Viewpoints/ Suzuki & wise words I heard from SITI theatre company

‘An actor is someone with a message (Suzuki)

It is through the dialogue between Suzuki and Viewpoints, these two, very distinct, yet complimentary approaches to the art of acting that the philosophy and technique of SITI Company is continually explored, revitalized, and articulated. SITI company believe actors need to have a life long commitment to training as a lifestyle not an education.

The Viewpoints is a technique of improvisation that grew out of the post-modern dance world. It was first articulated by choreographer Mary Overlie who broke down the two dominant issues performers deal with – time and space – into six categories. She called her approach the Six Viewpoints. Since that time, Artistic Director Anne Bogart and SITI Company have expanded her notions and adapted them for actors. The Viewpoints allows a group of actors to function together spontaneously and intuitively and to generate bold, theatrical work quickly. It develops flexibility, articulation, and strength in movement and makes ensemble playing really possible.

Six Viewpoints:
Space
Shape
Time
Emotion
Story
Movement

Nine Viewpoints:
Tempo
Duration
Kinesthetic Response
Repetition
Shape
Gesture
Architecture
Spatial Relationship
Topography

In addition, Bogart added the Vocal Viewpoints which are Pitch, Dynamic, Acceleration/Deceleration, Silence, and Timbre. The Viewpoints represent not only a physical technique but also a philosophical, spiritual, and aesthetic approach. When you work in viewpoints its like you choose to switch the artist brain on.

SUZUKI METHOD Developed by internationally acclaimed director, Tadashi Suzuki and the Suzuki Company of Toga, the Suzuki Actor Training Method’s principal concern is with restoring the wholeness of the human body to the theatrical context and uncovering the actor’s innate expressive abilities. A rigorous physical discipline drawn from such diverse influences as ballet, traditional Japanese and Greek theater and martial arts, the training seeks to heighten the actor’s emotional and physical power and commitment to each moment on the stage. Attention is on the lower body and a vocabulary of footwork, sharpening the actor’s breath control and concentration. It works on many levels. Emotional, physical, psychological, mental, spirit, mind, heart, body. It all comes together in the training.

Three things to make good theatre:

  1. Technique
  2. Something to say
  3. Passion

Theatre in descending order of importance:

STORY
CHARACTER
RELATIONSHIP
EMOTION
SET
COSTUME

Through postmodernism/ deconstruction all of this vertical hierarchy was thrown around and subsequently theatre went all over the place, putting it more on a horizontal level. You can pick them all up individually and study/ grasp each one and then form your own hierarchy of importance and change them around. This is what happens when improvising in Viewpoints. The horizontal place means one thing is not more important than another. They can all co-exist. Everything is just another thing existing in time and space which is very liberating. It is infinite. We can put on our postmodern glasses and go deep about everything. We can be overwhelmed by the detail. We can work on the engine within. Through this we find vulnerability, adventure and bravery. We find out whether we can just stand in space. Being able to just stand in space is the point we are trying to get to. This is beautiful. This is enough. This is all we have when everything is taken away, ie: the lights, the set etc. And you are never alone on stage. You have time and space. Even when you are alone on stage your brain is still speaking to your heart.

Everything is connected. The world is infinite. Once you realize this there is no self, no ego, no judgement.
Be interested. Don’t try and be interesting.
An actor is much like a cultural and spirtual shamen; doing things so the audience don’t have to.
An actors job is to direct the role.
Understand God’s choreography as part of the work.
Take 10mins a day and look at everything you see in those 10mins as art.
‘We shape our buildings and then they shape us.’ Winston Churchill. Look at the architecture around you. Let it intrigue you. Really see it. The dimensions, all the little details.

Think about the KNOWNS and INTUITS of a character.
Knowns – information about a character you can find proof for in the text. Things the character says or does OR is said about him/her.
Intuits – to know or grasp by intuition or feeling, to perceive or sense.

Grotowski said there are four kinds of energy.

  1. Vertical – upwards. You and God.
  2. Horizontal – connection to what is around you. ie: trees.
  3. Light
  4. Heavy

Eugene Barber talks about the space before an impulse, like the unconscious conscious. Like the moment before going on stage.
We need to celebrate the wrong in the best possible way. For example playing with voice quality rather than making something pitch perfect. The Rolling Stones – when they sing its very nearly wrong; but its brilliant because they know when to stop experimenting before it is really wrong.
Concentration of performance needs to meet the space you are performing in. The body’s imagination needs to be present in the space. This is more important than content – showing the body’s imagination.
Empty out – don’t act – just bring it.
Each step on the stage should reveal something new about the character.
Peter Sellers once said ‘What gives you the moral authority to be on stage?’ There is no degree of bad or good acting; its different degrees of performative authority.
Need to give yourself permission to be completely obsessive about the role – every detail.
Need to find freedom and experimentation in creating character. Send ‘pings’ out into the universe and see how they come back. Actors think faster in the crisis of the moment.
Suzuki said, ‘An actor is someone with a message’. This creates the actors energetic situation.
You have an antennae in your ear and you transport what you hear.
Speaking needs to top the physical gestures.
Go for the rainbow of different relationships around you. See what comes at you and give more back. Tempt connections and build from there.
Don’t underestimate the energy you need to play a ‘normal’ person.
Play with your inner focus, outer focus and far focus.
You need the visual intensity but also the inner intensity.
Whats the authors message? What are you saying to the world?  Important how the world of the play begins to take the audience on an adventure.
Beckett said ‘It is my intention to create as deep and wide a gulf as possible between the stage and the audience and then jump over it’.
Sometimes its important to ask a question; propose a question to the audience, rather than an answer. Leave a gap for the imagination between the audience and the artist.
Getrude Stein – the mother of repetition. She proved it is possible to make a story with five words.
Don’t let a space get boring. Audience loses consciousness very fast so a space has to be constantly renewed.
When your out of control you get a bigger sense of control. Robert Altman said ‘Think about any five of the best moments from my films – they were probably accidents.‘ If you have overload it opens up the possibilities of what can happen with the work. Like cooking a dish…having everything at your fingertips to try out.
When music is played don’t just respond to it. Let it come out of you and change the space. And don’t put music in unless you know how to take it out.

Various helpful ways into movement:

  1. Angles/lines
  2. Falling/ gravity
  3. Curves
  4. How you use feet/ floor pattern
  5. Spasm gesture
  6. Contracting/ expanding
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