To prove that I’m not all empty promises and to shed some more much needed light on the subject of a previous post, I’m going to try my best at capturing the past couple of weeks of Movement For The Actor in a way even Nick Diulio will appreciate.
I’ve listed most of the basics of Viewpoints already, that the concept was created by Anne Bogart (she wrote a book, guys, look into it!) and designed to provide actors with a method of thinking upon acting and gesture, while Mary Overlie reconstructed the idea to better suit her dancers. But perhaps the best perspective I can offer you is my own.
In the four weeks since my last written recollection of the course (not counting the journals I keep for the class itself), I’ve learned at least four new topics worth sharing, I hope it won’t sound equally as confusing.
First: Finding imbalance. Everything, in short, comes down to creating an interesting stage picture. If the curtain were to open on two people standing a comfortable distance apart from each other, the theory is that the audience would automatically relax in their seats; familiarity is only a half step away from boring. The idea of finding imbalance is to match a leveled scale (stay with me): rather than one side being decidedly heavier than the other, a leveled scale is still constantly teetering up and down, at a constant state of tension. Actors are expected to test the distances between themselves and other actors to find the places of the most tension, or, in other words, going where it feels wrong. Now, if the curtain were to open on two people standing nose-to-nose, or at an awkward distance facing away from each other, it would definitely paint a more interesting stage picture.
Second: Levels and Kinesthetic Response. Architecture and shape are two things to take into consideration when learning and understanding Viewpoints, and week five involved putting speeds 1-10 and our experiences with finding imbalance to work with more than just one person. In groups of seven, we stood in a circle around each other and played around with four levels: Standing upright, squatting down, kneeling on all fours, and lying flat on our backs. The idea was to transition between the levels with as little effort as possible, eliminating our core muscles and relying mostly on gravity. With the professor’s directions and the other half of the class chiming in with “Yes”s if something interested them, each student, acting on impulse, would transition from one level to the next. Before anyone knew it, we were picking up each other’s most minuscule ejections of energy, matching each other’s movements without trying, or moving and stopping in synch without ever meaning to. For fun, the exercise would stop, each of us in awkward mid-level positions, and the professor would say, “Look at that. Interesting stage picture, is it not?”
Third: Floor Patterns. If you were to step in paint, and a bird were watching, what tracks would you leave? When interacting with others on the street, in the supermarket, on stage, what is your walking pattern? Again, in groups of seven or eight, we stood in a chorus line of sorts while each of us created our own floor patterns. I will say that there’s only so many basic patterns one can think up before your’s is just made up of another’s, but, for example, walking in a straight line is a floor pattern, as is walking in circles, squares, zig-zags, etc. After we established our own patterns, each was matched with a number, and as Prof. Lane called out numbers, the students did their best to match it with the appropriate walk without thinking. Not completely successful, as we’d all find ourselves freezing for a couple of seconds after “3!” or “7!” to remember what the pattern was, but eventually they all blended into each other, as expected.
Fourth: Incorporation of the three into practice. From here, we’d go back into inner focus, sight to the far horizon, eyes in the backs of our heads. Continuing with floor patterns on our own, we were encouraged to start working off each other’s impulses, to feel the group on our skin rather than look for each other, and, when possible, to find imbalance. Eventually we threw the four positions into the mix, as well as moving in speeds 1-10. If this sounds weird, it probably is, but if it’s done right – if you’re not in your head and concerned with how you look with what you’re doing – it creates a fascinating dance of fluid movement.
Oh yeah, we also do yoga.