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The Meisner Technique: Unlocking Your Full Potential as an Actor

Updated: Aug 17, 2023

"Acting is living truthfully under imaginary circumstances." - Sanford Meisner

The Meisner Technique is an acting technique developed by the American actor and teacher Sanford Meisner. It is based on the principle that good acting comes from an honest and immediate response to an acting partner, rather than from a rehearsed way of saying lines or predetermined emotions.

A Brief History of the Meisner Technique

Sanford Meisner developed the technique in the 1930s while he was a member of the Group Theatre, a collective of actors, directors, and playwrights who sought to revolutionize American theatre. The Group Theater was founded by Harold Clurman, Cheryl Crawford and Lee Strasberg in 1931, Meisner joined them in 1932. He later taught the technique at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre in New York City, where it became extremely popular among aspiring actors. Meisner taught at the Neighborhood Playhouse from the 1940s to the 1980s, where he trained many actors who went on to have successful careers in film, television, and theatre.

The Philosophy of the Meisner Technique

The Meisner Technique is built on the idea that good acting comes from the actor's ability to respond truthfully and spontaneously to their acting partner, rather than from reciting memorized lines a specific way or trying to create a specific emotion within the scene. Meisner believed that the key to truthful acting was to focus on the present moment and to let go of any preconceived notions or habits that might get in the way of an honest response. He also believed that actors should approach their work with humility and a willingness to learn.


The Meisner Technique is based on the principle of "repetition," which is a series of exercises that focuses on developing the actor's ability to respond honestly and spontaneously to their acting partner. The technique is based on the idea that good acting comes from living truthfully in the moment, rather than from reciting memorized lines a specific way or trying to create a specific emotion. The repetition exercise is a dialogue between two actors, in which one actor makes a statement and the other actor responds with a truthful and spontaneous reaction. This exercise is repeated multiple times, with the goal of helping the actors to become more present and responsive in their performances.

Pros and Cons with the Meisner Technique

One of the biggest advantages of the Meisner Technique is that it helps actors to develop a strong sense of truth and authenticity in their performances. Actors who use the technique often report feeling more connected to their characters and more confident in their ability to respond honestly to their acting partners. However, the technique can be challenging for actors who are used to relying on preconceived ideas about their characters and how to recite their lines.

Comparison to Other Acting Techniques

The Meisner Technique is similar to other acting techniques, such as the Stanislavski System and the Method of Physical Action. These techniques focus on helping actors to create truthful and authentic performances. However, the Meisner Technique places a greater emphasis on the actor's ability to respond spontaneously to their acting partner, rather than on their ability to create a specific emotion or psychological state.

Examples of Actors and Actresses Who Use the Meisner Technique

Many famous actors and actresses have trained in the Meisner Technique, including:

  • Robert Duvall

  • Diane Keaton

  • Gregory Peck

  • Paul Newman

  • Joanne Woodward

  • Grace Kelly

If you're interested in unlocking your full potential as an actor, consider applying for a Meisner Technique Course at Elin Hilläng Studios.



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