Viewpoints Acting Training: A Guide

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Viewpoints is a training concept that merges the physical with the psychological. Rather than asking actors to dive deep into their character’s motivations and backstories, Viewpoints provides a way for actors to consider their embodiment and movement. The pedagogical practice relies on observation and instinct, creating a dynamic, spontaneous, and collaborative performance.


What is the Viewpoints theory?

Viewpoints theory

The Viewpoints theory is a postmodern method for understanding and exploring the elements of movement. Like other types of movement analysis theories, Viewpoints helps directors and performers construct narratives through harnessing the power of movement.

The theory was initially conceived during the experimental art scene of the 1970s, when dancer-choreographer Mary Overlie identified six fundamental components, or “viewpoints,” through which to consider and construct a performance. Overlie’s Six Viewpoints are space, time, shape, movement, story, and emotion.

Directors Anne Bogart and Tina Landau expanded Overlie’s original six components into nine physical viewpoints and six vocal viewpoints, creating a vocabulary to describe acting performance. Since then, Viewpoints has become a widely used method of actor training, particularly for building ensembles. The technique engenders an environment of exploration, spontaneity, and collaboration, challenging the traditional hierarchies and rigid structures often found in theatrical productions.

What are the basics of Viewpoints theory?

acting movement


The Viewpoints are broken down into physical and vocal categories

Physical viewpoints: 

  • Spatial relationship: how far apart bodies, props, and other objects are 
  • Kinesthetic response: the ways in which performers respond to forms of movement 
  • Shape: the way that a body appears in space
  • Gesture: a movement or expression that has a beginning, middle, and end
  • Repetition: when a performer recreates or mimics another 
  • Architecture: the physical environment surrounding a performer
  • Tempo: the speed at which movements unfold 
  • Duration: the length of a movement
  • Topography: the ways in which movements create patterns or designs 

Vocal viewpoints:

  • Pitch: how high or low a sound is
  • Dynamic: how loud or soft a sound is
  • Acceleration/deceleration: a sound that is sped up or slowed down
  • Silence: soundlessness
  • Timbre: a sound’s texture or quality

Why does Viewpoints theory matter for performers?

acting movement


  • It emphasizes the importance of the physical. Unlike many other acting techniques, Viewpoints places an equal focus on the physical and psychological aspects of performance. More mainstream methods, such as Konstantin Stanislavsky’s system and Method acting, often concentrate heavily on the actor’s or character’s internal life and emotional truth. These methods urge actors to delve into their personal experiences and emotions to develop their characters, aiming for a realistic portrayal. However, Viewpoints expands this notion by considering the performer’s relationship with time, space, and other performers.
  • It helps performers rely on their instincts. Viewpoints champions improvisation and spontaneity. It encourages actors to respond instinctively to their surroundings and companions, which can create more authentic, realistic performances. 
  • It fosters collaboration. By highlighting the shared sense of time and space in a performance, the theory helps performers actively listen and respond to one another.

What are the benefits and drawbacks of Viewpoints for actors?

viewpoint acting

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  • Heightened awareness: The training’s focus on embodiment encourages a deepened understanding of physicality and movement. Actors become better attuned to their instinctual responses and more aware of other actors’ positionality onstage.
  • Creativity: Viewpoints promotes a sense of freedom and creativity by asking actors to consider the artistic potential of time and space.
  • Collaboration: By breaking down conventional hierarchical structures and emphasizing the importance of the ensemble, Viewpoints cultivates a spirit of collaboration. The training creates a dynamic, interconnected stage environment, encouraging performers to be constantly responsive and adaptable.


  • Time investment: Viewpoints requires a considerable amount of time and patience to master. Its highly improvisational nature can be challenging for those more accustomed to structured, script-based work. 
  • Lack of individuality: The focus on ensemble performance may also overshadow individual characters or narratives at times.
  • Messiness: While Viewpoints is a helpful tool for exploration and rehearsal, it may not always translate seamlessly into a polished, final performance. Critics such as acting coach Andrew Wood argue that the spontaneity and unpredictability of Viewpoints can lead to performances that feel disjointed or lacking in clarity.

Where can I learn more about Viewpoints?

viewpoint theory

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You can learn more about the theoretical framework by signing up for Viewpoints theater classes and workshops, reading resources on the subject, and doing pertinent acting exercises. 

Viewpoints classes and workshops

Viewpoints resources

Acting exercises

  • Observe: Spend some time simply sitting and observing the world around you. Consider the ways that the bodies and objects surrounding you are composed and the ways that their movements impact your observations. “Once your eyes are open to it, you see Viewpoints everywhere,” Viewpoints practitioner Tina Mitchell told Dramatics. “Like a flock of birds in the sky, or the New York traffic organizing itself to run smoothly, or people on the subway responding to each other. How people hold themselves in the world has become fascinating to me.”
  • Interact: Since Viewpoints focuses on the collective, it’s best to practice it as a group. Meet with your actor friends or colleagues, choose a leader, and strive for collaboration. “We might begin an exercise with: ‘First you gather the group in the center of the space and have everyone close her/his eyes…’ (addressing the leader), but soon transition into: ‘Sense the bodies around you, and listen to the sound of breathing…’ (addressing the participants),” advised Bogart and Landau. 
  • Move: Since Viewpoints is all about movement, use your body to connect and create a narrative with your fellow actors. “A lot of people don’t like to use their bodies for expression. It’s a very vulnerable thing,” Mitchell said. “But once they get into the work, they realize how useful it is to get up and start trying things.”
  • Experiment: Viewpoints asks actors to use their improvisational skills, so give it your best “yes, and”—and don’t be afraid to get messy. “Coincidences happen onstage without you even knowing how,” Mitchell said. “When actors give over to that, they don’t have to be in control all the time.” 

Getting started with Viewpoints requires open-mindedness, a willingness to explore, and a dedication to honing one’s physical and vocal awareness. Viewpoints is as much about discovery and experimentation as it is about technique, so remember to embrace the notion of play.

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