As promised, I’m really excited to be writing about what I consider to be one of Rowan Theatre’s golden opportunities: Viewpoints. Labelled on the Add/Drop list as “Movement For The Actor,” (It’s open to non-theatre majors, please read on and consider!) Viewpoints is a little known performance technique designed to provide actors with a method of thinking upon acting and gesture. Undoubtedly, this post will find some disagreers or nitpickers who may want to correct some of my descriptions. Disclaimer: I’m writing from my experiences with Prof. Lane Savadove, the East coast’s primary Viewpoints coach. I understand it’s taught a little differently on the West coast, and probably throughout schools and workshops in general.
Before I make this sound like some undercover conspiracy project of rogue actors, I’ll explain that it’s a contemporary, and relatively fledgling coaching method originally developed in the 1970s by choreographer Mary Overlie as a method of movement improvisation. The theory was soon thereafter adapted for stage acting by director Anne Bogart. Bogart and Overlie were both faculty members of ETW at NYU in the ’70s and ’80s, at which time Bogart was deeply influenced by Overlie’s work. While Overlie’s Six Viewpoints (space, story, time, emotion, movement, and shape) are considered to be a logical way to examine, analyze, and create dances, Bogart’s Viewpoints are considered more practical in staging actors.
But that’s enough facts for now, because, let’s be real, even I don’t want to read all of that. Anyway, your favorite professors were never the ones who shoved facts down your throat, but the ones who found ways to relate the subject matter in a way that was relevant and exciting. And I’m so serious when I say that there is nothing more exciting in my life than this class (that might be proof how boring I’ve gotten this year.) Too keep it short and painless, I was ready to throw up when I walked into dance studio my first day. Theatre major or no, I suddenly redeveloped stage fright; this isn’t a class filled with smiling parents, it’s a large group of very talented fellow students. For the most part, however, I have a very supportive class, and these were the same people I survived two semesters of Dance Improvisation with last year. (Rolling around the floor and getting in touch with your body while Prof. Leslie Elkins makes sexual breathing noises, anyone?)
Savadove quickly prepped us on the basis of Viewpoints. Over time, we’ll learn to dissolve our ego (Actors without egos? Good one), live, move and be on impulse, as well learn the place of our body in relation to time in space. Me being me, my mind is blown, but I’m still all, “Wait, what” just as he introduces “Pass The Clap.” A simple game, often performed as a backstage energizer, but this time, intensified with the idea of not looking to one’s left or right, but staring past the room to the far horizon, eyes in the backs of our heads, while we passed energy manifested in a clap around a circle of classmates. I don’t know where I zoned in, but amidst a frenzy of claps, pauses and yells of “Pass this clap with your entire soul! Every reason you have for living is in this clap! You are just a temporary manifestation of a greater energy flying across the room!” I went so crazy, I burst a blood vessel in my hand. THAT’s focus. That’s Viewpoints! Not really, there’s more, but I’ll post those details in the next blog after I’m sore from all the running we’ll be doing tomorrow.