A year and a half ago I was asked to direct the inaugural Christmas showcase for students of the Institute of the Arts Barcelona.
The 13 students I worked with had never heard of the Meisner Technique and it was my job to change that. I had exactly three weeks to come up with a showcase that reflected my intentions and that was worthy of putting my name on. Half of the students where English with some theater experience, and the other half were Spanish with little to no experience.
The first thing I did when I met the students was minimize the importance of the up coming showcase (remember, this was the very first showcase of a prestigious new international performing arts school). I felt it was important to transmit the fundamental ideas about performing while providing a creative environment free of pressure. I explained that actors don’t care about the end result. Needless to say, upon hearing this, they were confused and surprised.
I needed at least a week to work with them on the basic Meisner technique exercises, which included the repetition word game and the independent activity. My goal was to turn them into performers who listened to their fellow actors; actors who are aware they are not alone on stage.
The next step was to integrate all the things they had worked on for the last three months: masks, Shakespeare monologues, and dance.
I asked them to translate the Shakespeare monologues using modern vocabulary with their own words in their native tongue. Then I asked them to find a circumstance in their personal lives in which they could honestly integrate the monologue so they could own the material.
The outcome of our work is described very accurately in Lisa Goldapple’s review of the show: http://www.iabarcelona.com/welcome-to-the-hotel-shakespeare