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Sanford Meisner has been called "the theater's best-kept secret,"
and Sanford Meisner on Acting by Dennis Longwell gives some
insight into what techniques the hugely influential drama teacher
used in his 50-plus years of work. One of the founding members of
the Actors Studio (with Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler, and Harold
Clurman), Meisner developed his own special lessons based upon
his understandings of the great Russian teacher Stanislavsky.
Turning away from the sense-memory exercises common among his
colleagues, his training focused instead on a realistic approach
to imagination and creativity. Unlike many other educators
associated with "the Method," Meisner had little tolerance for
self-absorption or striving after strong emotional effect,
instead preaching that clarity of purpose and efficient use of
the psyche are the actor's greatest tools. Longwell's book
follows a class of eight men and eight women through one of
Meisner's 15-month courses at New York's Neighborhood Playhouse,
with extensive transcripts taken directly from Meisner's notes to
the students on the basis of their exercises. With an
introduction by director Sydney Pollack, one of the many
influential artists who studied with Meisner (the book includes
accolades from Maureen Stapleton, Arthur Miller, Gregory Peck,
and Eli Wallach), this is an excellent introduction that helps to
demystify the work of a great theatrical teacher. --John