Three Great Acting Lessons from Sanford Meisner


We at Terry Knickerbocker Studio get questions all the time as to why we require our applicants to read this one book, Sanford Meisner‘s On Acting, before being considered for enrollment to any of our programs. We thought we’d let Meisner’s words speak for him. Time and time again when actors need inspiration, or get stuck in their work, these lessons are invaluable.

Meisner’s book was published in 1987 and follows an acting class of eight men and eight women, through the first 18 classes of a 128 class cycle that makes up the traditional sequence of the Meisner Technique. Meisner begins with the fundamentals of the repetition exercise and ends with the students’ first scene. For many, On Acting is the ultimate actors’ bible and they return to it time and again for a reminder of just how essential these lessons are.

However, nothing can replicate the experience of the training itself. And the classroom is where the real magic happens.



Acting is doing


Student: I’m getting the feeling: Don’t think–do!

Meisner: That’s a very good feeling to have. That’s an actor thinking. How does an actor think? He doesn’t think–he does.

Student: Right.

Meisner: That’s a good feeling.


Daydreaming is a Vehicle Towards Rich Emotionality


“What if you were a kid and you came home from school early, and you told your mother that the school was closed because there was a big fire and you almost got burned? What makes her believe that you’re telling the truth?

“Specifics?” Bette asks.

“You tell her specific things that happened.” Meisner says, “The playwright would give you that. What would make you a convincing liar?”

Your behavior,” says Joseph.

“If you walk in sobbing it might help,” Bette says.

“It’s the reality of the emotion which makes the lie convincing,” says Meisner.


You Don’t Need Three Tons of Emotion to Color Your Behavior Accurately 


“His acting was emotionally clear. But had this been a play and not an exercise, on some nights during its run it could be fuller, and on some nights, it could be emptier. But if he attempted a herculean preparation to work himself up into the lowest depths of misery, the audience would all be as old as I am by the time he finally made his entrance. Do you understand?” – Sanford Meisner