Thanks to practitioner Reuben Williams last Saturday for his encouraging introduction to the techniques of Sanford Meisner. He helped us take our first tentative steps into the world of connecting with emotional truths within our fellow actors and ourselves in order to bring authenticity of feeling to our characters and their situations.
In pairs we explored the “Repetition” exercise, learning to really listen and observe our partner and respond authentically to how we perceived they felt. In turn they did likewise and for those that acknowledged those feelings and went with them, the results were amazing. In my turn as an audience member I became very aware of my emotional responses to the action “on stage” and when the actors’ emotions were authentic that’s when I became most engaged. It really works!
Meisner, Reuben told us, advocated that we have an emotional primary palette of “mad, sad and glad” and all other emotions are mixes of the core three. I think we all felt the challenge of being confronted with an uncomfortable emotion, especially “sad” and by the end of the session we were recognising our own avoidance tactics as we tried to escape facing and owning that emotion in particular. At this end of the process, at the very introductory stages it was obvious how emotionally blocked most us are, a state encouraged by social conformities but a real barrier for the actor between them and convincing their audience. I came away from the day wanting to do more and with the sure knowledge that here was a very powerful technique that, although hard won, would reap very real rewards.
We also had a brief look at Meisner’s textual analysis technique and the value of engaging the audience during a monologue rather than acting into a void.
It was an exhausting, and highly stimulating day. Another Phoebus Fire winner, thanks to Karen for organising, to Reuben for his encouragement and tuition and for everyone that took part who helped to provide a safe space to experiment and play.
Watch this space for the next workshop!
Reuben Williams is currently known for his fabulously fictional Bullshit Tours of London!