Directors Lab

Meisner Vilnius


Next Meisner workshop will be held in spring 2019.
Sanford Meisner

Sanford Meisner


In the 1930s, Sanford Meisner was an actor in the Group Theatre, the most important repertory theatre in modern American History, which spawned the major American acting teachers, and several of the most important playwrights and directors of the 20th century. Meisner and his fellow actor Stella Adler fell out with their director Lee Strasberg over his use of Emotional Recall, a technique in which the actor used personal emotion from his own past memories to feed the acting process. Meisner and Adler chose to use the imagination to stimulate emotion and involvement in a play's imaginary circumstances. Both Strasberg's and Meisner and Adler's techniques came out of the work of Konstantin Stanislavski in Russia, but they differed on which parts of his work was most important to the actor's work and training. The Group Theatre broke up partially because of the conflict over these techniques. Meisner, Adler and Strasberg all went on to become acting teachers who had a profound influence on American acting and culture, as well as a strong influence on European acting.

At the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York, Meisner created a full-blown acting technique which would train an actor to create all the layers of a complete performance over a two year period. It was, and still is, one of the most systematic and complete acting techniques in the Western world. Meisner's work was based on the principle that acting found its most profound expression in specific behavior that came out of the actor's real human response to circumstances and other people. The technique is based on truth. Meisner said “Acting is the ability to live truthfully under given imaginary circumstances.” Because of this, his entire training method relied heavily on accessing the actor's impulses, through which real responses and real behavior were accessed in the moment. This technique was not only applied to improvisation with another person, but also to the actor's way of finding things to do in rehearsal, interpreting a script, and creating the specific physical characteristics of each character the actor played.

The basic exercise that Meisner invented to train the actor's responses is called the Repetition Exercise. In this exercise, two actors stand across from each other and respond to each other through a repeated phrase. The phrase is about each other's behavior, and reflects what is going on between them in the moment, such as "You look unhappy with me right now." The way this phrase is said as it is repeated changes in meaning, tone and intensity to correspond with the behavior that each actor produces towards the other. Through this device, the actor stops thinking of what to say and do, and responds more freely and spontaneously, both physically and vocally. The exercise also eliminates line readings, since the way the actor speaks becomes coordinated with his behavioral response. As the exercise continues over a period of months, more detailed imaginary circumstances are added to the exercise, and it gradually becomes a kind of improvised scene. When this is fully developed, the actors are ready to start working with actual scripts. The course gradually makes its way through more complex script material and work on creating characters incorporating all the student's training.

Steven Ditmyer
Actor/Director/Acting Teacher
Founder, Meisner International

Steven is an Actor, Director and Acting Teacher who studied with Sanford Meisner, Uta Hagen and Zoe Caldwell. He is a graduate of The Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre in New York City where he later was invited to train as a teacher of the Meisner technique.

In addition to being a guest teacher at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City he is the founder of MEISNER INTERNATIONAL currently teaching workshops in New York, London, Amsterdam, Paris, Rome, Vienna, Helsinki, Tallinn, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Quito, Guayaquil, and Bogota with new workshops starting in Berlin, Dubrovnik, Vilnius and Buenos Aires.

As an actor, Steven worked with many great artists such as Al Pacino, Arthur Miller, Tony Randall, Ron Rifkin, Sam Waterston, Diane Wiest, Blythe Danner and more.

As a Director, he directed the OFF THE PAGE Reading Series for Tony Randall’s National Actors Theatre in NYC (2005-2008) with such notable productions as: The Night Of The Iguana with Alec Baldwin, Golf with Alan Shepard with Jack Klugman, Charles Durning, Len Cariou and John Cullum and Ladies In Retirement with Rosemarry Harris. He has directed many prodcudtions in New York working with such notable playwrights as Robert Askins, James McClure, Bruce Jay Friedman, Albert Bermel, Jack Gilhooley, Gail Sheehy and with notable actors as Marian Seldes, Brian Murray, Dana Ivey, John Pankow, Richard Bey, Brian Geraghty and many more. Steven was the Co-Director of the Workshop at the Neighborhood Playhouse (1999-2003) where he directed over 20 new plays and was the Artistic Director of the Neighborhood Theatre Company in Naples, Florida (2003-2005) where he directed his wife in The Syringa Tree. He was a Founding director of the A-Train Plays in NYC (written and performed in 24 hours) where he directed The Casseroles of Far Rockaway by Seth Bauer – winner of the 2004 Samuel French Festival. Steven will be directing Exit The King by Eugene Ionesco in Italian opening in Rome 2019.

He is married to actress Tamara Flannagan and resides in Manhattan with their two boys Callan and Jace.