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I'm an NYC-based director, and this is an outlet for my various musings about theater and about the city of New York. Sometimes the subjects run together, sometimes they are entirely separate, but between the two they comprise the most fitful, most intense, most trying love affair of my few years. They fill my head, my heart, my mouth every hour of every day; they could fill a book.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Viewpoints Addendum

I’m still reading my little Viewpoints book on and off. And, as I read it, I’m continuing to think about its practical applications in terms of my own process.

Now, rather than just thinking about how I would use it, it's probably more productive to just use it - and see if it works for me. This is a slightly more difficult effort, especially considering I don't currently have any projects on which to try it. But - I do I keep coming back to a particular situation that arose during a show I was working on about two years ago. The play, called “What Work Is,” was to be an examination of the nature of work, inspired by a book of poems by Philip Levine by the same name, and created during the rehearsal process.

One of the actors, Clare, had developed this wonderful character of a young, erstwhile concert pianist. A woman who, after being ejected from her prestigious conservatory program, had given up the piano and was reckoning with the question of what to do with herself now.

At one point Clare had a fantastic idea for a scene of her character: while in the midst a mundane task - making breakfast, we eventually decided - the action begins to look, feel and sound more and more like playing the piano, in order to express the idea that, even without playing it, the piano is still an inextricable part of her life. Even the simple act of making eggs becomes a concerto, or a sonata.

Unfortunately, neither Clare nor I had the movement background to create adeptly the physical life we envisioned. It took a lot of a stumbling, a lot of pursed lips and knitted brows and hemming about where and how to start. I was even thinking about Viewpoints then, because I called a friend of mine who is particularly versed in it to give me some ideas. We got through it, and created a nice sequence, but I think both of us were hoping to push it a little further, create something a little broader, perhaps, or more abstract, or more elegant? I’m not sure actually. But the process and even the final product, while something I am proud of, and I hope she is too, felt restricted. I think that’s the best word.

As I consider how Viewpoints can help me - specifically me, on a practical level - this experience offers a very neat answer. Having a movement-based vocabulary and structure within which to work would have given Clare the guidance and myself the context we both needed to go farther with her idea. So! My new goal, in reading about and understanding Viewpoints, is to re-consider my process with Clare and determine what (if anything) could have been added or changed through a knowledge of Viewpoints to have made it stronger.

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