As you may know from Kerry’s last post, I designed lights for Henley Street’s production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. I just wanted to explain the process on designing a show around the viewpoint based directing technique used by Michael Sater (or Mike Slater to his friends). Viewpoints is a guiding strategy, originally used in dance, to help actors/dancers be aware of spatial relations, shape, time, movement, etc. It is used as a way to allow the action to be more organic and natural than a director’s given set of blocking. To be fair, the director gives places and positions for different pieces of the script, but getting there is up to the actors.
However, it also allows for flexibility. In fact, you may not ever see the same show twice, over the course of the run. The other bad thing for a lighting designer is that you cannot plan ahead. You have to take the show as it happens and since the onus is on the actors and what they create, it is hard to figure out what the director is looking for until about halfway through the rehearsal process. After watching a few rehearsals it became very clear with R&G that the actors knew where center stage was and really played there. In this case, Mike and I decided to try to hide some of the “offstage” actions by darkening the edges of the stage and giving the actors one more thing to play with, light and dark.
I have to say that viewpointing is an interesting technique, but to work with it as a designer, you have to be flexible. You need to have a vision, but you also need to realize that your vision will change. Working with this process is all about adaptability. It would be better to have a live lighting design every night. Pine Camp may not be the best place for this technique. That space does not have the capabilities to cover any predictable course the actors may take. Every show I design drives me more to the conclusion that designing lights would be so much easier without those pesky actors…