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Meisner for Teens: A Life of True Acting Review by Donna Campos

Larry Silverberg
Smith and Kraus Publishers
400 Bedford Street, Suite 322
Manchester, NH 03101

Meisner for Teens: A Life of True Acting is a book of 102 pages, plus a three-page introduction, a one-page "About the Author" section, and a one-page list of other books by the author at the back of the book. This glossy soft-cover includes a 13-page "My Acting Journal" toward the back of the book, with lined pages for writing to be done by the student user. Ten chapters include instruction, assignments, space for written response, and plenty of direction from the author, Larry Silverberg, who is also the creator of the Meisner Technique, the acting approach taught in the book. (The author worked with Sanford Meisner during his years with the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City.) Assignments cover a range of activities including writing, listening, and observation. Exercises often include work with a partner, so another student or the parent will need to be available for assignments. Appropriate for high-school-level drama coursework, the book relates the craft of acting to the truths of life. The book is a workbook and acting journal rolled into one.

The author's writing style immediately draws in the reader. You feel as if the instructor were sitting across from you leading you through the information. In the introduction he references a lecture he once gave where he "spent a lot of time uncovering the basis of our life--desire--and how this fundamental human component is also the fundamental component of the Meisner Approach, powerfully revealing itself in every step of the lengthy and meticulous series of exercises." With great excitement he describes what students will learn in the book, even claiming that their whole life will be transformed! By working through the reader's definition of acting, Larry Silverberg unfolds a profound explanation of acting not being about imitation or illustration of anything. Chapter two references the desire inside the student's parents, from how desire brought them together, to their first kiss, and then quickly moves to using the incredible trip a sperm takes to reach its destination to prove his point that on a cellular level we are each "desire." Using references to Lord of the Rings and Frodo, Romeo and Juliet, Mark McGwire's season home-run record, the movie The Matrix, and more, the author pulls in the reader with familiar information and expands upon his ideas in relation to acting.

Parents interested in exciting their children about acting may find this book helpful. It is filled with great ideas and will likely get the user to think from a new perspective. Chapter ten is an entire chapter of quotes, none of which are from the Bible. Quotation sources include the Dalai Lama, Richard Nixon, E.E. Cummings, John Adams, and others. In his efforts to fully explain the Meisner Approach, the author includes explanation of repetition, the human touch as it relates to being a better actor, and the sense of purpose that is the reason any job exists--to make a difference in someone else's life. He explains the distinction between believing and accepting; believing is something that happens in your head as a conscious intellectual process, while accepting happens in an individual's creative center and goes much deeper than conscious thought. The book includes adequate space to write responses and plenty of activities to help the user understand the concepts being presented. My problem with the book is the lack of reference to God. Truth, acceptance, desire, and more are discussed at length without the framework of a Biblical worldview. I strongly encourage any parent considering this book to read through it in its entirety before turning it over to their child for use. At the minimum, it should be read through together so the parent can offer greater explanation when necessary.

None of my children have had a strong interest in acting yet, but I would consider this book if they did. I would expand on the thoughts considerably and draw my children back to a Biblical worldview. Meisner for Teens: A Life of True Acting definitely takes a good look at acting and provides different ideas to help students tap into better acting skills.

Product review by Donna Campos, Senior Product Reviewer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, September 2010