Today I taught Viewpoints again, a second class of Viewpoints Training for my unsuspecting Kenyan undergraduate students. Last week, during the first Viewpoints class, after splitting the class in half into two more manageable groups of 35, I was nervous and inarticulate, wanting to will and inspire these students toward success. I was pure adrenaline, the results questionable. With no examples, no experienced students to model the training, no awareness AT ALL of what I was after the struggles were many. I felt like a failure. We did not soar.
The assigned classroom is a lecture hall full of steel desks which must be moved noisily to make a space in which to work as class begins. The floor is tile. The students wear leather dress shoes and other challenging footwear. They do not own actor movement clothes. It is not in the culture. Where do I set the bar for success for these students without comparison? How do I help them to learn about a creative place of magic through training without a touchstone to inspire them?
And then, when I relaxed today on day two, and exercises were repeated, and new exercises introduced, the click happened. An energy in the room relaxed, the Kenyan students stepped forward and they arrived together. Success wasn’t about me. Success was theirs.
I will never tire of teaching Viewpoints, an American actor training I teach in Cincinnati. I split the class in half at the end, and we started the Flow on a Grid exercise. The students began to move, to connect, to be. Movement objectives were added, and tempo work, levels, repetition, awareness of spatial relationship, shape, and duration and suddenly I saw JOY and RISK and ENERGY and CONNECTION and FOCUS. Tentativeness and fear disappeared.
I could see my new students. They were OPEN, PRESENT, and GROUNDED.
I joined in. I rarely join in anymore when I teach in Cincinnati with better examples available everywhere I turn. I let go. I stopped trying to help them and instead was content to just be with them.
A gesture of shooting with guns appeared in the work. A student, Kelvinson Mwangi, turned quickly and unexpectedly, and shot me with his imaginary gun, creating a lethal gesture as we worked on our imaginary stage. I was against a wall. I slid down the wall in response, very slowly, unthinking, creating in the moment with this tall young artist. We made something together. At the end of class I asked ‘what did you learn?’ and Kelvinson spoke first. He said ‘I learned I could make something extraordinary, something unexpected. I have never shot my teacher before.’