The Reality of Doing
The foundation of acting is the reality of doing. So you may be asking yourself what exactly does that mean? The reality of doing means to actually do something not "pretend" you’re doing it. For example if you are suppose to be listening really listen not pretend to listen. If you are supposed to drink out of a cup don't pretend to drink out of the cup really drink out of the cup! If you are suppose to count how many lights are in the room then REALLY COUNT how many lights are in the room! It's just that simple! Well it sounds easier than you think. As actors we spend years being taught "How to act" and "How to become an actor" that we develop these pre-developed actions that are supposed to be what a good actor does. How many times have you seen a play and the actor who's more concerned about performing and entertaining the audience is using over exaggerated hand gestures and pre-rehearsed delivery of lines. They think that they are so good that the audience can't tell but they can! This is because there is one simple fact that separates the good actors from the bad and that is TRUTH! So say it to yourself every day. The foundation of acting is the reality of doing!!! When I learned that while studying the Meisner Technique it changed my life because it is so simple! I remember performing in the play A Raisin in the Sun and I had a scene where I was suppose to drink out of a coffee cup and every day I did the same thing I pretended to drink out of the cup. On the last dress rehearsal one of the prop masters set the table and put water in the cup without me knowing. When I finally got to me scene and it came to the part where I was drinking out of the cup I was so surprised that there was water in the cup that I forgot my lines! The reality of doing was so foreign to me that it caught me off guard. I had been so programmed to "pretend" to drink that I had no clue how to really drink out of the cup even though that is what I do every day in my everyday life. Sanford Meisner said that we are suppose to live truthfully under imaginary circumstances and this is done by setting up the foundation of acting which is the reality of doing.
Word Repetition Game
Those of you familiar with Meisner know very well the word repetition game. It is the bases of learning the Meisner technique, it was created to get actors out of their heads so they won't think but do. Sandy Meisner wanted to create the simplest task so that actors would not have to think and could focus on doing. With word repetition you are to repeat accurately everything your partner says. On my first day of school I was told to sit down across from my partner, they would make an observation of me, say it, and I was to repeat EXACTLY what they say word for word. My partner looked at me and said "You have a pretty smile" and I repeated "You have a pretty smile" we did this for about one minute and I got kudos because I simply knew how to listen! That's it knowing how to listen was getting me one step closer to becoming a better actor. The next day I got up again and this time we did the same thing but now instead of saying it word for word I was to say it from my point of view. "You have on a green shirt" and I said "I have on a green shirt" We did this several times going back and forth making an observations with each other. The next day I got up to play the word repetition game again, feeling pretty confident that I did good that past two days I was ready to get to work. My Partner was told to make an observation of me and he said "You have big hair" and without me thinking I said “I have big hair?" The class broke out in laughter because I was clearly not happy about that comment! The teacher stopped us and asked me how I felt about that comment and I said it made me a little angry and that I thought it was an asshole thing to say and he told me "well tell him that"! That's when I was told the third most important thing I learned from the repetition game Listening, Point of view, and THE PINCH! That feeling I felt about the comment was the pinch the point in the repetition game that I could now say how I felt about the comment. "You have big hair" "I have big hair?" "You have big hair" "That's an asshole thing to say"...!!! Waiting for the pinch is confusing because it happens at different times for people. The most important thing I learned is no matter how long you do repetition waits for the pinch! Most people don't wait and make a change themselves and by doing that they are not reacting truthfully. I would do repetition sometimes for minutes until the change naturally happened. You know the feeling and by not waiting for the pinch you are doing yourself an in service because you are not acting truthfully. I don't care if you have to do repetition for hours WAIT for the pinch, let the change come naturally! Now of course it doesn't take that long but you get my point. The actors who did the best in the class knew this was a key rule in mastering the Meisner Technique.
The word repetition game is the foundation of the Meisner technique. It is so simple because you don't have to think you just have to listen and do. The actors who did not listen to their partners were the ones who made the change themselves in order to make something happen. If they just simply listened to their partner the change will naturally come. Sanford Meisner said don't create change wait for a pinch it's about your instinct. At Playhouse West the most beneficial thing I leaned was to NOT BE POLITE! Being polite will get you now where with the Meisner Technique because it is expressing how you really feel. I can't began to tell you some of the thing I said or had to me but those time on stage where the times that I learned the most. Those experiences showed me a world I never knew existed and I became the actor I always dreamed of being.
Practice Practice Practice!!!
My rule of thumb is practice three times a day if you can. Always practice at least once especially in the beginning of your training. Make repetition second nature to you; get it so ingrained in you that you don't think you just do. I practiced three times daily it was hard but if you want to be the best you have to work like the best. Actors have to train just like any other profession. You think Kobe doesn't train and sits at home and when it's game time he just turns on the magic? No! He practices everyday! And that is why he's is the best and in order to be the best you must work hard. Break a leg!