Category Archives Meisner technique

LA Times: “Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio, life is no act”

LA_Times

Today let’s get a sneak peek at our founder Elizabeth Mestnik and her Meisner Technique class. Our founder and her teaching class was featured in LA Times earlier this week.

“To do truthfully under imaginary circumstances, that is our defining quality” – says Elizabeth.  According to her the truth and imagination come in close contact and what comes out is true feeling. Actors don’t pretend to feel sad, devastated,  joyous. The live those emotions.

“We work in a way that allows to truly get angry, truly get devastated, truly be joyous” – shares Elizabeth.

To see the full video by LA Times click here.

Actress Juliana Mendez on the Meisner Program

Guest Post by EMAS alumnus Juliana Mendez


Before the Meisner program, I felt like I was stuck in my head and wasn’t able to fully let go. I was intrigued by the Meisner technique’s emphasis on moment-to-moment work. I heard about the Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio (EMAS) through a couple of friends and they both had great things to say about the studio and the Meisner program. My curiosity grew each time they talked about it and wondered what they meant when they said it was ‘hard’. Up to that point I had been lucky enough to have had excellent acting teachers who demanded a lot from their students, but I never considered acting ‘hard’. The more I heard about the program, the more I wanted to see what it was all about. I told myself that I would wait until I was done with school to continue my acting training. Then, I saw my friend in a short film and was blown away by how much her work had grown within just a few months of training at EMAS. I had to check this place out ASAP!

My plan was to do the Meisner summer intensive since I was off from school and then enroll in the 2-year program the following year once I graduated. Ha! Plans changed because I was completely hooked. I learned a lot about acting and life in just those five weeks and was dying to learn more. I finally understood what other students meant when they said it would be hard. This program requires discipline, determination, and the courage to let yourself be seen at your most raw and vulnerable moments. In my experience, the people that leave the program or have negative things to say about it are the ones least willing to be vulnerable and put in the work, which makes them feel attacked when asked to do so. There is no ‘hiding’ behind other characters since you’re basically taking in and experiencing everything as yourself under the imaginary circumstances crafted.

First year is brilliantly designed to help you learn about yourself and your unique point of view. Through the exercises, you develop the highly important skill of listening, the ability to behave truthfully and spontaneously, and the strength to both stand up for yourself and allow yourself to be vulnerable. You become more emotionally available and more confident in your craft. What more could you ask for? If you put in the work, you’ll gain the necessary tools that’ll allow you to do consistently good work. I am now a few months away from completing second year which consists of character work where you learn to adopt different points of view and do impediment work. You get to let your imagination run wild and really have fun! The program also includes on-camera work, the business side of acting, and a showcase at the end to which industry people are invited. The Meisner program has been life-changing and it’s crazy to think that it’s almost over!

But I can’t wrap this all up without talking about the Fitzmaurice voice class which I just finished taking with the incredible Michael Yurchak who is certified in the technique and studied with Catherine Fitzmaurice herself. I am so glad that they added this 12 week course option to my Meisner training. I never really received notes about my voice per se, but I wanted to incorporate this class into my training in order to keep my instrument sharp and have a more conservatory style of training. After all, the Fitzmaurice technique is also taught at NYU, Julliard, and Yale so it clearly has it’s merits. I went into this class not expecting much since it was ‘just’ a voice class, but man, I was wrong! In class you are guided through the sequence, which is a series of positions that usually produce tremors. You ‘destructure’ and ‘restructure’, which allows you to access your full voice without excess effort and tension so that it is more expressive and resonant. The Fitzmaurice class feels like a yoga class except for the fact that everyone is making sound and some people end up having strong emotional reactions (crying, laughing, etc). The sequence helps shake up ‘emotional goo’, as Michael says and is highly effective. It works so quickly, that I always left class feeling grounded, extremely relaxed, and with a more resonant voice. There is a lot to be gained from this class both technically and personally, and it complements the Meisner program nicely.

Overall, the classes offered at EMAS are phenomenal and all of the teachers are amazing. They truly care about their students and everyone is really supportive. You also get to meet a lot of other great people, especially at EMAS events, such as the monthly staged readings, which gives students and alumni a chance to act, direct, and get familiar with more plays. Taking classes here has been one of the greatest investments I have ever made for my career and has been worth every penny!


actress Juliana MendezAn alumnus of Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio’s Meisner program, Juliana Mendez is an LA based Actress currently making a name for herself in film and on stage.

“It takes 20 Years to become an Actor” – Reflections on my acting training.

By Ken Weiler


Sanford Meisner is famous for saying that “It takes 20 years to become an actor”.  So now, 20 years after graduating from Rutgers University’s MFA Acting program, I am reflecting on what I learned there and realize that there are many lessons I learned while training that I take into auditions and performances today.

One of the most important things you learn while attending a conservatory is to rehearse. It sounds so obvious, but an actor must prepare. It’s almost common knowledge now with the popularity of books like Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers and the “10,000-hour rule,” (the idea that it takes approximately 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to master a skill) but you learn that you just have to put in the time. There’s no way around it. A musician spends hundreds of hours practicing scales, a doctor spent years in medical school, and so the actor must rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.

For me rehearsal and preparation are synonymous. You can’t escape the need to give yourself as much time as it’s gonna take to prepare for a role or for an audition. Sometimes you get material that’s in your wheelhouse or fits your temperament, and then it may be easier or less time-consuming. But to pull off a powerful or hysterically funny performance is not a simple task. It’s achieved through great effort and work, though the performance itself should appear effortless. As Hamlet said, “Therein lies the rub.”

If you ever studied with Bill Esper you heard these words asked of you a thousand times, “What are you doing there?” In this question lies the cornerstone of technique. I constantly ask myself this question when I read a scene for an audition or am preparing a role for a job. It may be one of the most important elements in creating truthful behavior and it’s at the core of realism in acting. Bill stuck very closely to Meisner’s straightforward definition of acting which is “Living truthfully under the imaginary circumstances of the play.” In Bill’s book he went so far as to change it to “DOING truthfully under the imaginary circumstances…” Stanislavski delved deeply into actions and objectives in his approach for the actor. And, I am constantly asking myself, “What am I doing? What do I want? How am I gonna get it?”

Finally, to keep from sounding too intellectual or clever, perhaps the most important lesson I learned relates to spontaneity. I have to stay playful. I have to stay almost childlike in my imagination and willingness to improvise. I have to stay open, loose, and relaxed. This is a part of your performance and preparation that is not intellectual. It’s an oversimplification to be sure but, simply put, I have to have fun. I have to play.


actor & teacher ken weilerKen Weiler received his MFA in Theater Arts from Mason Gross School of the Arts under the tutelage of William Esper and Maggie Flanigan. He has taught The Meisner Technique and Auditioning at EMAS for the past 8 years. He’s worked professionally for over twenty years with appearances in dozens of films and episodic television shows including Criminal Minds, Friends, The West Wing, Desperate Housewives, CSI, Bones, and currently recurring in the STARZ series Blunt Talk starring Patrick Stewart.

He is also an accomplished musician, performing with his band The Four Postmen at various L.A. venues

Should Working Actors Continue Their Training??

Guest Post by Matthew Jaeger

Matthew Jaeger HeadshotMatt Jaeger is a 2014 graduate of The Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio’s Professional Meisner Training Program. He is currently starring in Chinglish by David Henry Hwang at East West Players. Other credits include Recurring and Guest Star appearances on Criminal Minds, Switched at Birth, CSI and Grey’s Anatomy. See Matthew Jaeger on IMDB.


When I came to Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio, I’d already been a working actor for four years. I worked primarily in commercials and television, doing the occasional film and the even more occasional theatre project. I came to EMAS because of one these more occasional theatre projects, a play called Short Eyes, where I played the title role. It was an incredibly demanding role, and I found I hit a wall when trying to access certain emotional parts of myself. I would get to a point and then just… nothing. It was scary and incredibly frustrating. So I faked it when I needed to, and got through the run. But afterwards I was left with the feeling that I should have gone farther, made the role not only deeper but given it more levels and color. My girlfriend (now wife) suggested I look at Elizabeth Mestnik’s Meisner Summer Intensive when it came around that summer. So I did.

To make long story slightly less long, in that short intensive, I dug deeper than I ever had before. I liked what I found, and what it did to me as an actor. So I joined the full Professional Program. What followed were nine months of some of the hardest work I’ve ever done as an actor. Remember, I make my money acting, so I was very nervous to mess with my process or give anyone else input as to how I approached my craft. But the more I relaxed and opened up, the better things got. It was SO much work, but every minute was worth it. I continued on into the 2nd year’s advanced work and my confidence grew as I solidified what I learned and absorbed it into my daily work.

In going through the 2 Year Meisner Program, I not only grew as an actor, but as a person. I made lasting friendships and came to know myself in ways I never thought I would. It was great. But if you’re like me, you want to know, bottom line, “Did the acting get better?” Aka “Did you start booking more?” Well, I’m about as anal retentive as they come and I actually track my booking percentages, so I can answer that question.

Yes.

I started class in 2012. My stats for that year were:
Callback: 20.7%, Booking: 8.8%
(I told you I was anal retentive)

During 2013 I was changing my process and rebuilding my craft, and the numbers dropped.
Callback: 10.4%, Booking 5.2%
Needless to say, it took some real trust to keep with it when my stats dropped by half. But I believed in Elizabeth, Jordana, and Ken. And like I said, I could see my growth as an artist. And most importantly, I was ENJOYING acting more.

By the time I graduated, in June 2014, everything was back to normal. My stats for 2014 were almost identical to 2012:
Callback: 20%, Booking 8.6%

Today I’ve had a year to settle into my new process and really put what I learned to work. It’s the first complete year of acting work I’ve had since graduating, and my stats have definitely improved As of November, my 2015 stats are:
Callback 25.4%, Booking 19%

That’s right, my booking ratio more than DOUBLED in my first full year after graduating from the EMAS 2 Year Meisner Program. And my callbacks have increased as well.

Also, before and during the class (2012-2014) I averaged working 18 days a year. For 2015, I’m on track to work 91 days. True, this probably would have been a good year anyway, part of the ebb and flow of any career. But it could never have gotten this good without EMAS studios. My training there has upped my game to a new level.

So, to sum it all up, only someone as anal retentive as me can tell you, with objective proof, the Elizabeth Mestnik Acting Studio works.