In 2000, Jim Jarrett was invited to Manila to give the Keynote Address at The International Theater Festival. The festival’s theme that year was ‘The Theater’s Greatest Influences,’ so Jarrett was asked to speak about the four years he spent with Sanford Meisner.
Appearing in front of a SRO crowd, he spoke about the lessons learned as a student of Sandy’s and about the essence of what has become known as ‘The Meisner Technique.’ Most of all, Jarrett brought Sandy’s character to life by recreating the most memorable teaching exchanges between the master teacher and his students.
When he finished, the audience was so inspired by Meisner’s passion that hundreds literally poured forward to thank Jarrett personally for introducing them to a man whom an hour before, most had never even heard of.
Overwhelmed by the response he’d received, Jarrett walked out of the hall that night with a new idea: he would introduce the world to the genius of Sanford Meisner. And as he made notes on how to accomplish this ambitious goal, Jarrett realized the true gift of having written down everything Sandy had said in those classes – not to tell stories about Sandy, but to actually bring the legendary master to life for new audiences by portraying him onstage.
Jarrett spent the next year poring over his 2,000 hours of class notes for material to include in his new and unnamed one-man play. Early on, he decided to omit the ‘nuts and bolts – actors only’ of The Meisner Technique, opting to instead select material that would benefit and inspire anyone with a dream.
As his research continued, Jarrett soon discovered some of the most remarkable moments in the class were the actual teaching-exchanges between Sandy and “the rest of us.” He finally settled on six extremely different and very powerful exchanges.
Next, Jarrett flew to Los Angeles, where he spent weeks re-staging these exchanges, using his own Meisner-trained actors. He filmed the exchanges as scenes, then layered the resulting video sequences into the play. The final effect of this long and tedious process is that, during the current performance, the ‘video-students’ dissolve up via rear-screen – and Jarrett, as Sandy, interacts with them, using the exact words spoken in the class on the day that the exchange actually took place.
The effect is that “Sandy’s” classroom literally comes to life – the same classroom where seats were filled for over a half century by the likes of Robert Duvall, Susan Sarandon, Jon Voight, and all the rest who’ve gone on to change the world of acting, theater and film. And at the center of this truly a memorable experience stands the legend that created it all – Sanford Meisner.