This is a first introduction to a series of posts on the Meisner community and its teachers and actors I intend to write, starting with what I think is a pretty cool list of actors who have trained with some of the prominent Meisner teachers. Sanford “Sandy” Meisner taught several generations of actors, and he also taught a number of people who became quite effective and dynamic Meisner teachers in their own right. In addition to teachers who still teach Meisner Technique at the Neighborhood Playhouse where Meisner taught for many years, William Espers is among the most prominent Meisner teachers in New York, and he also runs the theatre program at Rutgers University. Maggie Flanigan and several other teachers and their professional students are also on my list, as you will see, as well as one of my own teachers, Tim Phillips, a student of Robert Patterson, whose version of Meisner Technique I studied in New York many years ago with several teachers. Since that time, I myself have taught for almost 28 years, both in New York City and Washington, D.C.
So I am interested in who is around who studied with Meisner or with Meisner-based teachers and programs. One of my main reasons for this interest is a fun study habit I have had over the years, tracing actors who are students of Meisner Technique, and catching their performances on stage and film. I’m a big fan, as you can see from my other blog posts, of Meisner-based character work, and I especially enjoy watching the same actor do several different roles, watching them in a row, and see what they brought to each role and each character. This interest is not confined to Meisner actors, though it’s a professional focus for me. I recently enjoyed watching several film performances of Shirley Knight, a Method actor, and one of my favorite actors of any kind. I saw her on stage a few years back in a little-promoted role Off-Broadway — how much fun was that? Well, my gain to see her up close, but I wish more people would pay attention to these plays when they show up and go see them. These great actors deserve an audience when they pop up. <hint-hint to pro actors — go watch the greats and other good actors when they show up in a little play and give them an audience> See Shirley Knight, if you are a dedicated “character watcher” like me, in a little film called “Little Boy Blue.” She has a relatively small role, but she burns it up. It’s a sick film, but that shouldn’t bother most actors… And she’s the good guy. 🙂
Per my hobby of watching Meisner-based actors, among other actors, I have been working on this list. Some wonderful acting person contributed it to me some years ago, and I’ve built on it since then. Another fun aspect of this list is just to see how many great actors have come out of the Meisner Technique. But I hasten to add even though this list is pretty good, there are many many actors who are inevitably missing from this list. It’s a pretty broad community.
I am also interested in creating more interaction within the Meisner community. Individual studios tend to be somewhat insular, but the broader Meisner community has a lot to share. A good start is to find out who is using the Meisner Technique and what projects they are doing. And as an acting teacher I am also very interested in how other Meisner-based teachers and coaches teach, and how their students work after being trained by them. So here is the list as it stands at present. Let me know if you have any additions or corrections, as parts of this list have come from a number of sources:
MEISNER TECHNIQUE-BASED ACTORS:
Many respected artists have studied and practised Meisner Technique,
such as Eli Wallach, Maureen Stapleton, James Gandolfini, Jack Nicholson, Anthony Hopkins, Kim Basinger, Jeff Bridges, Jeff Goldblum, David Mamet, Steve McQueen, Robert Duval, Allison Janney, Barry Milionis (Australian Actor), Diane Keaton, Gregory Peck, and Joanne Woodward, James Doohan [Scotty], Richard Boone, Sigourney Weaver.
Meisner’s students include the following Academy Award winners:
Joan Fontaine, Jennifer Jones, Grace Kelly, Edmond O’Brien, Jo Van Fleet, Joanne Woodward, Gregory Peck, Joel Grey, Lee Grant, Frederic Forrest, Diane Keaton, Peter Falk, Grace Kelly, David Mamet, Jon Voight, Mary Steenburgen, Jon Voight, Jeff Goldblum and Robert Duvall, as well as directors Bob Fosse and Sydney Pollack.
Neighborhood Playhouse alumni include:
llleana Douglas, Eileen Brennan, Allison Janney, Elizabeth Wilson, Joanne Woodward, Lee Grant, Anne Jackson, Sheri Scott, Marian Seldes, Mary Steenburgen, and actors Dylan McDermott, Griffin Dunne, Eli Wallach, James Caan, Christopher Lloyd, Dabney Coleman, Leslie Nielsen, Mark Rydell (director), Tony Randall, Robert Duvall, Amanda Bearse, Darren McGavin, Patricia Donnegan.
Actors who studied with Bill Esper
Samantha Mathis, Aaron Eckhart, Richard Schiff, Kathy Bates [Oscar winner,] Bruce Altman, Arija Bareikis, Jennifer Beals, Brad Beyer, Leslie Bibb, Jessica Blank, Elisa Bocanegra, Tawny Cypress, Larry David, Kristin Davis, Kim Delaney, Genie Francis, Peter Gallagher, Greg Germann, Jeff Goldblum, Regina Hall, Patricia Heaton, Dule´Hill, Robert Knepper, Christine Lahti, Margarita Levieva, Joe Lisi, Wendy Malick, Mary McCormack, Clark Middleton, Gretchen Mol, David MOrse, Timothy Olyphant, Herald Perrineau, Jr., Tonya Pinkins, Teri Polo, David Rasche, Sam Rockwell, Tracee Ellis Ross, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Richard Schiff, Teddy Sears, Matthew Settle, Michelle Shay, John Wesley Shipp, Ian Somerhalder, Paul Sorvino, Tom Verica, Patricia Wettig, Scott William Winters, Katheryn Winnick, Dean Winters, Paul Lazar, Chelsea Altman, Michael Berresse, David Burtka, Donna DuPlantier, Craig Fols, Benim Foster, Frank Mastrone, Bruce McCarty, John Ortiz, Paula Pizzi, Rudy Roberson, Jodi Stevens, Danton Stone.
To see their pics and projects they’ve worked on, see the Esper website: http://esperstudio.com/?page_id=11
Actors who studied with Maggie Flanigan:
Some of her former and current students are Sam Rockwell, Chris Massino, KaDee Strickland, Piper Perabo, Stephen Adlis Guirgis,Yul Vasquez, Leslie Bibb, Vanessa Aspillaga, Peter Scanovino, Dean Winters, Kohl Sudduth, Scott Winters, Calista Flockhart, Kristin Davis, Jeremy Davidson, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Scott Hudson, John Ales, Andrea Anders, Chad Beckim, Chris Beetem, Alberto Bonilla, Chris Bowers, Joelle Carter, Mike Colter, Tim Dekay, Dino Graham, Eddie Kehler, Catherine Kellner, Liza Lapira, Tervor Long, Susan Pourfar, Molly Price, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Dina Spybey, KaDee Strickland, April Yvette Thompson, Terrel Tilford, Tara Westwood, Yul Vazquez, Assaf Cohen, Adam Mucci, Josh Biton, Herman Chaves.
Maggie Flanigan website: http://www.maggieflaniganstudio.com/alumni/
Actors who studied with Larry Moss:
(A student of Sanford Meisner, Stella Adler and Warren Robertson):
Noah Wyle, Helen Hunt, Hillary Swank, Michael Clarke Duncan, and Hank Azaria.
Actors who studied Audition Technique with Tim Phillips (one of my teachers) in NY & LA includes:
Nancy Travis, Richard Schiff, Robert Wisdom, Wendie Malick, Nora Brennan, Kate Del Castillo, Bruce Nozick, Beth Chamberlin, Craig Anton, Deb Creswell, Butch Hammett, Chris Gehrman, Carrie Gibson, Joyce Greenleaf, James DuMont, John Doman, Craig Braun, Jeanine Bartel, Aaron Mathias, Belinda Panelo, Andre Rodriguez, Miguel Sierra, Bill Coelius.
And there it is for now. A very interesting and impressive assortment of film, tv and stage actors who all have in common the intention to bring a sense of reality, truthful emotion and behavioral specificity to their roles. Look up some of the actors in these lists and watch some of their roles in films or on tv shows. I’m currently watching Piper Perabo in “Covert Affairs.” Very nice! Of course, if you can catch them on stage, that is a very immediate and direct way to see their work. Once you get in the habit of comparing the acting techniques that come out of different teachers and comparing multiple roles of actors back to back, it will be a hard habit to break! [I guess I’m just an acting technique geek…]
More on the Meisner Community in future blog posts…