Meisner Acting Class Blog on our weekend seminar with Andrea Helene in Berlin

July 8th, 2009 at 06:33pm brian

Hi everyone!

I’m Boris Wilke and member of the Prague Playhouse Meisner acting group. I blog about our class activities.

The weekend before last (i.e. June 26 through 28), we traveled to Germany’s capital Berlin to have a two-day acting seminar with Brian Caspe’s former teacher Andrea Helene. It was exhilarating to do “the work” with someone even more experienced than our teacher.

Click on the “CLASSES/COACHING” button above and then choose “MEISNER ACTING CLASS” to read more about the class itself and where we meet!

Click the “(more…)”-button below to read about the acting seminar with Andrea Helene!

When we went to Berlin, we met Brian’s teacher Andrea, who’s a lively, wiry, tall redhead with a German mother. I related very well and easily to her. I could speak German with her after all!

While Brian stepped down from his teacher’s pedestal to become one of us lowly students, we could see the same passion for the technique burning in Andrea, who visibly enjoyed working with us. She used very similar ways to get Meisner across to us, too. But a two-day intensive workshop is more demanding and at the same time more rewarding than the usual fix of four hours a week, that we have to make do with in Prague.

We did scene work. And everybody seemed to enjoy it greatly except for me: I hated it, as usual. I loath it, when words get in my way and put me in my head. Andrea tried to help me wriggle out of it by giving me funny things to do – such as: be a latin lover or a boss doing a job interview. But to me those directions felt like extra Meisner balls, that I was supposed to juggle. So I fumbled and felt miserable, again.

Besides, the script hit home psychologically. I felt very embarrassed by it. I’m sure, if I worked through the fear and self-hatred, that the script generated in me, I’d get much more out of it, than just mastering the scene.

It’s good that our host Mike Bernardin, who’s running the Meisner school in Berlin and who let us use his rooms, showed up at a certain point and couldn’t keep himself from saying something very meaningful.

Mike said, that “the technique” is to us actors, what sit-ups and other strengthening exercises are to a tennis player. He won’t do them during a tournament. But he has to do a lot of them before stepping onto the court and facing the game.

Thus doing “Meisner”, will get your “acting muscle” strong, as Andrea and Brian called it. But it is just one element in a whole array of elements, that one needs to deal with, in order to become a successful actor. And that alone can feel like a heavy load.

If you think, that you’ve got the hang of it, you are definitely doing something wrong“, is a thought, that came to my mind and out of my mouth today, facing a fellow member from class after an especially dull and dead-feeling round of rehearsal.

That relieved both of us somewhat.

For the Meisner technique is a twenty-year-project, thus supposed to keep you busy for that amount of time. If you think, you know, what it’s about after a fraction of those two decades, you fail to acknowledge the complexity of the process.

In our last class at the end of the spring quarter last Monday, Brian told me to “be stupid”. It’s a funny concept to just let go of trying to make sense of it all by grasping it intellectually. To forego the arrogance of believing, one knows it all, is very hard to do for an “intello” as the French call my cerebral breed. To me my brain is a means of self-protection. I trust my brain. To let go of that means to learn to trust one’s emotions, to let your gut dictate your actions, to become helplessly entangled in it – like a baby: Just taking it as if it were all new and reacting to it moment to moment.

Oh, how I wish, it were as easy as it sounds!

Then again, there is this saying, which I read in Barbara Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way”. I’ll paraphrase like this: Dear universal energy, that makes us all hobble through life, one way or the other! Please take care of the quality of what I am doing, while I provide for the quantity!

I use these high-flying words, while Andrea – and Brian just left me with this: Take the next step!

That’s the quantity of one. And one step at a time is enough. Let’s see, what quality this step-taking eventually entails.

And yes, it is up to other forces than little me to determine that. One thing less to worry about! Yippee!

Have a great summer! May you be truthful and in the moment, always!


General stuff:

Our acting class consists of some ten active members, who meet every Monday and Wednesday from 6.30 pm to about 8.30. We do Meisner. And the Meisner-technique really rocks!

If you want to connect with your inmost feelings, expressing them freely in an acting environment and thus getting to know yourself better and better, feel free to join us! But beware! This quarter is over! We’ll resume in a slightly new format and in new and fancy rooms on September 14th, 2009. Brian will let you know about all these exciting changes in due time on this site.


About the author:

I am Boris Wilke, a German expat in Prague. I am a writer at large and have been studying Meisner since January 2008. If any of you know of any kind of acting work, that befits a laddish, tall 40-year-old, please leave a note!


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