Using Meisner Repetitions in Scene Study
If you've heard anything about the Meisner Technique, you've probably heard about the dreaded repetitions. Not only do they sound bizarre, but you aren't convinced they're worth the discomfort. After all, how can this possibly help you with real scripts for real jobs?
Primarily, Meisner exercises are designed to strengthen your understanding of your natural emotions and instincts, and make them more effortlessly accessible to the actor. As countless of Meisner teachers have exhibited, repetition exercises will eventually help an actor deepen their emotional experience of any set of imagined circumstances, without gimmicks or performative behaviors.
More than that, Meisner repetitions can help you get to the bottom of sticky moments in your scene.
For instance, let's say there's a line in your two-person scene that you tend to rush because you're not really sure why you're saying that and what truth is behind the words. Maybe it's a section that never feels right, or one where you disconnect from your scene-partner every night. Sometime when you are alone with your scene partner, identify those spots. And then "Meisner" them.
Begin with a specific line from the script or a specific moment, and begin repetitions using that line from the script as your characters. Sit or stand facing your scene partner just as in the earliest levels of Meisner repetition exercises. Maintain eye contact the entire exercise. Stay with that first line as long as you need it, and as you begin observing emotional changes you may continue from there, with both actors in character, with a Meisner repetition exercise for a set amount of time.
While you don't have this much time in the context of your scene to come to how you feel about the words you're saying, taking the time in an exercise allows you to discover all the intentions and emotional layers behind your words. When you return to rehearsing the scene, it should be easier for you to travel through those layers of emotional instantaneously in the scene, and make full use of every line of dialogue the authors intended to be heard.