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The Sanford Meisner Approach: Workbook Four, Playing the Part

The Sanford Meisner Approach: Workbook Four, Playing the Part

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The Sanford Meisner Approach: Workbook Four, Playing the Part

4/5 (1 valutazione)
193 pagine
2 ore
Jul 12, 2000


Revolutionary! Inspiring! Masterful! Essential! From around the world, the critics have raved about Larry Silverberg's series on the Meisner Approach. In Workbook Four: Playing The Part, Larry takes you on a most intimate and personal journey as he teaches you how to take on the life of the character in a deeply authentic, organic, and specific way. As you work through the lessons in Playing the Part, your creativity and imagination will be unleashed and you will learn what it really means to be an actor who is passionate, relentless, and true! Join the students who have studied with Larry and who have used his books to master the craft of acting.

Jul 12, 2000

Informazioni sull'autore

Larry Silverberg is one of the world's foremost authorities on the Sanford Meisner technique of acting through his internationally acclaimed four volume series, "The Sanford Meisner Approach: An Actors Workbook," and his book, "Loving To Audition." Larry's first book for teen actors, "The 7 Simple Truths of Acting for the Teen Actor" was released last year. Larry is a graduate of the Neighborhood Playhouse School of Theatre where he studied with legendary acting teacher, Sanford Meisner. Since then, Larry has worked professionally as an actor and director across the United States and in Canada. Most recently, he received high praise from the New York Times for his performance as "Don" in Athol Fugard's "People Are Living There" at The Signature Theater in New York City, and he won the Seattle Critic's Association "Stellar Acting Award" for his portrayal of "Teach" in the Belltown Theatre Center production of "American Buffalo". Larry is Founder and Director of The True Acting Institute at Eckerd College where he offers his "Teaching The Meisner Approach Certificate Program" for acting teachers and his "College Actor Master Class." Learn more about these programs at this link: Learn more about Larry's many international programs at his link:'s has also been busy leading his newest workshop, "The Way Back Out" an empowering and transformational seminar aimed at freeing the authentic expression of people in all fields. Please visit the website to learn more about this exciting event. The link is: Larry has also recently launched "College Acting Programs.Com", his website devoted to helping high school actors find the best college acting programs. The website address is: Larry can be contacted through his own web site address, or emailed at

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Anteprima del libro

The Sanford Meisner Approach - Larry Silverberg



A lot of people these days think they want to be actors. The profusion of films and television shows makes it look so easy. Media hype can lift the performance of an actor in a good film way beyond good; suddenly he or she is the new Big Star with a lot of attention and a lot of money. Many people think, I want that. I want to be an actor. But they have very little notion of what acting involves.

I studied with Sanford Meisner in the fifties — the Dark Ages to some young students, I’m sure. When I spotted Larry Silverberg’s first book on the Sanford Meisner approach, I was skeptical: There are so many books on acting, and how can Sandy’s teaching be learned from a book? So, I began to glance through it, and the first thing that struck me was the spirit of joy and generosity that emanated from almost every page. The next thing, of course, was that Larry had, indeed, absorbed Sandy’s approach and knew how to put it on paper. Students who have studied or are studying the Meisner approach can be reminded and refreshed, and people who are unfamiliar with it can begin to understand the commitment and dedication required of an actor who loves the process, not just the result. I bought the book.

This fourth book is about what I love: working with the text of a play. The text is what an actor should start with and what an actor should end with. If you’re in a play that you have to perform for months or maybe years (I was in Driving Miss Daisy for two and a half years and The Heiress for a year and a half), you must be able to keep the text fresh and personal for yourself so the audience gets its money’s worth and you don’t get bored or tired.

A playwright is not happy when actors change lines to suit themselves. (Do I have to say this? I’m not comfortable saying this.) Tough. Those are the lines. If you’re involved in the first production of a play, you may have some input as to line changes, or even speech changes, because theater is a collaborative venture. The playwright wants it to be as good as it can be. But even in early rehearsals of a new play, your job as an actor is to try the lines as written — many times, perhaps — before suggesting a change.

Actors who changes lines or blocking to keep it fresh don’t usually know how to keep it fresh.

Larry’s fourth book — on working with a text — helps the actor find a way to make the play and the character personal to the actor, and, using the same technique, to keep it fresh. He helps the actor find things in the actor’s own emotional experience and imagination that correspond to what is happening to the character in the play.

The best playwrights have their own rhythm, and rhythm is very important. Rhythm helps make it easy to learn lines, and rhythm helps to keep the lines and the scene fresh. Sandy used to use the example of playing a musical instrument to illustrate the importance to an actor of practicing something over and over. I remember once hearing John Gielgud say that occasionally he wasn’t sure what a speech in Shakespeare meant, but that if he said it over and over, the rhythm would convey the meaning to him — the emotional meaning.

When a director guides a group of actors in a play — choreographs it, if you will — much of what the director has done has to do with rhythm and pace. Therefore, maintaining the rhythm is vital to the performance. In an opera or a musical, the conductor keeps everyone in the right rhythm, but in a play, once the director has gone, the actors and the stage manager have to maintain the rhythm themselves. Good actors can maintain the rhythm of a play by keeping the inner life fresh — which is what Larry’s fourth book is about.

I was a bit daunted when Larry asked me to introduce this book. I haven’t been a student for a long time. But I do think he’s made Sandy’s approach to acting as clear and accessible as any book on acting that I’ve read, and his enthusiasm for what’s real in life is heartwarming and infectious. Acting should be fun. Even the tragedies should be fun, a thrill to do. The process is fun, and Larry really makes it so.

Frances Sternhagen

Without passion man is a mere latent force and possibility, like the flint which awaits the shock of the iron before it can give forth its spark.

Henri-Frédéric Amiel

What is passion? It is surely the becoming of a person. Are we not, for most of our lives, marking time? Most of our being is at rest, unlived. In passion, the body and the spirit seek expression outside of self. Passion is all that is other from self. Sex is only interesting when it releases passion. The more extreme and the more expressed that passion is, the more unbearable does life seem without it. It reminds us that if passion dies or is denied, we are partly dead and that soon, come what may, we will be wholly so.

John Boorman


Welcome. Playing the part, or interpretation, the subject of this, the fourth book in my Meisner series, calls upon our individual creativity and inventiveness in ways we have not addressed yet. An intricate aspect of our craft, many actors never fully address interpretation for one simple reason — it’s hard work. I want you to know that the tools I am going to give you here will have the most wonderful payoff in your struggle to bring soul to the stage.

Interpretation for the actor is an ever expanding process because there is no one way, and because each time we face the challenge of bringing the character to life, we will be faced with entering the unknown, with investigating from every angle, with questioning and discovering anew.

Everything we have been working on together in my first three Meisner Approach books has been with the aim of leading you to a pure connection with your instinctual voice, strengthening your actors imagination, and giving you the ability to work with deep personal meaning.

Now we will put all of these skills to use in a most active way. That’s a key word for us, active, because in each moment on stage, we must be on a quest, passionately fighting for what we believe is necessary and true. What, specifically, does that mean? Hold that question for now, as the answer will become clear as you work your way through this book.

Let’s get to it.

Every man feels instinctively that all the beautiful sentiments in the world weigh less than a single lovely action.

James Russell Lowell

chapter one

the nursery rhyme exercise

I am going to begin our work together with an exercise I find very useful and a lot of fun. It is called the nursery rhyme exercise and it is mainly about one thing: It is about having the experience of justifying the words. To be simple, what this means is, the words you speak on stage must have a purpose. Another way of saying this is, words must always be spoken in order to accomplish something. This is equally true when you are not speaking because your nonverbal behavior must also be aimed at something specific you are trying to achieve.

Let’s get very basic about this whole thing. A long time ago, I told you that acting is doing. I also told you that when you are not involved in something you are doing, you are no longer acting. In the early phase of our work together, I taught you how to do activities that were a physical manifestation of the acting truth that says: In each moment on stage you must be trying to accomplish something which is specific and meaningful. Specific and meaningful to whom? Yes, to you. If I haven’t said this to you before, I will tell you now that every word out of your mouth and every ounce of your behavior on stage is part of an activity because everything you do on stage must be your determined attempt to get closer to this thing you want to have or which you need to make happen.

The truth is, in each moment, you are doing this in your life as well. When you speak and when you are not speaking, you are trying to accomplish something with the people you are with. Although most of the time you don’t stop to consciously consider what you are trying to accomplish, that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. And, what you want to achieve in each encounter is both specific and personal. So, before we get to the nursery rhyme exercise, I want you to investigate what is really happening when you are with the people in your life.

Here are two writing assignments (please complete the first one before you move on to the second):

1. During the following twenty-four hours, bring to your awareness what you are trying to accomplish in one of your interactions. I am asking you to take some time after you have been with a friend or family member, or after you have spent some time with a stranger (talking with a sales person or with someone on line at the bank, etc.), and figure out what you wanted to achieve with that person. Write down what you discovered on the lines below.

2. During the next twenty-four hours, after a specific interaction with someone, take some time to consider the words and the behavior of the person you were with. Write about what it was you think he or she was trying to achieve or accomplish with you.

Let’s move on to the nursery rhyme exercise. To introduce it to you, I want you to meet one of your classmates, Celina.

Larry: Celina, would you please say hello to the readers?

Celina: (Smiling and giggling a little, she pushes her golden hair back from her eyes.) Hi out there!

Here is the well-known nursery rhyme I assigned Celina to work on:

Mary had a little lamb,

its fleece was white as snow.

And everywhere that Mary went,

the lamb was sure to go.

Before you, the readers, joined us, I explained to Celina and the rest of my in person class, how to approach the nursery rhyme exercise and I gave everyone some time to get to work on them. Let’s listen to how Celina has started the work on her nursery rhyme. Here are the beginnings of the scenario she has come up with:

Celina: The characters are Mom, Dad, Sally (eight years old) and Billy (thirteen years old) and Mary (fifteen years old). It is dinner time. As my play begins, Sally and Billy are at the table picking at their food. Mom, humming a tune to ease the tension in the room, is putting food onto a serving tray. Dad, upset that Mary has not returned for dinner, is standing at the door. Dad suddenly yells out the door, MARY! He then waits a moment, watches, and quite displeased, heads back to the table. Mom, meanwhile, has walked over with the food to Billy and starts to put a piece of lamb on to his plate. Not fond of the first piece of lamb he wrestled with, he stops her with his fork and says, Had a little. Mom continues on to Dad who is now sitting at his plate eating a potato. Mom begins to serve Dad a piece of meat. Lamb? she asks. Not looking up from the next potato he is slicing, Dad shakes his head refusing her offer. Mom then serves herself a piece of lamb and sits down to eat.

All right, let’s examine what Celina did:

She created a play including both a story line and a cast of characters that have nothing to do with the story or the characters in the original nursery rhyme.

She took the words from the nursery rhyme and broke them down into lines for the characters in her play in such a way that each person who is speaking has a reason for saying those words. Also, did you notice that Celina used the words from the nursery rhyme in their exact order and she didn’t change, add, or delete any words? If you go back and look, you will see that the original line Mary had a little lamb became her script, which looks like this:

Dad: MARY!

Billy: Had a little.

Mom: Lamb?

Celina added sound that is not in the original nursery rhyme. What sound? She has the Mom humming. As with everything else, her humming is justified. She is humming to ease the tension in the room.

As you see, the story Celina came up with has a simple sense of reality. I am saying that the things her characters say and do are necessary for them to say and do because of the circumstances they are living out and what it is they want to accomplish. And, these circumstances are something we can all believe would be possible within our own human sense of reality.

The next step for Celina would be to complete the nursery rhyme, in the manner she worked on in the first line, by using all the words of the nursery rhyme. Then, when she has completed creating her nursery rhyme play, Celina would work with some acting partners

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