Viewpoints on the Salt Marsh

January 31, 2009

I’ve been meeting with Heather Bancroft and Kate Paulsen a few times a week now for three weeks, basically doing a sort of book club for actors.  We’re studying several books/techniques of acting on styles that we’re interested in — right now Viewpoints, and when we’re done with that, we’ll start on Michael Chekhov’s techniques.

This little club of ours has a few purposes.  The first is just to train in things we’re interested in, and keep in practice, something which can be difficult in a slow town like Santa Barbara.  The other purpose (and as the group hopefully grows, it will be more effective at this) is to bring theatre people together, to work and play and learn and do shows.  It can be difficult to stay motivated to create in isolation, but if you have friends and colleagues around you to work with and encourage you, it makes it easier.

My two major motivations for starting this group were feeling lethargic and lonely.  I needed something to do, and I needed people to do it with.  As things stood, I didn’t really know that many theatre people in this town (at least who have graduated from school), and so our group is small.  We hope to change that.  :)

But as I said, we have been meeting to do Viewpoints, and let me just say, it has been wonderful.  Viewpoints, if you, dear reader, are not familiar with it, is both an acting technique and a way of looking at the world.  It is a way of categorizing possibilities in performance, and freeing your mind and body to those possibilities.  It involves a great deal of improvisation, listening to the group and your surroundings, and the freeing of impulse.  If you want to know more, you should just come to one of our meetings.  :)

Anyway, we met today in the salt marsh behind Heather Bancroft’s apartment.  A salt marsh, the best I can tell, is a marsh with salt water in it.  Which doesn’t sound like much, but oh it was.  It’s right next to the beach, and we could hear the waves, and feel the fog roll across our skin, and listen to the marsh birds shriek.  It was ridiculously poetic.  Viewpoints is all about opening yourself to your surroundings, and moving within the possibilities that creates, so I cannot tell you how joyful it was to breath in that ocean air, and allow the wind and the mist to shape our movements, as we tried to work in tune with ourselves and in tune with nature.

If all of this sounds ridiculously mystical to you, it is 1) probably because you’re a normal person and 2) because you’re right.  It is kind of ridiculous.  But still really wonderful.  Viewpoints training strives to open your mind to the possibilities of how you can move in space and how you can react to your ensemble, and then frees you from all pressure to have to make, and instead guides you to merely respond.  Done right it is both relaxing, exhausting, and incredibly thrilling.

We did it right today.

But all that to say, come to our club!  (All ten of you that actually read this thing right now.)  If you are an actor, director, writer, or theatre person, welcome, welcome, welcome.  Please e-mail me.  I’m at casey.caldwell@yahoo.com.

I’d like to close with a quote from Anne Bogart (the most prominent developer of Viewpoints) which was one of the motivations for this group:

Look around you right now and see who is there.  These particular people around you at present are the key.  They are your collaborators for now.  They will serve as mirror, engine, necessary resistance, and inspiration.  They are your material and your means.  With them, you begin to generate work.  Without them, you are nothing.  In the process of working with these people in your present circumstance, you will meet other people, and the circle around you will expand, alter, and redefine itself again and again.

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3 Responses to “Viewpoints on the Salt Marsh”

  1. Johnathan Hayward said

    Hey Casey!

    I would love to visit the group. I’m curious how often you guys meet, and at what time? I may not be able to make every meeting, because of the distance, but it would be fantastic to talk theatre again with people of like mind.

    You can email me if you’d like, at the above address.

  2. Kate Paulsen said

    I love this entry! Casey, you are so witty and funny and full of joy for the world around you. I enjoy your thoughts… especially about normal people. Our experience was magical, but if one can’t step out of normalcy to experience the magic, that is the true tragedy.

    I need to stop now.

    Good job.

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