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Sanford Meisner on Acting

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  1,837 ratings  ·  96 reviews
This book, written in collaboration with Dennis Longwell, follows an acting class of eight men and eight women for fifteen months, beginning with the most rudimentary exercises and ending with affecting and polished scenes from contemporary American plays. Throughout these pages Meisner is delight--always empathizing with his students and urging them onward, provoking emot ...more
Paperback, 250 pages
Published July 12th 1987 by Vintage (first published 1987)
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4.21  · 
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 ·  1,837 ratings  ·  96 reviews

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Jul 06, 2011 rated it it was ok
If I were to take Meisner’s class, I’m fairly certain I would be kicked out and never want to act again. He has an issue with introversion in actors. He’s all about getting the actor out of their head and relying on their instincts and gut responses. This certainly has its place, but I think that an actor’s brain is important. I want to be an intelligent actor. I think it is important for there to be intelligent actors. I don’t want to go to a play and see a bunch of brainless acting. There are ...more
Sep 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
De-emphasized affective/emotion memory and instead put focus on the given circumstances of the play.
-acting is doing
-be specific
-an ounce of behavior is worth a pound of words
-emotional dialogue is a ping-pong game
-to transfer the point of concentration outside yourself
-there's no such thing as nothing
-don't think, work from your instincts
-follow your instincts: forget polite or what's socially acceptable; it's imposted, not natural
-don't do anything unless something happens to make you do it
Chad Bearden
Jan 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theater-studies
When I attended the Texas Educational Theater Association (TETA) convention last month, the name Sandy Meisner kept popping up. Most notably, Larry Silverberg, a Meisner devotee, did a double session teaching the early stages of the Meisner method. A few other workshop presenters referenced the man as well as they demonstrated various philosophies and rehearsal techniques.

Having come to my career as theater director through a bit of a back door, I sometimes find myself embarassingly ignorant of
Jun 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: summer-2018
“You can’t fake a blush. (...) if the script says, in so many words, ‘She begins to blush,’ cross it out.”
“Tell us why you cross them out,” Ray says.
“Because they dictate a kind of life which can only be there spontaneously.”
João Felício
Jan 21, 2019 rated it it was ok
Are you thinking on reading this to learn some technical structure for acting training? Ok. Let me save 300 pages of your time.

This book teaches 3 interesting concepts.

1- Believe what you are doing when acting in actually real, don’t spare time trying to watch yourself from outside. Convince yourself that the characters and scene are real and let your instincts do the rest.

2- Know yourself well, so you know how to better use your body and expressions on acting even without thinking about it.

Dusty Bayers
Jan 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: career
loved. Loved. LOVED this book!!!
Nov 08, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Before cracking this one open, it's important to know On Acting is structured less as a self-help book and more like a documentary, tracking one of Sandy Meisner's acting classes from start to finish.

Maybe that's music to your ears. It's the closest you can get to raising Meisner from the grave and studying with him. But it also means you're getting second-hand wisdom. Much of the book's insight comes from critique of the fledgling actors' performances or their personal epiphanies, and by the en
May 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I first read about The Meisner technique in an article one of my professors had us read for class. I was drawn to it because the technique was supposedly about achieving spontaneity and living in the moment, and being able to achieve that is probably my biggest weakness as an actor. I wanted to learn more about the technique and I came across this book when doing preliminary research for my thesis. I was not expecting this book to be so mind-opening. Meisner has such a deep understanding of the ...more
Jan 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
Wow! I am not even vaguely interested in acting, but Sanford Meisner was clearly a master and his genius comes through in this book. It is like reading a play, only it is an edited record of a fifteen month class he taught in the 80s. Almost entirely dialog, the book teaches about emotions and authenticity. What I learned is this: real acting is not acting at all. A great actor or actress puts themselves out in front of an audience, not AS themselves, but they put their truest emotions out there ...more
Jun 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book is a fabulous tool for actors. I feel that it is more beneficial to those who have studied or are currently studying Meisner's method in a classroom or workshop setting than those who are learning about it for the first time. I started reading it concurrently with a class solely dedicated to exploring the Meisner technique, and I think that was perfect. I just re-read it and the whole method became clearer through hindsight and mental repetition. ;) A good read for the actor or actress ...more
Apr 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I'm not going to parrot Sandy's maxims like everyone else. What I will say is that this book must be very strange if you've never trained in the Meisner technique. It would be like reading about Scuba diving or karate---a book will only do so much.
This book is really great if you already have a basic understanding of what's going on in the Meisner technique. I know it talked about the challenges in writing a book like this and it works for the most part in this format. The last 40 pages or so are completely missable. All the hard learning is in the first half. It has helped my acting tremendously and immediately, although it's a hard concept to fully understand. 'The foundation of acting is the reality of doing' took me a long time to mem ...more
Dec 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
In my opinion, Sanford Meisner's Technique of acting is actually an introduction into fundamental communication. I read the his book several years ago, while taking an acting course. My recommendation: read Meisner's Technique as well as take an acting class. It helps to apply his concepts to real life classes. The result of reading and applying his technique to my creative life was becoming less nervous, reflecting on my interactions, and understanding myself and others as being at different le ...more
Barbara Rose
Jul 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Sanford Meisner brings every actor who genuinely wants to stretch and bring stellar performances the wisdom to do so in this profound book.
The definition of acting is "living truthfully under imaginary circumstances" which I learned from this book, along with top training at Playhouse West in North Hollywood, CA, where this book was required reading.
Emotional preparation is crucial, BEING the character, and taking all focus off of you, while you react genuinely to the other person's movements, w
Jan 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Meisner is a genius. His technique revolves around the idea that you cannot fake emotion; in order to express the emotion a scene requires, you have to live the scene truthfully and actually feel the emotion - whatever that might be. He calls this "living truthfully under imaginary circumstances". This book is a recorded script of one of his classes that lasts for 15 months.

I have recently started taking a Meisner acting course with no prior experience in acting. Being familiar with his techniqu
Nov 19, 2018 rated it did not like it
Stopped reading this about half way through, because he kept saying the same things, even down to the same stories and anecdotes. The book could have been 50, maybe 75 pages long. The main point: acting is about channeling authentic emotion. You have to tap into real, genuine, unfaked emotion, and bring that out. His class was all about teaching actors to reach for and bring out the genuine, and extreme emotions which make for fascinating viewing. Once that lesson is communicated though, most of ...more
Senne Cambré
Aug 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I rate books with five stars often, but only a few are actually worth it. And this book certainly deserves them.
As an amateur-actor this book opened a new world for me. Sanford Meisner's view on the art is marvellous and should be known by everyone who's interested enough to buy or borrow a book about it.
And although this book only shows a fraction of Meisner's lessons, it does give a nice impression of what this experience must have been like for the students.
So buy or borrow it, read it and en
Matthew Logan
Jul 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book

This is a thorough book and essential for anyone who wants to study the craft of acting. I recommend it as well as other classic texts. It is important to remember that most techniques are aiming towards the same goal...truth in acting. Actors should try many techniques until things click.
Apr 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Interesting insights into how Meisner taught. I think I gained more knowledge from Bill Esper's book but this is worth a read for anyone serious about learning the technique.
Ahmed El
Jul 29, 2017 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 21, 2018 rated it liked it
tiny bit dry in terms of writing but the content in the book itself is still good nonetheless
Antonia Villalón
Sep 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If you’re looking to get a clear understanding of the Meisner acting technique this is the book.
Nov 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Interesting account of Sandy working with actors to get to a truthful state and then moving through various problems in building on that solid foundation toward a detailed and moving piece of art.
Mary Denise
Mar 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Can’t top Meisner. Impossible
Annie Magan
Oct 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books
Usually, when people hear about a book that's written about a certain technique or skill or how to do said technique or skill, they lose interest. No one wants to read about how to do something. That was my initial thought when a friend recommended, "Sanford Meisner on Acting." I'm a lover of the theatre and acting but every time I've tried to read a book on the two, I always end up falling asleep disappointed that I just wasted my time trying to read such a dry book. However, I was really inter ...more
David Glasgow
Sep 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theatre, nonfiction
Excellent books about art are rare. Art, after all, is the medium that connects one soul to a distant other, and those who write about art too often forget that the souls, not the medium, are the sources of power in that connection.

Happily, Sanford Meisner learned that lesson before the publication of his first book on acting—which manuscript he discarded after finding himself "bitterly disappointed at the results." Meisner says more about this failure in the Prologue to this text:
My basic princ
Adrienne Fisher
Jan 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
If you get into method acting, you'll likely hear of Sanford Meisner, but his name isn't as well known as Stella Adler or Stanislavsky and the amateur/professional theater/acting community is the poorer for it. If you're at all interested in acting, or are already out there and haven't familiarized yourself with him, or are working with someone who uses his methods, read the book!

A very quick primer - Meisner is most interested in "living truthfully under imaginary circumstances." In other word
Feb 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Although I am sure that most people who choose to read this book will do so because they are looking for insights on acting, it is also paints a really lovely portrait of Standford Meisner as a dying man and teacher. Most of the biographical information is briefly (and drily) discussed at the book's start. The incidental biographical moments that emerge in Meisner's classes were much more interesting to me than the recitation of facts and milestones at the beginning of the book. The way Meisner ...more
Joshua Blair
Feb 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Meisner earns his rightful place in the pantheon of legendary acting teachers. His technique is solid, practical, and helpful.
Apr 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
I read this many years ago, when I was anywhere from 4th to 6th grade. It was in my uncle's bookshelf and I found myself intrigued by it. There was a quote in the book that I still remember 8-10 years later. "The foundation of acting is the reality of doing." I find it a wonderful quote for aspiring actors. I was interested in acting when I was that age, but let go of it and changed my mind as I was growing up. Nevermind that, the point is, I didn't fully finish the book back then but the fact t ...more
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