Vulnerability In Acting

byCharlie Sandlan

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For any serious actor, indeed for any true artist, craft and technique are imperative. An actor needs to master her instrument and make fundamentals second nature. Beyond this, however, is the importance of vulnerability in the actor’s process. I don’t believe enough emphasis is put on its necessity. Brenee Brown, the social scientist, has spoken so eloquently recently on the understanding that to be a creative person requires vulnerability. The two are not independent of each other. How does this apply to the actor and his craft?

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Charlie Sandlan – Meisner Technique Maggie Flanigan Studio – Call (917) 789-1599

The majority of actors in this country do not train. At best, many cobble together a string of on-camera, scene study, and improv classes and consider that something of value. Additionally, those that are trained quite often do not work in an open and vulnerable way. Yes, good training will provide craft, develop a pliable body, improve voice & speech and your use of language. But true dimension and versatility for an actor must include a vulnerable, sensitive instrument.

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If you aspire to take on major, complicated parts, then you must have vulnerability when you work.

Charlie SandlanExecutive Director, Head of Acting

This is why I believe that the Meisner Technique is absolutely the best way for this to be accomplished. The very early months of Meisner’s first-year work uses a simple repetition exercise to accomplish a few very important things. First is to get the actor out of their head and onto their spontaneous impulses. Second, is to train the actor to truly listen, take in, and respond to not only what is said to them, but how. Acting is about subtext, and this work develops the actor’s ability to respond to it. But this technique also begins the process of sensitizing the actor’s instrument.

By the time we reach adulthood, hopefully, we have been adequately parented, socialized, and educated. We have acquired ways to armor and protect ourselves in order to survive. But to be an actor, one must become unsocialized in order to return to the inner child. Picasso said, “All children are artists, the problem is how to remain an artist once you grow up.” Children (I’ll say healthy ones) are open, curious, playful, and fascinated. They are consumed by the present moment. They are not paralyzed by the fear of ridicule, the fear of not being good enough, shame, or judgments. I believe that any versatile, dynamic actor must develop the capacity to return to these childlike qualities when they are on stage or in front of the camera. Meisner’s brilliant technique uses the repetition as the tool, which allows the student-actor to take in and allow himself or herself to be permeated by the moments. This does not happen over-night. It takes months for this to happen. To be completely open and malleable to the nuances of the moments is a hard-earned skill for any actor to possess.

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Meisner Technique Maggie Flanigan Studio (917) 789-1599

This requires an actor to risk. If you aspire to take on major, complicated parts, then you must have vulnerability when you work. You must have a developed body capable of processing rich experience, free of tension and daily pedestrian habits. There must be a commitment to working deeply and personally at all times. The best actors can illuminate all aspects of the human condition. A worthy pursuit for any serious actor.


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