The 411: Viewpoints

Last week, we gave run-down on Suzuki, a method of actor’s training from Japan. This week, in-lieu of the upcoming Devised Theatre: Suzuki & Viewpoints Masterclass, we will be giving out a bit of background on Viewpoints.

Viewpoints is a technique used for performance training and creating work and movement in theatre. Viewpoints is a means of communication and exploration during the rehearsal process where actors construct (or even deconstruct) characters, relationships, themes and ways of staging.


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First conceived by choreographer, Mary Overlie, who originally came up with The Six Viewpoints – an approach to composing theatre and dance using Space, Shape, Time, Emotion, Movement and Story. Overlie was interested in the alternative perspective of creating theatre and dance. Tather than relying solely on stories for theatre and movement in dance, Viewpoints invites the performer, director and actor to engage with these six elements. By exploring and interacting totally with these elements, participants must forego the need to control and instead, create by discerning and realising.

Theatre practitioners, Anne Bogart and Tina Landau, expanded on Overlie’s philosophy. Instead of 6 viewpoints, there are now 9 Physical Viewpoints and 3 Vocal Viewpoints, all of which are  structured around Time and Space.

9 Physical Viewpoints

  1. Tempo: The rate of speed at which a movement occurs; how fast or slow something happens onstage.
  2. Duration: How long a movement of sequence of movements continues.
  3. Kinesthetic Response: A spontaneous reaction to motion which occurs outside you.
  4. Repetition: The repeating of something onstage, whether it be the body or outside the body.
  5. Shape: The contour or outline the body (or bodies) makes in space.
  6. Gesture: A movement involving a part or parts of the body e.g. the hands, the legs, the head, the mouth, the eyes or any other part or combination of parts that can be isolated.
  7. Architecture: The physical environment in which you are working and how awareness of it affects movement. Architecture also encompasses light, texture, color and sound of the space and how the actors interact with the surrounding space.
  8. Spatial Relationship:  The distance between things onstage.
  9. Topography: The design made with movement through space e.g. floor pattern.

3 Vocal Viewpoints

  1. Pitch
  2. Volume
  3. Timbre

In practice of Viewpoints, actors must first focus on exploring each element on its own through physical exercises. An example of such exercises involve walking on rigid lines, lifting arms in unison, changing directions to the sound of a hand clap.

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Once the actors become familiar with each Viewpoint element, they begin to make connections between the different elements. In this process of exploration, actors will also find that each element influences another in one way or another. They may find that repetition may invoke certain emotions, which can affect the tempo of the movement, for example. As actors work with an ensemble, Viewpoints become even more dynamic, as the actors attune themselves to each other’s movement and element changes. One actor in the ensemble may suddenly change speed of walking during a movement exercise, and the rest of the group will follow.

These spontaneous moments in Viewpoints allow actors to become open and begin playing with the external stimulus. They become less reliant on their thoughts and engage more fully with time and space. Many actors often find themselves trapped in their mind when they perform. With Viewpoints, the senses that used to be neglected are tapped into and fully utilised. Actors become fully present and ready to react in time and space. Viewpoints is also a great tool for collaboration and building and ensemble as it opens the door for experimentation, play and fun.