When I entered the First Baptist Worship Center, Aradhana, the director, had everyone doing a rather fun exercise. On one side of the large room individuals were holding 4 signs , Strongly Agree, Agree, Neutral, and Disagree. She asked simple questions and everyone was asked to run to the sign that matched their answer. For instance she asked " Is Christmas your favorite holiday?" Most of the crowd of actors ran toward "Strongly Agree" with the children running the fastest. After a long list of questions people were getting tired. She explained that the exercise was used to point out how we are all individuals from different backgrounds but as a group the core values are very similar.
A large staging area was then set up in the middle of the room with 4 chairs marking the corners. What followed was a viewpoints session exploring time, space, shapes, tempo and pacing. The actors were asked to walk the space in a relaxed neutral pace. Then the director would make suggestions which affected how people walked. For instance she said " Imagine you are walking to work to quit your job." "You are walking in the airport to be reunited with the love of your life." She advised everyone to be aware of the space around them. She wanted then to fill the space as a group. Then she asked the actors to either walk very fast of very slow.
She then told everyone that "You are going to meet the Messiah." At this point an actress came to the corner of the space where I happened to be sketching and she knelt down in front of me. Others joined her and soon there was a crowd of worshipers before me. They were all looking at a point just above my left shoulder. I had to turn to look. There was nothing there. It was as if they all saw someone standing right behind me and I just didn't notice him. If he was looking over my shoulder, I hope he liked my sketch.
Next the actors were asked to only walk in a grid pattern. She asked "How do others movements affect your own." "Discover gestures or shapes as you explore the grid." "Get addicted to copying something about someone else." Soon pairs and then small groups were imitating each others movements. She asked the group to gradually find a group leader. Over time the group started to move as a whole like a flock of birds. Slowly everyone formed themselves in kneeling fetal positions. Then one woman rose up and started snapping her fingers. the energy of the group built with everyone snapping their fingers and joyously dancing around the space. The fact that professional dancers were in the group made the groups movements fluid and beautiful. Something choked me up about this unrehearsed spontaneous expression of joy.
When the exercise was over she explained the viewpoints helps actors look at the bigger picture rather than focusing on the self. For long periods she was silent. She explained that during those times the actors are forced to stop thinking and just be. As a group the exercise helped build trust among the actors even though they had never worked together before.