By Jon Steely
“Acting is living truthfully under imaginary circumstances.” These are the words of Sanford Meisner, a name that every serious student of the art of acting has come across along their artistic journey. As one of the premiere teachers of Method acting, Meisner developed the Meisner Technique, utilizing repetition exercises to cultivate the skills of listening and reacting, the technique’s fundamental principles. The Meisner Technique, which dictates that no action shall be made by an actor until something makes it happen, is one of the most sought-out acting methods in Los Angeles, and is the technique used by many Hollywood greats (including Robert Duvall and James Caan) to make their performances believable.
For the past 11 years, Alex Taylor (army paratrooper turned actor) has been teaching the Meisner Technique, and is one of the only teachers who can boast (though he’s much too kind-hearted and gracious to boast) of being one of the last actors to work directly with Meisner himself. Taylor is the genuine article, and in a very competitive market, this gives his students the advantage of learning the pure, undiluted Meisner
Technique before ever getting up in front of casting directors or a paying audience. “I’m honored to have been trained to teach Sandy’s work which,” Taylor explains, “allows me to teach the technique exactly as Sandy meant it to be taught. This way, students get to learn how to be authentic, and how to bring their own uniqueness and individuality to the work in a systematic and manageable way by using Sandy’s exact methods, without getting somebody else’s spin on what Sandy actually taught.”
If this is not enough of a reason for a serious acting student to seek out Taylor as a teacher, he could also boast of having been, based on his theatrical prowess, plucked off the stage by Edward James Olmos to be one of the select few (along with Sean Penn and Whoopi Goldberg) chosen to attend Marlon Brando’s highly coveted and notoriously unorthodox 2002 acting workshop, “Lying For A Living.” Taylor’s studio, The Sanford Meisner Studio, is also the only studio that has been officially approved by the Sanford Meisner estate to use Meisner’s name. Working closely with Meisner’s estate, Alex Taylor is currently the only teacher allowed to teach summer intensives for his students at Sanford Meisner’s home in the Caribbean.
“What I do,” Taylor says, “is encourage child-like play in a safe environment where the students can learn to give themselves validation by learning to trust themselves. As artists, we need to go back to expressing ourselves the way we did as children. Actors have to express themselves in the same way that children do: without self-consciousness. Holding yourself and your emotions back for the sake of society’s rules is death to an artist. I get excited watching students engage in this sense of play, watching students grow not only as artists but also as human beings. It’s fun to see the growth.”
The Sanford Meisner Studio is located at 4150 Riverside Dr. Suite 205, Burbank, CA. For more information, call (818) 335-1140 or visit their Web site at www.thesanfordmeisnerstudio.com.