For the performers
Whose bodies and imaginations
Carry this work forward.
Anne Bogart & Tina Landau, The Viewpoints Book


It seemed like every technique, training style, exercise, self-help book, or creative discussion that Chris brought to the table would circle one thing: connection. So for me, the starting point for a discussion on Viewpoints is connection.  

I think true connection in a performance is the point at which an experience between a performer and an audience, or between a performer and her fellow performer(s), or between a performer and the craft, becomes the most authentic, the most intentional, and the most present. I also believe that the same is true about connection in our daily lives. Viewpoints training helps you become connected to what is happening around you. It connects you to the people around you. It helps you get out of your head, out of yourself, and into a shared experience. It invites presence, which invites connection, which invites magic

You may have noticed that M word I used — magic. I’m not scared to use it! And lookout, I may use it a lot! We can use it in this piece as a placeholder for — *Something bigger than ourselves that we have yet to explain but can all feel and access, that elevates our experience beyond our capabilities. Connection breeds this *magic

Whether conscious or unconscious, we go to theater looking for this magic. We go to a live performance and enter into the agreement that we will try to believe that what is happening in front of us is real. That the entire team — from the performers, to the director, to the designers, to the shop workers, to the playwright — has created a unique, one-time experience just for us. That this story is unfolding before our eyes for the first time ever, here and now. That these actors are not actors but people living this story and we are merely, somehow, observers of it. Of course, our logic-brains know this is all not true. These words were chosen by a writer who pain-stakingly poured over draft after draft, these actors have rehearsed the blocking and lines and music to muscle memory exhaustion, this set is handcrafted screw by screw for telling this story here and now and cannot function as a real house. But we don’t want to think about that while watching the show. We don’t want to feel that. Because deep down we know, somehow, that to be moved to something revelatory, to feel something open us and challenge us and change us, we have to say yes to this agreement. Because that gets us to the *magic. And I believe in theater and in life, a crucial tool to access that *magic is connection.

That’s a long way to lead to saying some of the most magical experiences I’ve had as a performer were the most connected. And some of the most connected experiences I’ve had were because of the utilization of Viewpoints.  

I started talking about Viewpoints through connection because on its surface Viewpoints are simply nine tools of movement, and as we go over those categories and techniques in physical form, it’s easy to lose sight of what these tools can build beyond the physical and aesthetic benefits. So remember these get you to the *magic. 

Viewpoints originated from choreographer Mary Overlie and was expanded upon by renowned stage directors Anne Bogart and Steppenwolf Theater Company’s Tina Landau. In The Viewpoints Book by Anne Bogart & Tina Landau, they introduce viewpoints this way: 

Viewpoints is a philosophy translated into a technique for (1) training performers; (2) building ensemble; and (3) creating movement for the stage.

Viewpoints is a set of names given to certain principles of movement through time and space; these names constitute a language for talking about what happens onstage. 

Viewpoints is points of awareness that a performer or creator makes use of while working. 

Viewpoints and composition offer an alternative to conventional approaches to acting, directing, playwriting and design. They represent a clear-cut procedure and attitude that is non-hierarchical, practical and collaborative in nature.

My personal favorite part about their definition: “…non-hierarchical, practical, and collaborative.” Approaching things this way leads to connection. It invites us to set our ego aside, to get in touch with those around us by listening to them with your entire presence, and enjoy the magic that comes from doing that together. 

A key aspect to exploring each of the viewpoints is the use of soft focus. When you’re in soft focus, you allow your gaze to be in front of you while still taking in everything in your field of view. It’s not disconnecting from the observable around you, but being open to all of what is around you all the time. From The Viewpoints Book on Soft Focus:

Soft Focus is the physical state in which we allow the eyes to soften and relax so that, rather than looking at one or two things in sharp focus, they can now take in many. By taking the pressure off the eyes to be the dominant and primary information gatherer, the whole body starts to listen and gather information in new and more sensitized ways. In a culture governed by commodities, consumption and glorification of the individual, we are taught to target what we want and then find a way to get it. The way we use our eyes in daily life entails looking for what might satisfy our particular desires. In Viewpoints training, the participants are asked to look at the surroundings and at other people without desire.



The contour or outline the body (or bodies) makes in space. All shape can be broken down into either 1) lines; (2) curves; (3) a combination of lines and curves.


A movement involving part or parts of the body; Gesture is Shape with a beginning, middle and end. Gesture is broken down into two parts: Behavioral and Expressive.


The physical environment in which you are working and how awareness of it affects movement. 

Spacial Relationship 

The distance between things, especially (1) one body to another (2) one body (or bodies) to a group of bodies; (3) the body to the architecture. 


The landscape or the floor pattern, the design we create in movement through space. 



The rate of speed at which movement occurs; how fast or slow something happens.


How long a movement or sequence of movements continues. Duration, in terms of Viewpoints work, specifically relates to how long a group of people working together stay inside a certain section of movement before it changes. 

Kinesthetic Response 

A spontaneous reaction to motion which occurs outside you; the timing in which you respond to the external events of movement or sound; the impulsive movement that occurs from a stimulation of the senses. 


The repeating of something. Repetition includes (1) Internal repetition (repeating a movement within your own body); (2) External Repetition (repeating the shape, tempo, gesture, etc., of something outside your own body). 


Alexandra Billings is a Viewpoints Associate with the Tony Award winning Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago. You would probably recognize her from the Award Winning Amazon original TV show Transparent, which she starred in. Her theater work is extensive and Chris was fortunate to have trained in Viewpoints with her and Steppenwolf. From a recent article for the USC School of Dramatic Arts by Lynnne Heffley

Billings is a mixed race transgender woman, an AIDS and LGBT activist, a writer, an accomplished and ground-breaking stage and screen actor, an award-winning cabaret singer, and a respected theatre arts teacher. …Billings launched a stage acting career that has encompassed hundreds of roles in plays and musicals off-Broadway and at local and regional theatres, from Steppenwolf’s original production of Charles Mee’s Time to Burn (a Joseph Jefferson Award-winner for Best Ensemble) to her touring autobiographical shows, Before I Disappear, which had a lengthy off-Broadway run; “I’m Still Here, Still” and most recently, S/He and Me.

“Life isn’t something that happens to you,” said Alexandra Billings. “I think life is something that happens for you. I don’t really see a difference between my profession and my life, and that’s how I approach all of my work: I take all of who I am, and all of who I was, into the room with me and do the best I can with what I know.” She said, “[The Viewpoints] are containers in which all human behavior fits. There’s a container called gesture, one called tempo, one called spatial relationship, and so on. You can teach Meisner, Uta Hagen’s philosophy, and Stanislavsky’s philosophy and still use the Viewpoints language,” she said, “so I’m able to give my classes a common vocabulary, teach them about ensemble, break it apart, and put it in a play, and then give them very specific exercises and tools they can carry with them.”

Another artist I’ve had the privilege of working with who incorporates viewpoints in his work is Eric Hunicutt. Many know him from his improv work with Second City, iO, UCB, and just about every comedy theater out there. He also designs and teaches workshops and provides individual coaching for faculty, students and staff as a Communication Coach at the Savannah College of Art & Design, and is a coach and facilitator for The Performer’s Mindset, a performance training company based in Los Angeles. I reached out to him for some thoughts on why he utilizes Viewpoints:

As a performer, I’m applying the practice [of Viewpoints] every single time I step onstage, in front of a camera, or into an audition room. In improv – which is where I first connected the dots of how I processed information onstage to the language and ethos of Viewpoints – it’s inseparable from how I work, how I respond to partners, how I think about and explore theatrical space onstage. What I’m noticing, especially in those early moments of a scene or a show, tends to be what the Viewpoints are naming – things that show up physically or temporally, rather than psychologically… what I can see or sense, what I can notice – this precedes what I “think” or “feel”, it is the precursor to psychology and emotion in the scene. I’m latching onto what is and using it to guide me towards discovering what might be – trusting that the observable (distance / relationship in space, posture / shape, rhythm / tempo, gesture, etc.) will launch me into the intuitive and the imagined – that by trusting what I notice, I’ll discover all the things necessary to build story, character, etc. without a script or a plan.

It keeps the collaborative process really honest for me. The practice of observing what “is” and distilling it down to simple, objective bits of information is super helpful in that I’m not laying a bunch of psychology or story on top of things right away. So much acting training emphasizes psychology and emoting all over the place, it can cloud spatial and temporal information that helps us tell clear stories, so in that way there’s a purity to this approach, whether it’s building a “character” through physicality and letting the inner life and the psychology show up as a result of that process, or as a director, staging in a way that isn’t prescriptive or dictatorial, but rather collaborative and playful.

I worked with Eric in Los Angeles at iO West and at a Second City summer intensive at Cal State. The same summer intensive where Chris worked with Alexandra Billings years prior. I’ll get more into improv in it’s own post, but one of the first improv people that Chris introduced me to was improv legend Dave Razowsky, who I worked with at Cal State with Eric. I was able to see Eric and Dave do an improv show called Moving Chairs, which has become one of my favorite formats, and utilizes Viewpoints. In the format, scenes always start with each performer randomly moving through a space with a chair, spontaneously setting their chairs down at the same time together in a random way (Kinesthetic Response), and using each other’s shapes, spatial relationship, and architecture to inspire a scene. When that scene is done, they move, spontaneously stopping again to pick shapes, and do another scene. You can watch scenes from one of their shows here. 


Never did I experience the fruits of Viewpoints more than when working on the play Vincent in Brixton with Chris. The show isn’t particularly flashy. It has no musical numbers, no big high concepts, no action or stunts. Just five performers, some very specific dialect work, and an esoteric depiction of Vincent Van Gogh during a time period we know nothing about. The play takes place in the two years he lived in Brixton where he entered a boarding home as a missionary studying the clergy, and left an artist. We lived in the show for so long because of an extended rehearsal schedule, and Chris used the generous amount of lead time to build ensemble through Viewpoints before even getting on stage or running lines. 

Chris ran Viewpoint sessions where Elizabeth Golden, James McKinney, Jessamyn Svenson, Britni Wing and I would roam around the space in soft focus as Chris played music and led us through exercises. Focusing on one viewpoint, multiple viewpoints, or all viewpoints for a period of time. Shape and Gesture. Then Tempo and Repetition. Then Topography and Duration. Then Kinesthetic Response and all of those together. Repeating, changing, communicating, collaborating. Then, in free sessions, we moved and employed our own exploration of the Viewpoints with each other, building connections and little stories as an ensemble. Stories that no one spent any time writing, discussing or devising. Stories that we breathed life into during the exercise and that evaporated just as quickly when the exercise ended. But even though the stories left, the connection stayed. 

We kept doing Viewpoints as our warm-ups, even when the show was running. Once we had a set and props (Architecture) to incorporate, we began doing our viewpoints sessions on the set. We explored different Topography for characters in different parts of the set, or different gestures and shapes in certain areas of our blocking. There were interesting occurrences of us synchronistically mirroring gestures and discovering shapes together as a group that were often *magical and sometimes downright eerie. I remember one Viewpoints session on the set before a final run of the show that was so connected and so synchronistic between us, that it became one of my biggest memories of the whole show. 

The exercises invited us to filter out our individual ego’s and tap into what we could all create together if we got connected. And I believe the connection and ensemble we forged in those workshops showed up on stage, and invited a *magic that our audiences experienced. It went to regional competition in Los Angeles where we performed for national judges, then was nominated to the National College Theater Festival at the Kennedy Center. There, it won the Kennedy Center National award for Best Production, Best Director Christopher Clark, Best Actress Liz Golden, Best Ensemble, with nominations for James McKinney, our lighting design, set design, and score. (Side brag: Utah Valley University also became the first college in the country to ever win the national award for Best Production two years in a row, winning it the next year for Next to Normal, directed by Dave Tinney.)  

“It was a huge honor,” Clark said. “The award was for a lot of us and not just me. It was a huge honor for our department as a whole. A lot goes into making a show good. Honors given by the Kennedy Center distinguish the best work happening throughout the country,” Clark said. “To be rewarded from the Kennedy Center, especially those that value art so much, is at the highest level of recognition.”


In the Practice section below I’ve listed some of the most memorable viewpoints exercises that I did with Chris. These exercises precipitated grid work (exploring the nine viewpoints one by one on an imaginary grid on the floor). For more information and training I highly recommend getting in touch with any of the fantastic instructors I’ve listened in this post, or checking out The Viewpoints Book by Anne Bogart & Tina Landau for the complete list of exercises, how to use them to build ensemble, group compositions, and much more. Also, you can subscribe to this blog if you’d like to know when I’ll be holding Viewpoints workshops soon.   

In conclusion, I love the practice of Viewpoints because it really emphasizes the importance of listening. There is no more basic and selfless skill that gets you to connection better than listening. In The Viewpoints Book, they give some of my favorite thoughts on the importance of listening as artists:

The development of an artist is related to her/his ability to perceive differences. As children, we quickly categorize the world into big clumps, for example: houses, people, streets. Categorizing the world makes it a safer place, because through it we tame our untamed world around us. All things, once categorized, become less threatening to us, and can be safely filed away. Un-taming the world and allowing the differences between people and between streets and houses to be felt and acknowledged mark the growth of an artist. The capacity to differentiate moment to moment is an actor’s most basic and crucial skill. This is extraordinary listening. To work effectively in the theater, a field that demands intense collaboration, the ability to listen is the defining ingredient. And yet, it is very difficult to listen—to really listen. Through Viewpoints training, we learn to listen with the whole body, with the entire being. Until you experience listening with the whole body, you do not realize what a rare occurrence it actually is.

And lastly, I’ll leave you with some of Chris’ words and spirit. Because in true synchronistic fashion, Chris reached out to add some thoughts on this subject…

About a week before finishing this post, and almost a year after Chris passed away, my collaborator on The Chris Craft Project, Lizzy Bean, who also worked closely with Chris, suddenly got a notification on Marco Polo.

<—- (What the what!?)

She got on Marco Polo, remembering that she had a message from Chris from November 2017, and he just happened to be answering a question from her about acting methodologies in general, including Viewpoints. His thoughts on methodologies in general ended up being a perfect over-arching intro to what he studied and why, and I think leaving you with his thoughts and teaching spirit is the best way to end our first post of the Chris Craft Project:


Directly from The Viewpoints Book:


Form a very wide circle facing inward and begin running in place. One person can at any moment initiate a run into the center of the space (make sure that feet are not stepped on). In that split second of initiation, everyone should run toward the center together in such a way that someone watching would not be able to tell who initiated. After everyone has run to the center, everyone should run backward to reestablish the wide circumference of the circle. After some repetition of this exercise, each participant will experience firsthand that anything can happen at any time and that s/he needs to be completely present in the moment, ready to move in response to stimuli. Repeat this exercise until the group is successfully communicating moment to moment. 


This exercise cultivates listening and responding in the moment both individually and as a group. Everyone runs in a circle in the same direction at the same speed. The space between individuals in the circle should be equidistant, maintained by each person constantly gauging the spatial distance behind and in front of them. Wigth soft focus, each participant is simultaneously aware of the person in front and the person behind as well as the entire group. Introduce the following three options: 

1. Without any one individual initiating, the entire group finds a way to change direction at the same instant. Everyone should turn toward the inside of the circle when changing direction. It is important that the group does not slow down to make these changes easier. Turning should be precise and succinct. The group should look for a mutual consent to act together. 

2. While running in a circle an individual within the group initiates a jump. Whoever initiates should jump very high so that the rest of the group has the opportunity to join in. At the moment that the individual jumps, everyone jumps with her/him, and everyone lands on the ground at the same instant and stays crouched down. Then the whole group looks for mutual consent to continue, and together all begin to run in the opposite direction. 

3. An individual in the group also initiates this third option, a sudden stop, while the group is running in a circle. In the moment that the person stops, everyone stops. This event of stopping should be instantaneous, coefficient and exhilarating. From the stillness after the stop, the group looks for mutual consent to continue running, at which point the running resumes in the same direction as before. 

Once these three options have been introduced, the group should be given the task of completing twelve changes of direction, six jumps, and four stops in any order. Remember: the changes are not initiated by an individual, they emerge from group consent; the jumps and stops are originated by individuals in the group. 

Someone on the outside should keep count. It’s best to count backward so that occasionally s/he will call out, for example: “Six changes, two jumps and three stops remaining.”

Almost as much can be learned by watching this activity as doing it. If there are enough participants, divide into two or three smaller groups, so that everyone can both see and do it. This exercise illustrates the necessity for the entire body to listen in each moment. We often assume that we are listening, but the Twelve/Six/Four exercise reveals how demanding that task actually is and how shut off we normally are from one another onstage.


The sun salutations are derived from yoga. In the traditional yoga practice the focus is internal. In our training, the focus of each individual is on the whole group. It is important to learn to sense the consent of the group as a whole and learn to enjoy unison movement. No individual is leading and no individual is following. It is vital to cultivate wakefulness and a collective, shared present.

The twelve sun salutations are performed in unison. To start, the salutations should be quite slow, then gradually get faster. After each sun salutation, the group inhales and exhales together once before going on to the next (except for the final three, which have no breath in between). The most important thing to keep in mind, besides doing the exercises safely, is to stay together, in unison. Applying soft focus throughout the whole exercise encourages each participant’s peripheral vision and full body to listen; qualities so essential to Viewpoints training.

1. Stand in a circle, each individual visible to everyone else in the group. Maintain: soft focus and an awareness of everyone else’s positioning. Feet are parallel, shoulder distance apart. Both palms are touching in front of the chest. 

2. At the same moment everyone begins to move the palms, still touching directly upward. When a point is reached where the hands cannot remain together any longer the … hands separate. Everyone in the circle opens her/his hands at the same instant. The arms continue to rise to the full extent directly upward. Then everyone together bends the upper body backward, careful not to squeeze the lower spine. 

3. The upper body then, back remaining straight and arms on either side of the ears, slowly descends in front of the body until both hands are fully on the floor on either side of the feet. It is all right for the knees to be bent in this position. Again, this is accomplished simultaneously with everyone else in the circle. Soft focus and listening to the whole are necessary. 

4. Keeping your hands on the floor, and with head facing out, extend either leg behind you into a lunge position with the knee touching down. The heel of the forward foot remains flat on the floor. Everyone takes her/his hands off the ground at the same instant and bends backward, opening the chest. After a few moments, touch the hands down again. 

5. Next, move the forward leg back to join the other. Now raise the buttocks upward as you extend the chest and heels of both feet downward. In yoga, this position is known as downward facing dog. 

6. The knees start to descend directly down to the floor. Everyone moves the knees at the same instant and all knees touch the floor at the same instant. Now both hands and both knees support you. 

7. The torso moves down and through until it reaches upward into a backward bending cobra position. The head remains straight forward. 

8. And now move in reverse through the last six moves (steps 2-7). The toes tuck under and the arms push back once again into downward facing dog. Now everyone moves backward through the same series of moves until the whole circle is standing with hands in front of the chest. During all these moves, the challenge is to flow through the positions without stopping while also attempting to move in unison. Once the group is back in the original position (palms touching in front of chest, etc.), the spacing and integrity of the circle should be reconfirmed. Then everyone breathes together once in and once out, and then begins together the next sun salutation, this time a bit faster. Remember: at the end of the first nine sun salutations, the group takes a communal inhalation and exhalation. The last three are done with no breath in between. The group collaborates on an acceleration of speed during the twelve sun salutations. In addition to staying in unison and building the speed together, this exercise cultivates a sense of individual freedom inside a set form. The group should grow sensitive to the little communal charges of energy that occur from the shared physical engagement. The last three sun salutations, done at an increasingly quick speed, will challenge the group (and each individual) to work even harder to stay together. It is important that the final salutation ends with everyone hitting the final position at the same instant.