Somerset Times

Scott Wings: Artist in Residence. An Enthralling Day of Actor Training!

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Somerset Times Edition

Week 1, Term Two, 2019

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As a lead in to Storyfest, the Year 9 to 12 Drama students were incredibly fortunate to work with ‘physical storyteller’ Scott Wings as an Artist in Residence over the course of two days. Continue reading an account of the experience shared between the Year 9 and 10 students on the first day working with Scott.

The workshops were physically demanding and challenged our students to push into a ‘flow state’, as they explored exercises drawing from Viewpoints, Suzuki, Butoh and Frantic Assembly techniques for devising.

Scott Wings is a passionate physical theatre artist, performance poet and storyteller. He brings with him an exuberant energy that could not help but leave a smile on everyone’s faces. During the session we learnt many techniques and we cannot wait to apply them to our own drama performances!

We began to get to know each other by learning each other’s taste in food. There was lots of lasagne and rows of sushi! Then we learnt about each other’s favourite sport exercises/stretches...which we quickly realised was a mistake. As we went around our giant drama circle, we reached a patch of people who decided that push-ups were the best thing to do at the crack of our academic dawn (9.00am for those unaware).

We then embarked on an exercise called ‘Lanes’, where five people had their own imaginary, parallel lanes in the space. We were given four gestures that we could do, including a ninja jump, sprinting down our lane, sitting and lying down. This exercise required the actors on stage to ‘listen’ to each other and understand each other’s energies, which we soon came to learn is a viewpoint called kinaesthetic response. This lead to incredible moments of synchronicity where the actors on stage would all jump at the exact same time. This technique was very beneficial in warming up our bodies, minds and improvisational skills.

After completing these exercises, Scott explained to us the concept of spatial relationships. He provided us with some very straightforward information: your characters can either stand extremely close or extremely far apart. This armed us with the knowledge to explore kiss or kill moments as well as quite tragic isolation. The only thing we had to avoid at all costs is what is known as ‘bus stop’ spacing, that awkward position when you are in the same place but you do not really know each other- let's just say not the most dramatic or exciting position.

We then moved onto an exercise called Zen garden. This exercise was quite the juxtaposition from the excitement of the morning! In Zen Garden, performers had the freedom to move around the stage and take on the form of moss (lying on the ground), a rock (sitting down) or a tree (standing up). This allowed for a whole new world of creativity. Scott then subtly hinted that maybe we should apply what we’ve learnt and think about the audience. Where is the focal point? What needs to be supported? Oh, and also, remember kinaesthetic response as well as trying to create the most creative and interesting shapes as possible between actors!

So, what did all of these exercises have in common? Viewpoints! Scott Wings taught us about the 9 viewpoints which were adapted for stage by a woman named Anne Bogart. Bogart devised these viewpoints as spontaneous actions between actors to develop a relationship between their characters. The 9 viewpoints include the aforementioned spatial relationship and kinaesthetic response, as well as shape, gesture, repetition, architecture, tempo, duration, and topography (floor patterns). In the various exercises, Scott got us to focus on applying these viewpoints using our bodies to inform our choices.

The true highlight of the day, however, was the infamous dance battle. Students showed off their skills, strutting down the room and intimidating the opposition with their unmatched abilities. The standout performer of the exercise had to be a certain very enthusiastic young woman, who defied all odds and broke the system by joining the Year 9 team, when she herself was in Year 10. This particular student brought a vigour and unprecedented energy to the task, astounding the opposing team and teachers with her unmatched and boisterous dance moves, which wowed the crowd. No one will forget this truly incredible experience. A shout out also goes to a Year 9 student for busting out a front flip in the dying moments of the battle.

We harnessed the energy of the dance battle and moved on to a storytelling focus. Splitting up into groups, we each told our life story to each other within a minute. The challenge? We also somehow had to keep our audience entertained! Afterwards, Scott gave us some advice on enhancing our body language and gestures to match the tone and content of our stories.

Overall, this was an enlightening day of creativity as we homed in on the fundamental skills of viewpoints and explored physical storytelling techniques. Thank you, Scott Wings, we are grateful to have had the opportunity to work with you as an Artist in Residence. You were hilarious to be around and a truly inspiring teacher from whom we learnt a lot.

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