Connection Lab | Larry Bird Sanford Meisner



On this episode of Connection Lab: We connect Larry Birds insight on practice with the competencies Sanford Miesner espoused during his years running the Neighborhood Playhouse acting school in NYC.

As the story goes, Larry Bird (Hall Of Fame Celtic) was found one night, long after practice, in the 14th row of Boston Garden, taking ‘free throws’. Some equipment assistant was passing him balls so he didn’t have to navigate the seats, but he was lining up and throwing these bombs across half a seating section at the net. A reporter heard the noise and came into the arena to watch.

When he was done, the reporter asked what the heck he was doing taking shots from there – he would never need to do that in a game, Larry just smiled and said, “Because it’s fun. I love to practice”.

Indeed. Fun. Practice, all by it self is a competency. What I’m practicing and why are great questions to raise to consciousness and take a look at. First, am I aware of what I’m practicing – or am I just winging it? Second, if I am practicing something exclusively to get better at it – that means the odds I’m going to bail early go up if I don’t improve fast enough. If I am choosing to practice something because I love to practice, than improvement becomes a beneficial byproduct. Yes?

So, what happens when we connect the Larry Bird factor with the Sanford Meisner factor?

Hey – it’s Connection Lab!

Below is a video of  Sam Rockwell and Allison Janney reflecting on their acting studies and working with the Meisner Technique — in particular the repetition game. Sandford Meisner is the legendary acting teacher whose methods have influenced many award winning actor’s and driven some of the most memorable performances ever seen.

Meisner’s approach to quality authentic performance was  “living truthfully under imaginary circumstances.” His foundational principles on acting demanded connecting authentically – by committing yourself to your relationship to your scene partner. Emotion, authenticity, humor – all the things we love about our favorite actors are byproducts of great relationship.

His techniques offer ways to get out of your head and into relationship with competencies like curiosity, detachment from content, invitation – in real time. If these are the competencies, what if we didn’t practice these to get better, what if we practiced because it was fun, like Bird suggests?

Meisner and Bird are both big influences in our work at Connection Lab.  We recommend reading Sandford Meisner on Acting and then watching the ’91 NBA Playoffs with the Boston Celtics and Larry Bird as he shows everyone the byproduct of a fun relationship to practice.

Summary: Examine your relationship with practice. Is what you are practicing generating energy or taking it away? Do you enjoy what you are practicing for it’s own sake? Is it possible to practice getting into relationship, extending invitation or general curiosity? Watch the full interview with Oscar Winners Sam Rockwell and Allison Janney on learning acting. Whether or not your next presentation wins you an Oscar, let’s learn communication and presentation from those who are practicing!


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