Since before I can remember, I’ve always been very good at keeping my emotions under control. If I was sad or upset, I would keep everything to myself. I would cry privately, suck it up and move on. Or if it was really bad, I’d breakdown in front of whoever was there to listen and then pretend like it never happened after it was all out. I’ve never expressed my negative emotions freely. I didn’t think I was allowed.
What I didn’t realize until now is that I unintentionally trained myself not to express negative emotion.
It’s no surprise that when I started acting, it was really difficult to access them. For scenes where I was required to cry or get upset, I couldn’t do it.
I couldn’t feel anything because that’s what I’ve done for most of my life. I avoided feeling bad.
This is what prompted me to take a Meisner class. I heard it was a great way to get in touch with your emotions. I decided to audit an intermediate Meisner class at Robyn Kay’s studio in downtown Toronto.
I sat in on the 3.5 hour class and what I saw was scary, inspiring and exciting.
I saw people cry their eyes out. I saw people get angry, swear and bang on walls. I saw people jump up and down full of joy. I saw people laugh. It was SO weird and I didn’t understand anything. They weren’t even having normal conversations but so much was happening.
The only thing I knew was that everything happening and all the emotions people were feeling was real.
Before we move on, let me explain what a basic Meisner class looks like.
In a Meisner class (Meisner is the technique, invited by Sanford Meisner), you go up in front of the class with a partner and you “pick up” on something about them (usually something physical) and you repeat each other while remaining in the present moment.
For example, if your partner was wearing a black shirt, you could say “black shirt” and they’d repeat “black shirt” and you would continue saying it back and forth. It’s called a repetition.
If you’re confused you can look it up on YouTube to get a better idea. But that’s it - you literally listen and repeat over and over and over again until SOMETHING happens.
That SOMETHING is emotion. By repeating words back and forth with your partner, emotion starts to come up. It usually ends up with two people screaming at each other, and then crying. Sometimes people kiss and hug, sometimes they run around the room and throw pillows. Sometimes nothing happens.
After auditing the class, I never thought I’d be able to do or feel any of the things that those people were doing but I decided to sign up.
Two or three classes in, I was crying. One time I wept uncontrollably. A few times I got angry and screamed at the top of my lungs. It felt SO good.
I like the class because I LEARN ABOUT MYSELF, and emotions that I haven’t felt in years ARE STARTING TO REAPPEAR. I get to experience and explore them without fear or judgement.
Anyone who has trouble accessing their emotions (actor or NOT) and wants to learn more about themselves AND discover why they are the way they are should take a Meisner class.