Sensory Expression and The Actors Instrument – Acting Classes in NYC

May 13, 2012 · Posted in Education 

By studying the Meisner Technique, actors have a chance to explore the concept of the actors instrument. The instrument analogy can be helpful when breaking down all the various aspects that can determine how good an actor is. As an audience member, it becomes apparent very quickly who the good actors in a piece are or who might be falling short. They don’t need a great deal of theatre going experience to sense when the acting is fantastic. If this is the case, it is likely that the actors instrument is just not well developed.

The actors instrument as six general categories. The aspects of the instrument include sensory expression, emotional, empathy, intelligence and sensory and physical expression. These six aspects of the actors instrument are identified and developed when studying the Meisner Technique. Many actors have mastered many of the six aspects of their instrument and audiences can identify with and respond to those the most. Legendary actors are those that have mastered all six.

Sylvester Stallone is a physical actor who commands attention simply because of his physical presence onscreen. Stallone is certainly able to express emotionally, but overall his most powerful tool onscreen is his physical expression. For Stallone, emotion is an internal process but it is reflected in a very physical way. Actors must focus and learn about all the aspects of the acting instrument, which will help them be diverse and capable of many types of roles.

Actors often focus mainly on emotional expression, thinking it to be the most important. Obsessing about how a character feels about something and how to express it is usually the primary thing actors concentrate on. While it can be short sighted to put too much weight on any one aspect of the actors instrument, emotional expression is certainly a key acting tool to master. Each of the six aspects need to be studied and mastered so that they can all work together.

Of course, it is meaningful emotional expression that draws people into any character or story. Emotional expression is they way that the internal aspects of a character’s conflicts, needs, and feelings are expressed. Meisner acting in nyc is very popular, and these actors work hard to develop an emotional composite of a character, which they in turn, figure out how to express using the other aspects of the instrument. Students of Meisner acting must study the range of human emotions in all their complexity. They work hard to create a foundation of human emotion and way of communicating based on real people and fictional characters. Specific characters can be created by delving very deep into the imagination and using the “library” of human behavior they have created. Having created a full emotional life and a foundation of behaviors, thoughts and ways of reacting, the actor can then bring the character to life, in the moment, in a spontaneous way.

Just as an example, vulnerability can express many characteristics, from innocence to deep insecurity. It’s one thing for an actor to understand that and work with it. If the actor has also worked hard to develop other aspects of the instrument, such as imagination, sensory expression and intelligence, the complexity of emotions will be there. After all, vulnerability can be expressed through tears, or smashing something to pieces or just walking through a park. These are very nuanced yet, essential things to study.

One common myth is that acting is pretending to have certain emotions. Acting is not “emoting,” by injecting emotion into a script. As Sanford Meisner always said, Acting is DOING. Being in the moment, and opening up completely to whatever emotions the character might present to you is the secret of great acting. This may feel risky at first. Legendary actors do not force themselves to show emotion. There are genuine emotions in their performances, often unpredictable ones that appear as they work as character. This process requires that an actor develop the capacity to create and feel true sensations, and then express that through all channels of their instrument. Actors must give themselves permission to feel strong emotions, and express them (or not, if the role requires it) in physical, intelligent, empathetic ways.

The Maggie Flanigan Studio provides training for serious actors committed to improving their craft. Find out more about meisner acting in nyc by reading this article about acting instrument by visiting the studio website.


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