Meisner Acting and Emotional Preparation - Robert Winsor Institute

Actors trained in the Meisner acting technique acquire a unique ability to engross themselves fully into the emotional "state" of the character onstage thanks, in part, to a practice known as emotional preparation. For example, these actors are not "pretending" to be upset, they ARE upset, a subtle but very important distinction. Founder Sanford Meisner believed that any actor utilizing the Meisner acting technique was obligated to do extensive prep work to develop an entire life full of what he called "imaginary circumstances." The actors’ job is to paint an emotional landscape that includes a wide range of the deepest human lusts, compulsions, conflict and feelings which make up the human experience. This is the only way to be interesting onstage.

The Robert Winsor Institute creates amazing Thespians. Located in Irvine, CA, the institute was a huge hit In London for years, and was then run by Robert Winsor Sr. Robert Winsor JR, recreated the Shakespearian Institute in Santa Barbara, before joining forces with OC Kids, the leading acting Institute in personal growth for children.


Meisner acting classes are known for beginning with simple exercises known as word repetition, where two actors say a simple phrase that has no meaning back and forth to each other. As the exercise progresses, actors repeat the phrase and eventually there emerges an emotional context, which leads their acting partner to respond with their own unique emotional interpretation and so on.


A key practice of the Meisner acting technique, emotional preparation is a theory/practice in which the actor deepens and strengthens their connections to emotions and impulses that have personal meaning for them that can be translated and developed to create a true "emotional life" for the character. Many untrained actors work with a mistaken belief that acting is only about pretending to experience certain emotions onstage. Nothing could be further from the truth and audiences instinctively know when this superficial approach is being used. It makes for a false performance.


Many beginning students assume that acting is pretending, as well as one can, to feel something. This is the kind of assumption that leads to poor acting choices, bad habits and less than stellar performances. With proper preparation actors deepen their connection to their personal emotional lives, and then translate that into creating "emotional circumstances" for their character. By tapping into their own feelings and desires, and using them to create an imaginary but true "emotional life" for the character, Meisner trained actors act instinctively and in the moment.


The belief that actors are just pretending when they work is a myth. In actuality, actors are immersed in and using real emotions and authentic actions drawing from a library that they have created. Of course, anything that has personal meaning can be used, but it must be translated and imagined into a fuller, more truthful story, the "emotional life" of a character. Sanford Meisner's students have the phrase "acting is doing" ingrained because this was the core of his teaching. Actors are not free to commit fully to doing anything onstage, including focusing on the other actors, unless they have done extensive preparation emotionally.


The creativity of the craft means that each actor must find his or her own way to emotionally prepare. Meisner developed a framework but, it is the actor's responsibility to find the specific methods that work for them. Should an actor visit a maternity ward to learn what it is like to give birth? Does one put them in danger to experience real fear? Every actor has to find what works for them.


Actors using the Meisner acting technique find a freedom in imagining and living out the strong emotions of a character onstage. If done well, it is extremely taxing and incredibly rewarding. As emotional beings, any actor that taps completely into our deepest undercurrents of desire will be the most mesmerizing onstage. Certainly that is the goal that any great actor aspires to.


The Robert Winsor Institute: A School for Acting, Singing, Presenting and Performing 


Robert Winsor Institute is an institution located in Irvine, which specializes in developing acting and personal improvement skills in children. The RW Institute's performing arts programs are offered in various courses suited to your needs and schedule. We have full-time and part-time courses, short and drop-in classes. All the courses are geared towards your development as an actor.


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