Eric Bryant

Meisner Class Journal

The Adventure Begins

March 5, 2024

Prompt – What are your goals for the class?

 

My biggest goal is to immerse myself in a formal course of study again. I had been considering an MFA program, but at this stage in my life kit is very difficult to find one that works with other commitments that I have.

Since taking a longer than expected hiatus from acting, I’ve recently re-discovered what drew me to it in the first place: the need to tell human stories. And even though I feel I have a strong base of training, I know how important is is to continue working on craft. I know that this class will challenge me and provide tools that I will be able to use as I continue my goal to grow as an artist.

 

March 10, 2024

 

The repetition exercise is very much like Active Listening training in that the focus is not just on what is being said, but also the context or non-spoken cues that reveal the meaning/intent behind the words. I’m trying to equate the 4 disciplines of repetition to some of the other disciplines that I have studied before. While HB took a behavioral approach that allowed instincts to emerge, Meisner seems to focus on honing instinct first. The goal is similar – finding authentic connection to the people and circumstances presented. The language is different – Meisner seems to be more structured. Initially it feels very foreign to try to identify which of the disciplines I am seeing be successful or not as successful. I know that with practice that this will get easier. I think that this is one thing that age and experience provides – a patience for the process to work. While sometimes I get confused between Leave Yourself Alone and Trust Yourself, I know that with practice and repetition I will begin to see the difference. Big hurdle for me is to be courageous enough to say “I don’t know.”

 

March 17, 2024

 

After unsuccessfully trying to journal on paper, I have decided to let this take the form of a blog. With my tremor, writing by hand is difficult and exhausting. I hope this will work.

 

Prompt – What do I hope to get out of the class?

At first I thought this was the same as last week’s prompt, but I see that they are a bit different.

 

 

What I hope to get out of the class is exposure to a somewhat different method of working. I have an approach that has been somewhat successful, but it’s always good to have additional tools in my belt. Selfishly, I’m hoping to form relationships with some of the other participants and staff of The Phoenix. As I begin to approach retirement, I look forward to having more time to devote to getting back to the career that I had left behind so many years ago. I know that as an older person, sometimes the availability of roles is not plentiful, however I am hoping to get back to the theatre as a career in some capacity, be it acting, directing or teaching.

 

Meisner Class – Week 3

We are three weeks into the Meisner class. Our focus is exclusively on the repetition exercise and will be for several more weeks. While I suppose that it may begin to feel redundant, I am still enjoying the challenge of it. My biggest challenges are letting myself alone and letting the exercise go where it wants to go, especially when I am unsure about what I am getting from my partner. My natural instinct is to begin to lead the exercise. I think some of this comes from years of training to pursue an objective, and frankly I’m usually not aware that I am doing it until it is pointed out. I’m sure that this will come in handy later on, but for now just allowing myself to be led by the exercise is the challenge. Loving the class though. As I told Jolene, I feel kind of lost right now but in a good way.

Meisner Journal #3

We’ve now been repeating for about a month, and while in ways the exercise is becoming more instinctive (I hesitate to use the word “easier”), I am still having difficulty identifying what I am seeing when observing others practicing the exercise. It’s said that it typically takes 20 hours to become reasonably competent in a new skill, and we’ve only been at it for 12 hours, so…

 

As for some of the feedback I’ve been getting, while I do understand some of it (I am pretty aware of when I am unable to “leave myself alone” and when I begin to try to lead the exercise), last night I got the feedback that I wasn’t “picking up and dealing” with my partner’s behavior. This one threw me. I felt like I was pretty in tune with my partner, and was reacting to what I was seeing and feeling. There were times, though, when I wasn’t sure what I was getting from my partner…I wonder if those are the times that were being commented on? Someone else mentioned that I wasn’t allowing myself to be affected by my partner, and again, I’m not sure when that was happening, and what was going on at the time. I kind of wish that those times were pointed out when they were happening so that I understand what’s going on. I want to be clear – I don’t doubt the validity of the comments or even necessarily disagree with them. I’m just not sure when or what was happening that led to the comments.

 

I am still enjoying the class, and am particularly enjoying meeting and getting to know the people in the class. It’s a good group, and everyone seems very supportive.

 

Eric Bryant 3/26/2024

Meisner Class Journal #4

Last night’s class was interesting. Jolene allowed us to begin to change up the words to reflect any changes in behavior that we witnessed in our partners, providing that it happened spontaneously. She mentioned that we didn’t have to do this, and that she reserved the right to discontinue this new layer (she didn’t…at least not last night).

 

I think most of us were initially a bit hesitant about using this new tool, but as the evening wore on, everyone seemed a bit more comfortable with using it. I initially felt like I was looking for a change in behavior so that I could change up the words, however after a few minutes that left and I felt like I settled in to the exercise. My first round was with Alex. I thought the exercise went really well. I felt connected, I felt like I was able to leave myself alone and follow Alex, and trust the exercise. I did get the feedback that I was still leading the exercise at times, which I was not aware of. Not saying I wasn’t…I just am not aware of when I am doing it. I did ask if anyone could let me know what it is that I’m doing and I did get some feedback that was helpful. If I’m understanding, the class observes me not reacting to what is happening with my partner, but trying to change the direction of the exercise. Honestly, I’m still not sure that I’m in complete agreement, but I trust that this is what is being observed, so I want to make sure that I am aware of it.

 

My second round was with Lucas, and I thought it went really well once we both settled into the exercise. I really tried to focus only on Lucas’ behavior, and I think I was somewhat successful. I’m still not quite sure if I’m supposed to just react to what I’m receiving, or if I’m supposed to let what I’m receiving affect me, and then respond by calling out the behavior that I’m observing. Jolene said that I’m overthinking, and I probably am, but the latter is what I was focused on with Lucas so maybe I’ve answered my own question?

 

We have next week off due to the Eclipse. It will be interesting to come back after a week off this early in the process and see if our repetitions change.

Eric Bryant April 2, 2024

Meisner Class Journal 4.16.24

After a week off to enjoy the eclipse, it was great getting back to class. In our last class, we were offered the option to change up the words we use in the repetition exercise based on observed behavior in our partners. This week presented a new challenge: adding a “trigger event” as a circumstance. I liked the definitions that Jolene used (paraphrased because I don’t have my notebook handy):

 

Circumstances – the questions that need to be answered before the scene can begin (who, what, when, where, why, etc.). Very similar to Uta Hagen’s Six Questions.

 

Trigger event – Something that has just occurred that makes it necessary for you to enter the scene. This is what I would call the “moment before.” How it pertains to the repetition exercise is that Jolene gives each partner a piece of information about the scene partner, for example, they just won the lottery. This informs the initial moment of the repetition exercise, however the exercise is still about observing and responding to the partner’s behavior. The trigger provides context to the relationship with the partner. We are endowing the partner with the qualities of the trigger, but still just responding to their behavior.

 

Everyone seemed to enjoy adding the triggers, and overall most everyone worked well with incorporating the triggers into their work. For my part, I did notice that I was holding on to the trigger a bit, and that caused me to miss some of the behavior of my partner. Not an excuse, but there are certain people in the class with whom I have a difficult time identifying their behavior, and my scene partner is one of them. Where I really need to be mindful is not letting this frustrate me so that I begin trying to lead the exercise.

 

There are a few people in class who I really enjoy watching work. I think it’s because they have a sensitivity to their partners that sometimes I feel I lack, or they are very expressive which makes them easier to follow. I still have trouble during the feedback portion putting into words what it is that I am seeing, or not seeing. I don’t think it’s a lack of understanding of the principles, rather it’s an inability to identify which of the principles are being demonstrated (or not). After class a few of us were hanging out outside talking about the class and our own challenges, and I was glad to hear that I was not the only one who feels this way. I’m not discouraged, though. It is a new skill and a still-relatively-new vocabulary so I do know that it will take time.

 

Eric Bryant 4/16/2024