Theatre Ph.D. Dissertations

Title

The Viewpoints: A Postmodern Actor Training for a Postmodern Theatre

Date of Award

2022

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Department

Theatre and Film

First Advisor

Jonathan Chambers (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Craig Zirbel (Other)

Third Advisor

Cynthia Baron (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Angela Ahlgren (Committee Member)

Abstract

The Six Viewpoints, a set of performance training techniques devised by choreographer Mary Overlie, emerged from the post-modern dance movement of the 1960s. While dancemakers whose work may be classified as post-modern (or alternatively, postmodern) have a complicated relationship to other artistic postmodernisms, not to mention the economic and social conditions of postmodernity, Overlie explicitly identifies her work as postmodern. Similarly, Anne Bogart, whose revision, rearrangement, and self-described “theft” of Overlie’s work in the form of the Viewpoints method of actor training, credits postmodern pioneers in the arts – Overlie, John Cage, Robert Rauschenberg, Yvonne Rainer – for their influence on her teaching and her directing. Though Bogart’s Viewpoints have received considerably more attention in the popular media, little scholarly attention has been given to either Bogart or Overlie. This dissertation investigates both iterations of viewpoints training to determine their practical, aesthetic, and philosophical relationship to one another. In doing so, it interrogates Overlie and Bogart’s claims that the Viewpoints are a postmodern mode of performance training. I analyze Overlie and Bogart’s writings in which they outline their techniques as well as interviews they and their students have given to articulate their similarities and differences, placing them each alongside the ongoing discourses of postmodernism and poststructuralism. Finally, I demonstrate the ways in which these trainings provide actors with a set of skills which aid in the staging of postmodern performance texts. I argue that the postmodern narrative structures of María Irene Fornés’ Fefu and Her Friends and Suzan-Lori Parks’ The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World, and conceptions of character in Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice, James Ijames’ White, and Sarah Kane’s 4’48 Psychosis create problems for actors who lack the skills that Viewpoints training develops.

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