Meisner Instincts and Intuition

byChristine Lee

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The Meisner Summer Acting Program at the Maggie Flanigan Studio is an intensive six-week training program for professional actors. Christine Lee, a student currently enrolled in the program, discusses with Katie the Meisner Summer Intensive, the Meisner Technique, and how the studio’s community has helped her become a better actor.

Meisner Summer Acting Program – Christine Lee Interview

headshot for christine lee interview about the meisner summer acting program

Meisner Summer Acting Program – Maggie Flanigan Studio – Call (917) 789-1599

What did you think it meant to train as an actor before you started to the Summer Intensive and two-year program at Maggie Flanigan Studio?

Oh, Gosh. I’ve taken some courses and classes before Maggie, but you hear this across the board that people weren’t prepared for how intensive it was going to be, how tough, and how trying it is but in the best way. I always wanted to share my humanity with the world, and I thought I was doing enough with these other courses and classes. I’m not knocking them or anything. I’ve gotten a lot from them, but with Maggie, it zones in on that need to provide the world with such a raw view of what it means to be human. I didn’t know something like that existed before Maggie’s. I would say that is something that distinguishes this program from something else, from another program.

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"This program is for people who consider themselves real artists, not those who just want to become famous. You learn about the craft of acting here. You learn how to work."

Christine LeeStudent, Summer Acting Program

Is this your first experience with the Meisner technique or some of those classes or programs you had been in before, had you studied it?

This is my first experience with the Meisner technique.

How is it different than what you expected?

There were a lot of trusts involved with the teacher. There was a strong sense of community that I wasn’t feeling in my other acting classes. Just the technique, in general, was very comprehensive. It starts from one thing that seems just you don’t understand, but you start to understand, the more progress you make. I think that’s an enriching journey. As opposed to other things, it’s just a clump, a clump here, a clump there. It’s less comprehensive. It’s less integral. I think something that Maggie does pushes you, and it also requires you to give something back.

Now that you’re further along in training, is there something about the Meisner Intensive that resonates with you most?

The Meisner Training revolves around listening and just taking in the other person. I feel like so many people now, even outside the acting world, they’re so self-absorbed in that way that they just don’t feel the need to have the capacity to just drink in the other person. Especially now in this day and age, people are so obsessed with their own needs and their wants. I think this work would be great outside of just the acting experience anyway.

I went on a tangent.

No, it’s on track. You were talking about listening.

Right. Something that the Meisner technique specifically, I feel, really treasures instincts and intuition in a way that other programs or other methods don’t. I feel like other techniques might be a bit more– Technical feels like the wrong word, but it intuitively feels like a very spot-on word for Meisner. It challenges you to get information from another person in a way that isn’t just technical and scientific. You have to have a very personal point of view towards them. I think that’s an essential thing about the Meisner technique that many actors who haven’t trained in Meisner don’t have.

You mentioned why you sought more training because you felt like the other things weren’t going as deep as you were looking for. What happened during the six-week Summer Intensive that led you to enroll in the two-year program?

The first thing I remember feeling very unlocked after the Summer Intensive, even though it was only six weeks. It pushed me to come to know a particular part of myself that was very jarring for me. It was such a profound experience that I’ve never gotten to see in my work in any other studio before. I had to do an activity, and I was a very defensive person, and I still kind of am, but the Summer Intensive brought that to light.

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I didn’t understand how defensive as a person was being. I was able to express profound devastation. I’ve learned that I have such a capacity for sadness and pain, and I loved putting that into my art. That was something I feel like stuck out to me in the Summer Intensive.

You’re wrapping up here your two years, this pandemic has shaken timelines up a little bit, but how do you feel now as an actor, an artist, a creator?

I feel like I’m a pretty different person now. As an actor, it’s easy to label yourself as a sensitive, open person just because you’re interested in acting. That’s how I viewed myself before the two years plus the Summer Intensive, but now, not only do I have a better idea of where I lack in terms of vulnerability, and that just comes with humanity.

I feel like just being a human, everybody has to have defenses, and I don’t think even artists acknowledged that but me before Maggie versus me now, I feel like better equipped to be an artist or be an actor. It doesn’t also mean to be in the industry. I just think I have a better idea of what acting is, and I know better where I fall in the grand scheme of things. I think that’s a very empowering thing to have.

photo shoot with christen lee before interview at maggie flanigan studio

Meisner Summer Acting Program 03 – Maggie Flanigan Studio – (917) 789-1599

How would you say the community aspect has transformed your experience starting in the summer through now when you’re almost wrapping up?

In the summer, it was an experience to not only show very intimate parts of myself to these once strangers but also to see everybody’s dark, or extreme, or personal places they would go to. That, in itself, is a very bonding experience. Then, throughout the program, I feel like it’s a small studio, so it’s easy to know everybody, and it’s straightforward to become familiar. Everyone wants you to do your best. There’s no cattiness; there’s no jealousy. There’s very much a sense of, if you do well, then we all do well.

The faculty here are so invested in their students in such a passionate, personal way that you can feel it. Even now, Charlie is still having Zoom sessions with us just to check-in, and he goes out of his way to let us know that he’s there for us. I think that’s a very great thing for a teacher to have. There are so many studios that are huge, just like conglomerates, where so many actors are made. I just feel like Maggie, in specific, is not only a studio or a business; it’s also a place where people can feel at home.

How would you describe Charlie as a teacher?

Tough, [laughs] ever-changing. I’ve only known him for two and a half years, but I feel like he’s very receptive to his students’ needs, and he’s willing to adapt to them. He’s funny, he’s talented, such an insightful teaching artist and artist. He just has such a personal mission on this planet that you can just feel whenever he talks about teaching, and you don’t get that a lot. That’s how I would describe Charlie.

How are you feeling amid all this pandemic and being stuck inside and not being able to be at the studio?

It’s hard. I didn’t realize how much I missed the studio or needed that studio until this whole thing happened. That studio provided a structure. It offered so much acceptance and community in a place like New York where it’s usually hard to find that. It’s just not the same. I talk to some people through Facebook and WhatsApp, but seeing their faces twice a week to make artwork, like a collective mission, gives you a sense of belonging that just you can feel fulfill your soul. I miss it so much. I’m starting to get emotional just thinking about it. It just reminds you that things like that are irreplaceable.

What are you most excited to get back to when we’re back, being able to be in the physical space?

Oh, gosh. I don’t even know. I feel like when I do; it’s going to be so overwhelming. I won’t even understand what’s happening. Wow, I don’t know. It’s just the feeling of being there, the feeling of familiarity, the feeling of knowing what you are meant to do in this life. It provides you with such a sense of identity in some ways—the work and obviously, creating things that stretch yourself as an artist. I don’t know; it’s more than that, I think.

acting students participating in an online acting class with Maggie Flanigan Studio

Summer Acting Program Online – Maggie Flanigan Studio

What are you most excited about post-two-year program?

Well, it’s very daunting. I’ve had some tastes here and there. I’ve been on several different projects, and I think without Maggie, I would have had a more difficult time for sure. Still, after Maggie, I think I’m excited about just learning more about the industry as many negative things that I hear about it, but I’m excited to provide who I am and what I’ve learned from the program to stories. I know that it can sound pretty idealistic, especially in an economic system that is just so based on making money. Still, I’m just excited to meet like-minded people and collaborate with them in a way that only creates revolutionary work.

What would you say to that person who’s on the fence about training, maybe thinking, “Oh, I could do without it, or now’s not the right time.”?

I think this program serves those the best who deep down feel like they have something to offer humanity in terms of showing things that aren’t usually seen when you’re just walking down the street or even in the office place. This program is for people who consider themselves real artists, not those who just want to become famous. You learn about the craft of acting here. You learn how to work.

If that’s your mission in life, I think that no matter what, if you take this program, it’s still always going to be a super-rich thing that no one I know has ever regretted taking. It spills into your personal life and spiritual life and who you are as a person. There’s no way I don’t think that you come out of this program worse than before. It’s just such an enriching program that I can’t imagine not taking something like this.

What makes Maggie Flanagan Studio different from maybe the other places that you trained or studied?

The community focuses on what it means to be an actor versus whatever the industry has shown what being an actor is. The devotion from the teachers, I have relationships with teachers outside of the studio, but there’s a different kind of respect and admiration I have for the teachers here. You feel safe talking to them. They have their walls down in terms of what they want to provide you. They make it very clear they want to provide for you.

Also, just the program itself, learning Meisner in the way that it was very carefully how originally it was taught. It’s different because you reach a new length of– not the intensity of emotion, that’s so bad to say, but it makes you go to the places that you’ve been repressing all your life. I don’t see that much in other acting programs I’ve been in.

You mentioned how daunting this business could be, so I was wondering how you’re feeling about pursuing life as an artist now. Of course, this is a time where there’s a lot of fear and scarcity, but I think we’re also learning how important those things are. We’re all turning to books, and plays, and films, and television. How do you feel about taking on that role for people in the future?

I’m excited to tell stories, I just want to be a vessel for people to relate to, or just to see things about society that they’ve never seen before. That’s why I want to be an actor to help tell a story that will inspire people to do good in the world. Just that being said, that’s what I want to do with my life. Whatever entering the industry means or looks, I just know that intrinsically, this is what I want to do.

Great, anything else you want to share with us today?

I guess, in terms of just the shutdown in New York City, it’s hard to be inspired I feel like at this time and age, but I just try to remind myself that the purpose that it’s just so intrinsic to you is never going to go away. Even if you feel like you’ll never do anything again or everything is pointless, what you’re meant to do is eventually just going to happen. Once this goes away, you’re going to go back on track.


Summer Acting Program New York NY

About the Meisner Summer Acting Program

Learn more about the 2020 Summer Acting Program and the professional training that the Maggie Flanigan Studio provides by visiting the studio website (https://www.maggieflaniganstudio.com/) and by reading online reviews. Actors interested in enrolling in the studio should apply online and call the studio at (917) 789-1599 with specific questions.

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