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The Story of Jim and Sandy

“Your profession is not what brings home your paycheck. Your profession is what you’re put here on earth to do, with such passion and such intensity it becomes spiritual in calling.” Vincent Van Gogh

At the age of twenty-five, Jim Jarrett was stumbling through his life wondering what he was supposed to do with his. “Find your passion” … “Live your dreams”… “Blah, blah blah” … lovely advice when you know what your dream is but when you have absolutely no clue, it’s a bit depressing.

This soul-searching went on for the next three years when Jarrett fiiiiinally got down on his knees and prayed. Hard … “Look, I have tried driving this bus called, ‘my life’ for twenty-five years and because you have blessed me with many gifts, I can drive it pretty far, pretty straight. But eventually, I crash it. Every time. And I’m sick of it. Really, really sick of it! I have become a mediocre person with a mediocre life and I can’t believe this is how me, or anyone, is supposed to turn out. So, I surrender. I have no idea what you want me to do but I’m ready to do it. I’m yours … amen … Please.”

Now most of us at some low-point in our lives have prayed a similar prayer. What made this “bottom” so different from all of the “previous bottoms” in Jarrett’s life was this time he stayed on his knees long enough to have his prayer answered because two weeks later he went to a movie in San Francisco that would change his life forever.

The film was The Deer Hunter (check out the letter to Jim from the writer of The Deer Hunter – very cool) and it absolutely blew Jarrett away. As the next day passed the impact kept growing so he went again, two nights later. Same result. Blowwwwn away. Except this time it wasn’t the film causing such a disturbance inside of Jarrett, it’s what the film made him realize — a movie can actually impact people’s lives if it’s good and if it’s great, a movie can actually change some lives because Jim Jarrett’s life was changed forever and he knew it. When he got back home that evening he called his girlfriend.

“How was the movie?” “I’m gonna be an actor.” “……….. Whaaaaaaat?”

“I’m going make movies and I’m going to be an actor and you want to know the really weird part — I’m sure of it.” They split up two weeks later.

Jarrett spent the next two years “setting the table” for his dream. Then, in March of 1987, at the age of 29 and no acting experience, he moved from Sausalito, California to New York City to begin his dream of someday becoming an actor.

Three weeks later, the biggest break of his career would happen when he met with an actor who told him he should be 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.” Click. Jarrett did and two weeks later came home to the following phone message: “Mr. Meisner will meet you tomorrow at 3:00 pm at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of Theater. Don’t be late.” Click.

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.” “Sandy, that’s impossible. We have a three-year waiting list.” “Put him in the class!” he screamed! In that moment began Jarrett’s relationship with Sanford Meisner and his career as an actor as well.

One month later, Jarrett was on the island of Bequia, Sandy’s summer retreat.

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Jim with classmates on boat to Bequia that would change their lives forever.

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.

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Jim receiving his personal invitation from Sanford Meisner to become a student in Sandy’s professional, private class – June, 1987

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 teachers mouth.

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Jarrett’s first headshot, 1987

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.” A long pause, then 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 a mess. Sandy asked, “Why are you so upset? We’re not finished with each other. Now it’s time 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 teacher. I 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 two more years working exclusively with Sandy, both as an actor and teacher-in-training, then two more working as a teacher with Sandy as his mentor.

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Sandy & Jim in 1991

After his six year apprenticeship with the legendary teacher, Jarrett emerged as Sandy’s last teaching protégé and became one of only a handful of people in the world personally trained by Sanford Meisner to teach The Meisner Technique. And the best part for Jarrett was Sandy was now more than his teacher — they were family.

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Sandy with Jarrett’s sister, Michelle
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Jim with Sandy’s partner, Jimmy Carville
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Now in Hollywood, Jarrett continued to teach while working his way up “The Hollywood Food Chain” — first in student films, national commercials, and eventually guest spots on network series (including “Columbo” and “China Beach”). By the end of his third year, Jarrett was co-starring in movies-of-the-week, as well as in independent and feature films.

But Sandy’s teaching ran too deep to ignore: Sandy had instilled in Jarrett the larger principles, purposes and potential impact of the art and craft of acting. So Jarrett formed his own production company in 1993, to concentrate on work he felt could more strongly “stand for something.” He left Los Angeles, relocating to the island of Hawaii where he remained for four years. During that time he raised his young daughter, taught acting, made his own films and grew as an actor himself.

Ironically, it’s while living in Hawaii that the second biggest break of Jarrett’s career would occur. One of his former students sent him a play entitled, Vincent, with the following written on the cover, “This play was written for you.” Jarrett went back to his studio and read it. An hour later, he called Mr. Nimoy and secured the rights to produce the show himself and then spent the next two-and-a-half years simply working on, what he knew was, the role of a lifetime.

In October 1996, Vincent opened in Kona, Hawaii with SRO crowds for the entire six week run. From this exposure, Jarrett was invited by Bruce Willis and Demi Moore to perform at their newly renovated theater in Sun Valley, Idaho for the Christmas holidays. People were literally sitting in the aisle as word of mouth spread throughout the resort town.

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Jarrett has been on tour ever since and now fifteen years later, Vincent has become one of the world’s most successful and respected touring productions — playing to over a quarter million people in the premier performing arts centers, museums and universities throughout the world. Untitled-24

In 2008, Vincent was the smash-hit at The International Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland. Competing for audiences from over 3000 shows per day, Jarrett played to sold-out houses throughout the festival. The prestigious FRINGE STAGE AWARDS also nominated Jarrett “Best Actor in a Solo Show” from over 30,000 performers as well as “Best Show.”

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At the Fringe Festival outside Assembly Hall.
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With his daughter Kyla at the closing night awards

Besides touring Vincent throughout the world, Jarrett also tours three shows created for children – a powerful, few-holds-barred, rabble-rousing “commencement speech” titled Graduation Day (“now what am I really supposed to do?”, Manners Matter (K-5), and “The worst thing about me is…” (Middle School). All three shows have embarked on a nation-wide educational tour and Jarrett is currently working with his agents at William Morris Endeavor to adapt his kid’s shows into a television series.

With all this, the project garnering the most attention for Jarrett is MEISNER. The birth of the play began in 2004 when he was invited to The International Theater Festival in Manila to perform Vincent as well as give the Keynote Address. The Festival’s theme that year was ‘Theater’s Greatest Influences,’ so Jarrett was asked to speak about the four years he spent studying with Sanford Meisner.

Appearing before an SRO crowd Jarrett did his best to bring Sandy’s passion and integrity to life by impersonating the master teacher and recreating for attendees the most memorable moments during his time spent with the master teacher. When he finished, the audience was so inspired by “Sandy” that hundreds of people literally poured forward to thank Jarrett personally for introducing them to a man whom thirty minutes before, most had never even heard of.

Overwhelmed by the response, Jarrett left the hall with a new idea – he would introduce the world to the genius of Sanford Meisner.

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Jim as Sandy in MEISNER

And, as he made notes on how he would accomplish this ambitious goal, Jarrett finally realized the true gift of having written down everything said during his four years with Sandy – not just to teach from these notes or tell stories about him, but to literally bring the master teacher to life by portraying him onstage for new audiences.

meisner_poster1The world premiere of MEISNER debuted at San Francisco’s historic Magic Theatre in August 2006 and was a critical and commercial success. Next MEISNER moved to Los Angeles and was the smash-hit of the summer season, playing to SRO crowds for the entire six week run. MEISNER has returned to Los Angeles every year since and has sold-out for 30 consecutive performances.

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“I wouldn’t thought it was possible but I was literally taken back to Sandy’s classroom through your incredible play and talent. I wept throughout with gratitude and appreciation for what you’ve created.”Mark RydellAcademy Award winning Director of On Golden Pond, The Rose, Cinderella Liberty

In 2013 Jarrett adapted MEISNER into a full-length feature film. Shooting began in Brooklyn in 2014. The world premiere is slated to Los Angeles, 2016.

Also in 2006 Jarrett made good on a promise made to Sanford Meisner many years before — he opened The Meisner Technique Studio in San Francisco to establish an acting school dedicated solely to the teachings of Sanford Meisner. Jarrett also has teaching centers on The Big Island of Hawaii and Sun Valley, Idaho. Both of these locations are where he teaches his Actors Intensive-Retreats & The Business Of Your Dream.

In June of 2012 Jarrett launched MEISNER TRAINED — a weekly teaching series released via the Internet documenting his students as they go through their training. To date over a quarter million people have viewed these teachings and that number is growing every week.

Jim Jarrett is represented exclusively by Clint Mitchell Senior Vice-President William Morris Endeavor 9601 Wilshire Blvd. Beverly Hills, CA 90210 (310) 285.9000

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