Sanford Meisner, 91, Acting Teacher
With the death of Sanford Meisner on Feb. 2 in his Sherman Oaks home at the age of 91, an era comes to an end.
Meisner was the last living member of the Group Theatre's unofficial triumvirate of Stanislavski-inspired acting teachers (the other two were Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler). Known for a rigorous technique of Method acting, Meisner taught in a two-year program that stressed neither imagination nor sense memory but, instead, the living connection between actors.
Meisner was an original member of the influential Group Theatre, established in 1931. He appeared in 12 of the theatre's productions, including all of its premieres of Clifford Odets' work (such as "Waiting for Lefty"). Apart from sporadic work acting and directing on Broadway, Meisner devoted himself to teaching from 1935 to 1990 (with a break between 1958 and 1964) as director of the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York. An uncontentious rival of sorts to the more ballyhooed Actors' Studio, where Strasberg reigned, the playhouse nurtured such talents as Robert Duvall, Grace Kelly, Gregory Peck, Bob Fosse, Sydney Pollack, and David Mamet. Meisner was briefly lured to Hollywood, serving for just two years (1959-61) as director of 20th Century Fox's New Talent Division.
In the 1970s, a battle with throat cancer required Meisner to begin using a voice amplifier to speak to his classes. Eventually, he could not speak at all, and curtailed his own teaching, instead lending his name and his presence to the Meisner/Carville School of Acting, founded with his longtime companion, James Carville, at his home on the Carribean island of Bequia. In 1995, Carville and Meisner joined with teacher Martin Barter to open the Sanford Meisner Center for the Arts in North Hollywood, offering instruction led by Barter and staging plays in a 99-seat theatre.
Meisner is survived by companion Carville and an adopted son, Julian Martin. Most importantly, he is survived by the legions of actors who learned their craft at his feet. While many of his playhouse associates and students carry on teaching his technique in his name, the loss of the man himself is a great one.
A public memorial open house will be held Thurs., Feb. 6, 10 am-8 pm, at the Sanford Meisner Center for the Arts, 5124 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hollywood CA 91601. A private memorial service will be held at 6 pm on Sat., Feb. 8, and the funeral will be held in Bequia.
Carville asks that, in lieu of flowers, donations be sent to the Meisner Center. For more information, call (818)