The Man Behind the Method

Sanford Meisner is the founder of the Meisner technique of acting. Born on August 31, 1905, Sanford “Sandy” Meisner graduated from Erasmus Hall in 1923. He attended The Damrosch Institute of Music (now the Julliard School of Music) and studied to become a concert pianist. It wasn’t until he became part of a production by Theatre Guild of They Knew What They Wanted by Sidney Howard that Meisner realized his love for acting.

In 1931, Sanford Meisner, along with a group of other young actors including Stella Adler, Lee Strasberg, Harold Clurman, founded the Group Theatre. Meisner performed in a lot of the group’s most memorable productions, including The House of Conelly, Men in White, Awake and Sing and many others. While still part of the Group Theatre, Meisner also became the head of the acting department of New York’s Neighborhood Playhouse School of Theater. When the Group Theatre disbanded in 1941, Meisner began to focus on teaching, appearing only occasionally onstage and on screen.

It was during his time at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of Theater that Meisner began to hone his own acting method. He created a set of exercises designed to help the actor be in the moment and respond truthfully in scenes. Among Meisner’s exercises, one of the most famous is called the Repetition exercise, where actors repeat a phrase back and forth towards each other, responding truthfully to impulses.

Meisner dedicated his entire life to acting and training actors. Some notable students of Sanford Meisner include Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, and Grace Kelly, among others. He passed away on February 2, 1997, leaving behind a legacy of his teaching methods.



Cofresi, Diana. “Sanford Meisner ~ about Sanford Meisner.” PBS,  24 Feb. 2022, http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/sanford-meisner-about-sanford-meisner/660/.

“Our History.” The Sanford Meisner Center, 4 July 2020, http://www.themeisnercenter.com/history.html.