick in the world premiere of Stephen Sewell’s Frightened Heart, Fallen Soul, done both Theseusand Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, played Pozzo in Polymorphic’s Matilda Award winning Waiting for Godot, done a double-act as a transvestite and an SS captain in Bent and filled the title role in Self. Since the turn of the century, James has performed to critical acclaim as Dave No-Name in Alive at Williamstown Pier and as Hercules’s doomed stepfather Amphitryon in Mad Hercules. In 2008 he played Governor Arthur Phillip and John Wisehammer in the Gold Coast Little Theatre’s production ofTimberlake Wertenbaker’s Our Country’s Good, directed by Jennifer Flowers. Last year saw his acting debut for Zen Zen Zo, playing both Alonso and Affogato in a Matilda Award winning production of The Tempest.

 

His directorial debut was a Matilda Award winning production of Sam Shepard’s Fool for Love, at La Boite in 1989. His millenial version of Shepard’s rock musical The Tooth of Crime was one of the critical and box office successes of 1995 and in 1996 he directed Vena Cava’s inaugural production, Stephen Sewell’s ferocious political satire/black comedy/rock musical Anger’s Love. He revisitedFool for Love for Hattrick Theatre in 1997. Since then he has gone on to direct several productions for QUT, for the Queensland Theatre Company and a futuristic Faust for the Corrugated Company. In 2006 he directed three plays for Lasalle-SIA College of the Arts: Edward Bond‘s The Tin Can People, Stephen Sewell’sDreams In An Empty City and David Henry Hwang’s Golden Child

 

 

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