On the last day of the Suzuki & Viewpoints workshop I was teaching at the Pacific Conservatory for the Performing Arts (PCPA) on California’s beautiful central coast, we had a small invited audience of drama teachers from across the State viewing our work. During the talk-back portion of the sharing one of the students exclaimed, “I’ve never had so much fun in my life.”

Exploring heights with Viewpoints, PCPA, Sept 2013.
Exploring heights with Viewpoints, PCPA, Sept 2013.

I often forget how fun Viewpoints can be. I find teaching and watching the work to be a revelation – on many levels – but it can also take a lot of work and frustration to get to the point of really playing. Learning to play isn’t always fun, but when a group of actors stops being self-conscious, stops worrying about being interesting and stops engaging in contrivances (both physical and emotional) a powerful kind of magic emerges.

Last day of Viewpoints training at PCPA, Sept 2013.
Last day of Viewpoints training at PCPA, Sept 2013.

The magic often starts with actors using their bodies in ways they have never imagined. There is a kind of release into the world and a freedom of physicality and expression that I can see percolating in each actor as they stop thinking about themselves and start to play with the possibilities and potential of time and space.

There is a confidence in just being and being seen that takes over, and therein lies a trust that the actor begins to acknowledge between himself and his circumstances, which then leads to the realisation that being fully present is enough. The beauty of this is watching actors really engage in being fully present. (It’s not until they truly experience presence for the first time that they realise they previously have not been present at all. The endless chatter of their brains has been a constant static and a constant distraction from truly being in the moment without commenting on it, themselves or the situation.)

Following on from this, is a new kind of exploration, a new curiosity and an end to the tyranny of a ‘getting it right’ rehearsal process. A rehearsal process that fully explores the experience of the moment and how that experience affects the actor/character begins – preconceived ideas are seen for the evil they are and knowing before exploring becomes the worst sin of all.

This, of course, is what I see from my viewpoint; from their point of view, it was the most fun they’d ever had.

You can see some of what I’m describing in this Viewpoints video which was taken on the last day of the workshop. It was our first time working with music and everything you see is completely improvised (they had never even heard this piece of music before). It’s important to understand the spontaneity of what you’ll see because it looks choreographed, but the minute of the video happened moments after those actors randomly jumped up to work, I shuffled my iPod and they began to move. What you see is a group of actors creating in the moment using nothing but the Viewpoints and themselves and the result is truly beautiful.

The vein of gold in this work is that while they were having all that fun, they were also being profoundly changed. They see the world differently now and that will never leave them; they are more open to what occurs around them; they are more adaptable to change; they listen more and with their bodies as well as their ears; they are more physically aware and physically connected to their bodies; and they move with confidence and a sense of freedom.

One of the biggest joys I get from teaching this work, is that former students continue to contact me and tell me about moments they witnessed, events that happened and ideas they’ve had that are a direct result of having been in contact with Viewpoints & Suzuki training – some of these former students are successful actors, writers, producers and artists, some are very successful human beings, all of them have been transformed in some way by this work and they see the world brimming with possibilities and the potential for creativity.

If you are interested in learning more about Suzuki & Viewpoints, please contact Stephanie.Courtney@GaietySchool.com. The Gaiety School of Acting is offering a Viewpoint & Suzuki class on the 16th of February, 2014. Please call +353 1 679 9277 for booking.