The Meisner technique is an approach to acting developed by American theatre practitioner Sanford Meisner.[1]

The goal of the Meisner approach is for the actor to not focus on themselves and instead concentrate on the other actors in the immediate environment. To this end, some exercises for the Meisner technique are rooted in repetition so that the words are deemed insignificant compared to the underlying emotion. In the Meisner technique, there is a greater focus on the other actor as opposed to one's internal thoughts or feelings associated with the character. The Meisner technique is different from method acting taught by Lee Strasberg, although both developed from the early teachings of Konstantin Stanislavski.



Meisner training is an interdependent series of training exercises that build on one another. The more complex work supports a command of dramatic text. Students work on a series of progressively complex exercises to develop an ability to first improvise, then to access an emotional life, and finally to bring the spontaneity of improvisation and the richness of personal response to textual work.[2] The techniques developed the behavioral strand of Stanislavski's. The technique is used to develop improvisation skills as well as "interpreting a script, and creating the specific physical characteristics of each character the actor played".[3]

An example of a technique Meisner invented to train actors' responses is called the Repetition Exercise:

In this exercise, two actors sit across from each other and respond to each other through a repeated phrase. Initially, the phrase refers to an external physical characteristic such as "You're wearing a red shirt." As the exercise progresses, it becomes more about each other's behavior, and reflects what is going on between them in the moment, such as "You look unhappy with me right now." The way this phrase is said as it is repeated changes in meaning, tone and intensity to correspond with the behavior that each actor produces towards the other. Through this device, the actor stops thinking of what to say and do, and responds more freely and spontaneously, both physically and vocally. The exercise also eliminates line readings, since the way the actor speaks becomes coordinated with his behavioral response.[3]

About Meisner


To be an interesting actor, you must be authentic. For you to ever be authentic, you must embrace who you really are. Do you have any idea how liberating it is to not care what people think about you? Well, that's what we're here to do.

Sanford Meisner, Meisner Technique Studio[4]

Sanford Meisner began developing his approach to acting technique while working with the Group Theatre alongside director Lee Strasberg and actress Stella Adler. He continued developing his approach over the next fifty years while working with actors as head of the acting program at New York City's Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre as well as while training actors in his private classes outside the Neighborhood Playhouse. During his lifetime he continued working toward a refinement in his ideas toward acting and in his approach to training actors, dropping some exercises he considered to be less effective along the way, while adding new ones he created to help solve the actor's problems in learning the craft.

In 1935, Sanford Meisner, one of the founding members of The Group Theatre (along with Stella Adler, Bobby Lewis, Harold Clurman, and Lee Strasberg), joined the faculty of The Neighborhood Playhouse. Over the years, he developed and refined what is now known as the Meisner Technique, a step-by-step procedure of self-investigation for the actor now globally recognized and among the foremost of modern acting techniques.[5]

Meisner believed that the study of the actor's craft was rooted in acquiring a solid organic acting technique. It was a cornerstone of his teaching that this learning process occur not in a theoretical, abstract manner, but in the practical give and take of the classroom, where as he once said, "the students struggled to learn what I struggled to teach." Through that struggle the gifted student, over time gradually begins to emerge solidly in his or her work.[5]

In 1980, a group of his alumni got together to preserve his teachings for future generations. Sydney Pollack directed a master class taught by Sanford Meisner. It was transferred to digital film in 2006. [citation needed]

Meisner set out his approach to actor training in a co-authored book that offers a fly-on-the-wall view of his teaching practice, Sanford Meisner: On Acting (1987).[6] More recent historical research documents his early career as a classical pianist, studying at the precursor to the Juilliard School.[7] Several sources suggest that his musical training led Meisner to emphasise listening as the guiding principle for an actor throughout Meisner Technique.[8][9] A biography published in 2017 offers insight into Meisner's later life with his partner James Carville and their adopted son Boolu.[10]



The Neighborhood Playhouse was originally founded as an off-Broadway theatre by philanthropists Alice and Irene Lewisohn in 1915. After closing in 1927, it re-opened the following year as the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre, with the addition of Rita Wallach Morgenthau. Sanford Meisner, who was one of the founding members of the Group Theatre (along with Stella Adler, Bobby Lewis, Harold Clurman, and Lee Strasberg), joined the faculty of the Neighborhood Playhouse in 1935. Over the years, he developed and refined what is now known as the Meisner Technique.[5] On October 18, 2018, the New York City Council officially recognized the 90th anniversary of the Neighborhood Playhouse, and Meisner's contributions to the school, with an official Proclamation.[11]

The William Esper Studio was founded in 1965 as a school for the performing arts in Manhattan, New York. Its founder, William "Bill" Esper (1932–2019), is occasionally referred to as the best-known of Meisner's first generation teachers.[12]

List of Meisner-trained actors


Actors who have trained in the Meisner technique include:

See also



  1. ^ Foster, Hirsch (2000). Actors and Acting (Hardcover ed.). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-66959-7. Retrieved September 17, 2015.
  2. ^ "Compagnie AZOT — Méthode Meisner". (in French). Retrieved November 28, 2018.
  3. ^ a b "About the Meisner Acting Technique". Robert Epstein's Acting Studio. Robert Epstein and the Complete Meisner-Based Actor's Training. Retrieved September 18, 2015.
  4. ^ Jarrett, Jim. "The Meisner Technique". Meisner Technique Studio. Retrieved August 19, 2023.
  5. ^ a b c "About Us". Neighborhood Playhouse. Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre. Retrieved September 18, 2015.
  6. ^ Meisner, Sanford; Longwell, Dennis (1987). Sanford Meisner: On Acting. New York: Vintage.
  7. ^ Davidson, Andrew (January 2, 2023). "The listening actor: intersections between the musicality of Meisner Technique and ear training in Dalcroze Eurhythmics". Theatre, Dance and Performance Training. 14 (1): 5–23. doi:10.1080/19443927.2022.2152483.
  8. ^ Adair, Aaron (2005). Analyzing and Applying the Sanford Meisner Approach to Acting. University of Texas.
  9. ^ Davidson, Andrew (January 2, 2023). "The listening actor: intersections between the musicality of Meisner Technique and ear training in Dalcroze Eurhythmics". Theatre, Dance and Performance Training. 14 (1): 5–23. doi:10.1080/19443927.2022.2152483.
  10. ^ Carville, James; Trost, Scott Tilma. De Tree a We: The Remarkable Lives of Sanford Meisner, James Carville and Boolu. New York: GR8 Books.
  11. ^ "CM Kallos Awards Proclamation to the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre". NY for Kallos. October 18, 2018. Archived from the original on May 24, 2019. Retrieved July 13, 2019.
  12. ^ Susan Coromel (2009). "The Actor's Art and Craft (review)" (PDF). Theatre Topics. 19. The Johns Hopkins University Press: 109–110. doi:10.1353/tt.0.0058. S2CID 191606935. Retrieved September 19, 2015.
  13. ^ Alex Essoe - Burning Down the Overlook, retrieved August 22, 2023
  14. ^ Wallace, Chris (June 2014). "Alexandra Daddario". Interview. Retrieved March 3, 2015.
  15. ^ "Between Takes at CBS — Amanda Setton". CBS. Retrieved October 29, 2013.
  16. ^ "Amy Schumer Biography". TV Guide. Retrieved April 15, 2014.
  17. ^ McIntyre, Gina (December 22, 2021). "Carrie-Anne Moss on the 'Matrix' Movies and Playing an Action Hero in Her 50s". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 22, 2021 – via It happened in an acting class with a teacher, Sandy Marshall — she teaches Meisner.
  18. ^ "Chad Willett - Filmbug".
  19. ^ Norton, Graham (host) (November 8, 2019). "The Graham Norton Show". The Graham Norton Show. Series 26. Episode 07. BBC One.
  20. ^ Christoph Waltz — Dill Pickle. YouTube. Archived from the original on December 21, 2021. Retrieved August 19, 2013.
  21. ^ "Interview with Christopher Meloni by GoldDerby". June 10, 2021.
  22. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Dvorak, Wayne. "MEISNER TECHNIQUE | The Wayne Dvorak Acting Studio | United States". Retrieved May 2, 2020.
  23. ^ "Mastering Your Emotions With Actor Ed Speleers!". Act on This. Archived from the original on December 21, 2021.
  24. ^ "Episode 813 - Griffin Dunne / Bill Burr — WTF with Marc Maron Podcast".
  25. ^ Itzkoff, Dave (June 19, 2013). "James Gandolfini Is Dead at 51; a Complex Mob Boss in 'Sopranos'". The New York Times. p. 2. Retrieved June 19, 2013."Mr. Gandolfini, who had studied the Meisner technique of acting for two years, said that he used it to focus his anger and incorporate it into his performances."
  26. ^ "Joakim Nätterqvist / "Niklas" - Elden". Archived from the original on March 31, 2017.
  27. ^ Urban, Karl. "Actor Biography" (PDF). Johnson & Laird. Retrieved September 17, 2015.
  28. ^ "Gilmore Guys: A Gilmore Girls Podcast — Gilmore Gabs — Keiko Agena".
  29. ^ "Keiko Agena". Buddy TV. Buddy TV. Retrieved May 16, 2016.
  30. ^ Resume: Pitillo, Maria — Innovative Artists
  31. ^ "How Did This Get Made? - Origin Stories Bonus: Michael Paré".
  32. ^ "Actorium — Meet Us". Actorium. Retrieved May 31, 2016.
  33. ^ "Milo McCabe — Schiz". Retrieved December 18, 2023.
  34. ^ "Getting Into Acting – Naomi Watts". The Actors Pulse. November 6, 2021. Retrieved June 23, 2024.
  35. ^ Elise Bauman / Natasha Negovanlis - 'Heard Well' radio interview. YouTube. Archived from the original on December 21, 2021. Retrieved November 28, 2017.
  36. ^ Nawazuddin Siddiqui Talks About Method Acting. The Scholars' Avenue. February 6, 2014. Retrieved February 18, 2022 – via YouTube.
  37. ^ "Nestor Carbonell Quotes". Retrieved October 23, 2016.
  38. ^ "Sam Rockwell: "It's just being there for the first time."". The Talks. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  39. ^ "Sandra Peabody — Acting, TV/Film". Lakewood Center of the Arts. Retrieved June 18, 2016.
  40. ^ "Top Acting Classes NYC • Rutgers University". Retrieved October 19, 2017.
  41. ^ Butler, Hayley (February 3, 2020). "Shaun Benson: Meisner Technique & Life as an Actor". Retrieved June 23, 2024.
  42. ^ Stephen Colbert shmoozes about family deaths. YouTube. Event occurs at 0:28 seconds. Archived from the original on December 21, 2021. Retrieved August 19, 2013.
  43. ^ "Conversations with Tatiana Maslany of ORPHAN BLACK". YouTube. Archived from the original on December 21, 2021. Retrieved May 11, 2014.
  44. ^ Wheaton, Wil (November 8, 2013). "in which i remember to keep it simple". Wil Wheaton dot Net. Retrieved September 17, 2015.

General references

  • Banham, Martin, ed. 1998. The Cambridge Guide to Theatre. Cambridge: Cambridge UP. ISBN 0-521-43437-8.
  • Courtney, C. C. 2000. "The Neighborhood Playhouse." In Krasner (2000b, 291-295).
  • Hirsch, Foster. 2000. "Actors and Acting." In Wilmeth and Bigsby (2000, 490-513).
  • Hodge, Alison, ed. 2000. Twentieth Century Actor Training. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-19452-0.
  • Kraner, David. 2000a. "Strasberg, Adler and Meisner: Method Acting." In Hodge (2000, 129-150).
  • ---, ed. 2000b. Method Acting Reconsidered: Theory, Practice, Future. New York: St. Martin's P. ISBN 978-0-312-22309-0.
  • Longwell, Dennis, and Sanford Meisner. 1987. Sanford Meisner on Acting. New York: Random House. ISBN 978-0-394-75059-0.
  • Postlewait, Thomas. 1998. "Meisner, Sanford." In Banham (1998, 719).
  • Wilmeth, Don B, and Christopher Bigsby, eds. 2000. The Cambridge History of American Theatre. Vol 3. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge UP. ISBN 978-0-521-66959-7.