Hi there! I’m currently entering level 3 Meisner class with Green Shirt and am enjoying the journey. One of the best ways for me to reflect on class (which is intense) and to really understand the learning is to write, so I journal between class sessions. What follows are some short blogs from my journal during Level 1. If you don’t know what Meisner is or what to expect, maybe this will help you decide to try it… and try it at Green Shirt. I continue to have a great experience in class and out with this studio. Sommer and Andrew are building a great community here!
January 12, 2011
What is character? What is Meisner? Beginning this class just brings questions. My questions are not necessarily the strongest. The questions come from friends after silence: Where are you taking the class? Who is your teacher? What does it mean to be certified? Well, I share some facts but my questioners aren’t satisfied. Fellow actors begin to weigh in: Tell me about the teacher. Is there caring in the teaching? There are sighs and murmurs of “deep” and “hard emotional work”. So, although, in the sense of adventure, I decided not to prepare with background reading, maybe I’m glad I don’t know too much. Class is suddenly daunting. Okay, I see the first wall to scale is thoughts of others now my own. Hang tight. Daunted is the new curiosity, didn’t you know?!
January 19, 2011
So we start by repeating an exercise from last week. Instant relaxation. I’ve done this before and I’m feeling more confident in doing it. And then, we’re building on the exercise. It’s going – growing– in all directions at once. Aha, I’m swept up fascinated. It’s as if a current of electricity flows between my partner and me. I feel a power at living the moment. It’s week two and I see a glimmer of the power of the work. And…I’m daunted again. Internal monologue:Wow, can I do this? I’m doing this. Am I controlling? Contriving? Pre-meditating? Stop it! Out of the head, into the space. Listen. Okay, I see where the tough work begins. Yes, indeed, it’s not hard but takes years to learn.
January 26, 2011
Ah….The newness of class has worn off. Risk begins and in the words of a great director, I begin to go “splat”. Similarly in the words of a great actor, I wade into the sandbox and get messy. Challenge. Provocation. On ceasing to be polite and instead honestly reflecting the experience of the moment. It’s like being given a weapon. I don’t know how to use it. I’m familiarizing myself with it. Running my hands over the smooth, wooden hilt. Part of me wants to have at like a young boy to a woodpile. I want to practice which is echoed by everyone. We all want to do this more, more, more. I see this energy between partners becoming addictive. We are practicing exercises for acting and yet it is much bigger than that. The exercises create relationship and intimacy. And that is one of the greatest and most powerful things that can happen between humans. So, if you follow that, then imagine my emotional state. An emotional roller coaster my friends. M-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-dy….
The day after class, slightly manic at this point, I was still thinking about everything at work when it slipped out. Repetition with a coworker. Uh oh. I mean he didn’t know it was repetition. He had no idea what I was doing. But we had a real moment together. So now in real life Meisner becomes a secret weapon. Will I use it for good or for ill?
Personally speaking I found myself exhausted after class. It was an exhaustion in that “great workout” and “mentally challenged” sort of way. One the the things I’m enjoying about Meisner is that it’s okay to not be able to articulate your thoughts, to mis-speak, or better yet be speechless at times. These moments feel honest which is the place we are going for. Yet, in the heroic effort the find the words there is also a fierce challenge to accept the observations given to you. Underneath the exhaustion of class was a “blue funk”, as I like to call it, that I haven’t felt in quite a while. Intellectually, I know we’re practicing– just learning through doing the exercises. It isn’t personal, and I truly believe that. Yet, when you hear observations you have heard before in real life, you are confronted with your baggage. What do you do with the dark shadows that turn up? I don’t want to prevent my reactions. I want to use them — to turn them into tools and strengths. Personally speaking, I don’ t know if I can.
On the one hand, I feel more and more free to impulsively participate and share with partners. And able to accept the home truths that come without having them drag me down. I’m even excited with the additional layers requiring divided attention and physical activities. Bring it on! On the other hand, there is something lurking under the surface. I could describe onions and their layers or icebergs and their tips as both fit. It happens when a sense of denial wells up during an exercise: the real impulse that isn’t polite or constructively mannered. Okay, so there is honesty and there is HONESTY. So, how do I give my acting partner the best stuff (my most honest impulses and reactions) without taking them down like an automatic rifle? Yet. . . . Meisner would seem to say that you are doing your partner and the work a disservice if you don’t give voice to the real impulse. So, will we still be okay if neither one of us is left standing?
Continuing from last week…. We are accountable to each other my fellow classmates and I. We need each other to do our jobs as actors. I can do nothing better than give my scene partner my real reaction. What’s great is that in class everyone wants to improve. We also all agree that class is a safe place, which makes that desire to go deeper easier to do. For me, honest reaction has been buried so deep in the attempt at civility in real life that I don’t’ even recognize it. It occurs to me only upon reflection. So as I practice Meisner, I will get to a point where action and reaction flow unhindered. Right now, it’s like I’m a baby discovering its limbs–always flailing, always surprised at what is happening.
There is a very grey area surrounding point-of-view and denial. I question my motives when I contradict an observation in acting class. Is it really point-of-view as in a factual statement made correct? Or, am I hiding as in denying a physical observation when in fact I can’t see the mirror to know if it is true or not? Why is my reaction to deny or contradict or change the subject? Should we call each other on this thus declaring our point-of-view and sticking to it? Squaring off on opposite sides of an observation with our partner? Or, go with the flow saying yes to the moment observing the first rule of improvisation? Could be either, couldn’t it? Should be both? I don’t think I can ask many more questions in one blog, can I?
I talk to myself a lot between class sessions. Settle down, be still and listen. Be present not past or future. Take things to heart. Be sensitive. “Pry off the lid” and be vulnerable. However, in class my nerves are so alert I feel frenetic. It gets in the way of real response and impulse. I recognize them too late. Always too late. Finding an activity is not an easy task — far from it. I got lucky with my connection to the figurine I chose to try to sculpt out of playdoh. Having a strong connection within the activity is key. How to blow this up to extreme proportions I don’t know. But the question I face is this:do you approach the activity from activity level and blow it up to extreme circumstances Or do you work exactly the opposite as in circumstances to activity?
I just can’t believe there are two sessions left. I almost wanted to argue with everyone because I honestly didn’t think it was true. We are just getting to trust each other. Just starting to be honest and vulnerable. And impatient as always, I am wondering about applying the work to scenes, plays, and character work. When? How? But that just brings us back to the original question that kicked off this blog. We haven’t even gotten into it that question. I’m sticking until I can figure out some answers about that. I am not unaffected by the journey that this class has become even if acting wasn’t as new for me as it was for others. Blogging has actually been a great way to codify what I’m experiencing. I hope everyone in class is journaling or something to help digest what we share in our 2 ½ hours every week.
I’m been absolutely obsessed with finding a good activity I’m not even thinking about vulnerability, impulse, listening or upping the stakes. It has been very, very frustrating to figure out activities. Is this class becoming about the activity? I’ve been so internally focused I wonder that I haven’t grown a shell. I wish we could brainstorm in class and be collaborative in the discussion of the possibilities. A wise actor friend told me that Meisner would beat all the perfectionist tendencies out of me. I have to admit there is a great battle waging. With all this on my mind, accepting that this is the last class was almost unreal. It is so just the beginning. It isn’t about hanging tight as I first thought, it’s about riding the rollercoaster with both hands in the air, my friend.