Sanford Meisner was born in Brooklyn, New York, the eldest of four children of immigrant Jewish parents from Hungary. He graduated from Erasmus Hall High School and studied at the Damrosch Conservatory of Music (now the Juilliard School), originally intending to become a concert pianist. However, at age 19, he decided to become a professional actor, having performed at the Chrystie Street Settlement House on the Lower East Side under the direction of Lee Strasberg. He won a scholarship to study at the Theatre Guild of Acting, where he again encountered Strasberg. In 1931, Meisner helped found The Group Theatre along with Strasberg, Stella Adler, and Harold Clurman, among others. He became head of the acting program at The Neighborhood Playhouse, where he developed his own form of method acting derived from the system developed by Konstantin Stanislavski, his training with Strasberg, and Adler's ideas on uses of the imagination; he became one of America's most influential acting teachers. He continued to act and direct plays produced by The Group Theatre until it disbanded in 1941, and then acted in and directed more plays on Broadway. From 1959 to 1964, he directed a new-talent division at 20th Century-Fox Studios in Hollywood and headed the drama department at the American Musical Theater Academy in New York. Beginning in 1983, Meisner began splitting his time between the Neighborhood Playhouse and the Meisner/Carville School of Acting, founded with his partner James Carville. In 1995 The Meisner/Carville School of Acting was succeeded by the Sanford Meisner Center for the Arts, a theater company and school in North Hollywood.