Dr Karina Lemmer, a lecturer at the Department of Performing Arts, Faculty of Arts and Design.
The Meisner technique is an approach to acting that theatre actor and acting teacher Sanford Meisner developed. The Meisner approach to acting emphasises three elements: emotional preparation, repetition exercises, and improvisation.
Asked how this recognition came about, Dr Lemmer says: "Working with the film industry and with my students on film acting, I found that the Meisner approach, which is internationally recognised, is highly effective in film acting but not widely used in South Africa. I realised that we needed to include more techniques aimed at enabling a truthful response. I then enrolled for training with Scott Trost, Director of the Meisner Institute in LA, completed the actor training, and eventually did teacher training and received certification in 2021. During 2021, my Advanced Diploma students and I also submitted our work for the Meisner International Scene Competition, which received a positive response. This has led to several engagements with Meisner teachers and acting schools in other countries and continued participation in coaching sessions and workshops. I guess on the back of this, the Institute came up with a list of awarded teachers internationally," she adds.
Dr Lemmer continues to say that it is important to have these teaching skills since, in a South African context, the focus often tends to be on techniques that enable expressive stage performance. "This training has enabled me to assist my students and professional actors with tangible skills to allow truthful acting on screen. It has also culminated in a current research project, where I am working with teachers in other parts of the world and considering the links between culture, language, and acting. This is an area in acting in which limited research has been conducted, and it is close to my heart as my PhD looked at multilingual acting. As the SA film industry is growing and connecting the world thanks to streaming, it is crucial that we develop film actors," she says.
"I’m passionate about working with actors. It can be a heart-breaking journey but so rewarding, and it’s nice to receive some recognition that will hopefully open future opportunities for our graduates," she concludes.
The Department of Performing Arts has trained some of the country’s foremost actors, and its impressive list of alumni reads like the who’s who of the SA entertainment industry. Some of its former students include Moopi Mothibeli, Aubrey Poo, Wizeman Zitha, and Sithandile Nkosi, to mention a few.