Meisner technique and the generous performer…
Can you tell the difference between a performer who is self-aware, self-conscious, self-centered, i.e. always concerned about how they are doing, how they look, how they are coming across, with their attention nearly exclusively on themselves?
Our actors, thanks to Celina’s astute teaching, learn to see and experience this as the-path-not-taken for those of us whose aim is to perform truthfully and authentically. Truthful performing is to be in the moment, aware of your environment, and focused intently and purposefully on your partner. Your partner can be another actor, many actors, a task at hand, or other factors outside yourself.
Acting is doing. Doing in imaginary circumstances. Really doing. For real.
When acting with a partner in a scene your reactions come from attending to or really listening, with your whole being, to the other person. Any attention on yourself takes you out of the moment, for when you are self-aware you are less aware of others and your environment.
Celina is a master at helping actors realize these truths. I have been sitting in on her classes and am inspired by the realizations her actors come to as they gain insight and experience in the Meisner technique that Celina teaches.
Celina reminds them, any craft worth doing takes much experience and practice – it must be experiential and self-realized. The practice of the craft of acting, in Meisner work, is learning to put your attention fully on your partner. As her actors learn this, it is heart-warming to observe their growth and humility. It is indeed a wonderfully humble experience to learn these skills.
I listened to an interview with John Coltrane recently that my son turned me on to. Besides the brilliant thinking of the man, I was most struck by Coltrane’s genuine humbleness, his deflecting the conversation off himself, his desire as an artist to be a “force of good” and the generosity of his character. No wonder his music still stirs the soul and inspires many young musicians. His attention was always on his partner – his music. His music is selfless and authentic. This is the kind of artists we hope to develop and the kind of art we hope to produce.
Celina has this special way of connecting with her students that allow them to lower their guards and hear the tough instructions and criticisms that actors must endure, like all artists and great athletes, to achieve their potential. It is a blessing and a wonder to watch her work and be with these determined actors. I am learning a lot.