Jim and Sandy
The biggest break of Jim Jarrett’s career happened just three weeks into it. In 1987, he moved from northern California to New York City with the dream of becoming an actor. He had no training, no experience and no connections.
He soon met an actor who told him he should studying with Sanford Meisner. Jarrett had heard the name but knew little else so he went to the library to do some research. The first article he came upon was from the front page of the New York Times one week before -
“Sanford Meisner, who for over a half century has taught acting at the celebrated Neighborhood Playhouse School of Theater here in New York City, was honored at the White House over the weekend for his contributions to the world of acting, theater and the arts … this partial list of his students serves as testimony to his influence and teaching brilliance: Gregory Peck, Geraldine Page, Grace Kelly, Joanne Woodward, Robert Duvall, Steve McQueen, Diane Keaton, James Woods, John Cassavettes, Eli Wallach, Anne Jackson, Peter Falk, Jeff Goldblum, Mary Steenburgen, Susan Sarandon, Sydney Pollack, David Mamet, Mark Rydell – the list literally goes on and on.”
To say the least, Jarrett ran home, called information, and then dialed the number.
“Hi, I’d like to study with Sanford Meisner.”
“Send a picture, resume and letter explaining why you want to study with him.”
“I started three weeks ago. I don’t have a resume. I don’t even have a picture.”
“Well then, write the letter.”
Jarrett wrote the letter as instructed, and came home to the following phone message two weeks later: “Mr. Meisner will meet you tomorrow at 3:00 pm at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of Theater. Don’t be late.”
Jarrett arrived two hours early. At 3:00 pm sharp, he was escorted into Sanford Meisner’s office for the shortest interview ever. As soon as he sat down, Sandy asked, “Why do you want to be an actor?” As he attempted to speak, a flood of emotion overtook him. Sandy turned to his assistant and softly said: “Put him in the class.” His assistant argued, “Sandy, that’s impossible. We have a three-year waiting list.” “Put him in the class!” Sandy screamed.
In that moment, both Jarrett’s relationship with Sanford Meisner and his career as an actor began.
One month later, Jarrett was on the island of Bequia, Sandy’s summer retreat. It was on this small island in the Caribbean where Sandy brought twenty actors per month, over a three-month period, to study with him. From this group of sixty actors, twenty were selected to continue on in Sandy’s two-year professional class. Jim Jarrett was one of those twenty students.
On November 15, 1987, the first class after Bequia began, and with it, the most remarkable two years of Jim Jarrett’s life. He knew immediately something extraordinary was happening because for the first time in his educational life, he was actually taking notes – writing down, without exaggeration, every word out of the legendary teacher’s mouth.
One day Sandy approached him and asked, “You’re lucky to get me at the end of my life, do you know why? Because after a half-century of teaching acting, I finally figured most of this stuff out and I speak so poorly you can write it all down. Why are you writing it all down? Do you know?”
Jarrett wanted to say, “Yeah, because everything you’re saying is blowing me away.” Instead, he simply replied, “No, sir.”
After a long pause Sandy smiled, turned and walked away.
On the last day of class Sandy called each student over to say his good-byes. By the time he was waved over, Jarrett was mess. Sandy asked, “Why are you so upset? We’re not finished with each other. Now it’s time for you to work with me so when you’re ready to teach, you’ll know what the hell you’re doing.”
Stunned, Jarrett said, “ Sandy, I don’t want to be a teach. I just want to be an actor.”
Sandy smiled and said, “You’ll have to teach. You’ll have no choice. Do you know why?”
Jarrett answered, “No, sir.”
Again Sandy smiled and said, “You’ll see.”
Jarrett never hesitated and in so doing, he joined a very select group – he became one of only a handful of people in the world personally trained by Sanford Meisner to teach The Meisner Technique.
Now, twenty-five years later, Jarrett has become a master teacher in his own rite, as he travels and teaches throughout the world on behalf of Sanford Meisner and The Meisner Technique.