Arts & Entertainment, Writing


David Mamet

Lesson time 11:42 min

Learn from David, in the role of the theatre director, on how he views what makes a great actor and how to cast the right ones for your play.

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Topics include: Great Actors • Casting Actors


I've thought a lot about acting for 50 years. 50 years ago, I was a student at the neighborhood playhouse school up here in New York. And my teacher was a man named Sanford Meisner, among others, who was coeval with Lee Strasberg. They both came out of the Group Theater. And Lee Strasberg invented this idea called the method. And Sandy Meisner invented this thing that came to be called the Meisner Technique. And before you went to the neighborhood playhouse, they gave you a list of about 50 books that were all about technique. And they were by Stanislavski and Stanchenko, and all the Russians and Michael Redgrave's Mask And Face, and talking about singing. And they came from very, very Jewish tradition. Because the Group Theater was a very Jewish tradition. Lee Strasberg and Sandy Meisner, it was the tradition of study, that the truth can be found in intellectualizing. And so they invented these techniques. And I looked as an acting student, and I just didn't understand them. I understood the beauty of trying to find a technique for acting. But I didn't understand how that, other than as an article of faith, translated into acting that I liked. And so I started thinking about it. And so I founded a theater company. I think when I founded my first theater company, I was maybe 21 years old. And I said, wait a second, let's start at the beginning. What is an actor actually doing? And this puts me in mind of a combat handgun shooting. So a combat handgun shooting, and following it, as we all do, over the course of decades-- back in the '50s, the guys-- at that point, they were all guys-- the cops were taught, stick one hand in your pocket, and we're going to practice on a bullseye, standard 90 degrees to the target. Later on, some theorists said, no, no, that's not what you want to do. What you want to do is you want to use both hands. And you want to thrust the gun out and hold what they call an isosceles stance. One hand is going to . Pistol hand is going to thrust out. And the other hand is going to pull back. And you want to take a sight picture so that you have three things in a line-- the back sight, the front sight, and the target. The eye can't hold that much focal length. So what are you going to focus on? Focus on the front sight. You let the back sight go fuzzy, and you let the target go fuzzy. And it's a great way to shoot targets. But then somebody came along and said, wait a second. That's really great for shooting targets. But when someone's shooting back at you, there's nobody in the world who's not going to grab the gun from the holster, stick it out over there, your vision narrows to the size of a pin, and they're going to slap the trigger. So the current thinking was, let's see what people do naturally and train them to do that. Because there's no way they're ...

About the Instructor

David Mamet sat in on a poker game full of thieves and left with the inspiration for American Buffalo. Now, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer of Glengarry Glen Ross takes you through his process for turning life’s strangest moments into dramatic art. In his writing class, he’ll teach you the rules of drama, the nuances of dialogue, and the skills to develop your own voice and create your masterpiece.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

David Mamet

The Pulitzer Prize winner teaches you everything he's learned across 26 video lessons on dramatic writing.

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