What do you get when you mix the Meisner technique with God?
by Sidney Sherman
Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are always a time for reflection and renewal for Jews. A few years ago, I was enjoying services with my wife and she turned to me and said, “It’s the same prayers every year … the same thing. I’m bored.” I turned to her and said, “Exactly! Therein lies in the meaning.” She then proceeded to give me a pat smile, and we returned our focus to the service.
As I settled back in with my thoughts, it occurred to me that my old acting training had a profound influence on my connection to God and my own sense of spirituality. When I was an undergrad at UCLA, I studied acting with a disciple of the legendary acting teacher/guru/master Sanford Meisner, who, as head of the acting program at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York, trained and molded such diverse star talents as Steve McQueen, Robert Duvall, Gregory Peck, Bob Fosse, Diane Keaton, and Sydney Pollack, to name a few.
One of the best-known exercises of the Meisner technique is called the “repetition exercise” (or “repeating game”), where one person spontaneously makes a comment based on his or her partner, and the comment is then repeated back and forth between the two actors in the same manner, until it changes on its own. The objective is always to react truthfully, allowing the repetition to change naturally rather than by manipulation. More to the point, the words did not matter.
What mattered was what you felt while you were saying the words. What mattered was being truthful.
As I continued to enjoy the service, it was like I was back in acting class in a way. The words did not matter. What mattered in the moment was how I felt about God and my connection to my spiritual life.
I suppose this might sound a bit esoteric, but I felt God everywhere, and I was filled with peace and tranquility. I was exactly where I was supposed to be, and it felt right and true, just like being in the moment doing the repeating game. The words fell away and what remained was the subtext — your inner life and what you were feeling.
We all have a different relationship with God and it is constantly changing depending on what we are feeling at that moment. And that is the point. Each of us has a unique and different path to God, but in the end, we all seek the inner peace that makes us feel complete and connected to something that is larger than us. The next time you are bored during services, pay attention, you just might be connected to God in a deeper and more powerful way than you ever imagined.Tags: Actor, Entertainment industry, High holiday services, Hollywood, Meisner technique, Sidney Sherman, Spirituality