Why Don’t You Try Acting?


ORLY: Is it safe?

PATIENT: You’re talking to me?

ORLY: Is it safe?

PATIENT: Is what safe?

ORLY: Is it safe?

PATIENT: I don’t know what you mean. I can’t tell you something’s safe or not, unless I know specifically what you’re talking about.

ORLY: Is it safe?

PATIENT: Tell me what the “it” refers to.

ORLY: Is it safe?

PATIENT: Yes, it’s safe, it’s very safe, it’s so safe you wouldn’t believe it.

ORLY: Is it safe?

PATIENT: No. It’s not safe, it’s… very dangerous, be careful.

Burden of Proof on Obama’s Origins [WaPo]

What now we’re doing Meisner exercises?


Don’t mention that hack to me. He is simply the man who took Stanislavsky’s pragmatic, common-sense based observations on the craft and turned it into a cult of personality, nothing more.

@Tommmcatt is hunkered down in the trenches: Did you ever study with Sandy? I did. The OH was his London representative. I don’t know what the received opinion is but I never saw anything cultish about Sandy. He was the great American teacher of acting of the 20th cent. His repetition exercise is so brilliantly effective that it’s a great pity that it is now so widely misunderstood. Sandy meant it to be done by experienced actors for no more than six weeks. The point of the exercise is to teach you that as an actor you cannot make words mean anything. This is the antithesis of the (bad) British school which is all about making clear the literal meaning of words. Once this idea is grasped one is free to improvise with great freedom while always being true to both the words of the text and its interior life. I reckon myself lucky to have been taught acting (all too briefly) by Sandy and singing by Keith Davis.

It’s painful in these days of the rise of Julliard to sit in an audition room watching young American actors stressing words and doing line readings that would have seemed old-fashioned at the Old Vic in the 40s.

Stanislavski was a man of his times. He made Chekov crazy. But there’s no question that the Russians moved us all forwards. But it’s a way of making theatre that was impossible in the West. 9 months to rehearse? A full stage crew there from day one?

In my opinion, Sandy was the real deal. There is no one teaching now who can equal him.

BTW. This new person at Dis. Is he good for Catts or bad?


I am too young to have studied with him, of course, but I object to the cult that has grown up around his name, and to the “Method”, which at this point has edged out other, equally valid means of training young people to act- like mask work, free improvisation, movement-based systems like those seen in the work of Tadashi Suzuki, and yes, good old-fashioned rhetoric and training in poetic scansion. The great weakness of the Method as it is practiced (and admittedly, I haven’t been acting for a while now) is that it is just as possible to represent action and intention as it is to represent emotion. I’ve seen some terribly self-indulgent performances based firmly in techniques favored the cult of Meisner.

People tend to downplay the pragmatism of Stanislavsky. His theory was about what works; what tells a story effectively as well as what entertains. By the way, I used to envy the Europeans when we were told stories of long rehearsal times- was that not true? You don’t have 6 months of rehearsal for a stage show? I’m crushed.

We shall see about the new Studio Head. I’m not real hopeful, given the dreck put out by the Disney Channel, from whence he came. However, DC is one of the more profitable segments of the business, so you never know.

@Tommmcatt is hunkered down in the trenches: Sandy is not the Method. He really has nothing to do with that. That’s Strasberg and the Studio. Sandy, when he was directing, was very much about what works. For instance, Sandy did not allow ’emotion memory’. That was the Studio. An entirely bogus and self-indulgent idea that has no basis whatsoever in life. And if it don’t happen in life it shouldn’t happen on a stage. Not that naturalism is queen, but a human truth must be the objective or it’s all just masturbation. The other methods you speak of were part of the training at the Playhouse in its heyday. Martha Graham taught dance. The OH worships her to this day. So far as I’m concerned acting is, as Sandy put it, doing. The great actor Mira Rostova, once of Stanislavski’s company, when rehearsing a part would say “What are my doings?” Which is really the actor’s question.

If there is a cult of Meisner, it’s really not Sandy’s fault. He was a great teacher. Trust me. And a lot of fun, in a malicious kind of way.

About the new head, might it be possible we’ll see no more Disney on Broadway?

@Benedick: “Mary Poppins” is coming to the Ahmanson in L.A. I’m not kidding about this. My lovely wife and I just saw “August: Osage County” there on Sunday; I thoroughly enjoyed all 3 1/2 hours of it after bitching all day about having to miss a good football game. After the appalling family fight that ends Act 2, I didn’t see how they could top it in Act 3. But they did.

@Tommmcatt is hunkered down in the trenches:

I think you might be mixing up Sandy Meisner and Lee Strasberg. Strasberg – the father of the self-indulgent twisted take on Stanislavsky.

Don’t get me started on Suzuki. Some of the worst dreck I’ve ever had the misfortune to try to sleep through was Suzuki based.

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