Statement of Teaching Philosophy
My area of specialization is Sanford Meisner’s approach to the Stanislavski system of actor training. I initially studied the work for two years under Donald Biehn, a protégé of William Alderson (former director of the Neighborhood Playhouse). Mr. Biehn taught the Meisner approach exactly as he received it in Mr. Alderson’s studio. At the time, it was the only practicable approach to the craft I’d been exposed to. We learned a step-by- step process, through sequential exercises and scene work, to work truthfully moment- to-unanticipated-moment. It spoke exactly to the kind of actor I wanted to be: stripped of artifice and grounded in authentic emotional life. As a teacher, it’s a way of working that I am dedicated to passing on to young actors in the most unadulterated form. In the classroom I consider myself the messenger, not the genius.
Passion and expertise are what I aspire to bring into the acting studio. They are standards I continually strive to deepen in my instruction, through my own creative endeavor and ongoing study of the craft. To this point in my career, my lifework as a teacher has been to develop an instructional style that is specific, concise, and fluent in all aspects of the work. These convictions compelled me over the years to routinely work with notable teachers of Mr. Meisner’s approach, in order to stay reinvigorated with the work and to enhance my lesson plans. Working on my teaching remains an ongoing process, and something that I feel is imperative to effectively imparting such a demanding craft to student actors.
I want all of my students to understand that their greatest means to artistic expression is to fully use themselves in their work; to discover a way of working that frees them up and connects them to their deepest artistic voice. The Meisner approach, much like Stanislavski’s trilogy on actor training, allows the students to explore their unique behavioral range and instincts before eventually taking on the strappings of character. As the teacher, it is my task to create a professional and supportive studio environment where students feel safe to take risks, fail, and candidly explore all aspects of their temperament in the work. My goal is to empower and inspire the students, to guide them in discovering that the quality of their acting always depends on how fully they’re committed to what they’re doing. My expectation is that they will give one-hundred percent effort every time they get up to work. It’s demanding to ask of young actors, but I believe it’s imperative to artistic growth. To develop an artist requires rigor, tempered with genuine empathy and caring from the instructor.
In summary, I am very committed to providing a supportive learning environment that is both exciting and rigorous, one that empowers the students to develop the essential skills to become working professionals. My objective as an acting teacher is for each student to become as good as they possibly can be in their art form. It is a tremendous responsibility, one that I do not take lightly.
Lawrence M McDonald