Basics of Creating a Visual Language

Lesson 3: Basics of Creating a Visual Language


Lesson Objective: Students will  begin to build a visual vocabulary by participating in an introductory viewpoints workshop focused on duration and shape.


Sources: The Viewpoints Book by Anne Bogart and Tina Landau



  • Open space to do Viewpoints in


Step 1: Warm-Up—Tag Shape

Take the students down to the auditorium. Have them put their things in the audience and then get in a circle on the stage.

The game:

One person will go in the middle of the circle and make a shape. The next person in the circle (or to challenge them, have it be when someone has the impulse) to go in and complete the shape. Once the second person is frozen, the first person leaves the middle and a space is created for a new person to come in. You want the transitions to be as quick as possible. Remind the students that the shapes do not need to be literal. The idea is not perfection it’s just to go with the impulses you have and do something with your body. “Don’t think, just do”


Step 2: Reflect on warm-up

What was your experience with this game?

What is difficult about it?

How does it relate to Visual Theatre?


Step 3: Viewpoints Introduction

Tell the students that they will begin to learn about a visual theatre language called Viewpoints. Viewpoints was started by Anne Bogart and Tina Landau. It’s a way to talk about making visual theatre interesting.


How do you think these two things might contribute to a visual theatre piece?


Step 4: Duration and Shape

Remind students of tag shape. They were already starting to create shapes. Now we’re going to play more with making shapes.

  • Tell the students to stay in their own space. Remind them that this is not about making something that makes sense or looks like something. They are just to try to see how their body can move.
  • You’ll count 3, 2, 1 and then they’ll freeze in a shape. The first shape is going to be lines. Make lines with your body.
  • Now curves. You’ll make a shape of curves.
  • Now make a shape that has a combination of lines and curves.


What are the different feelings of just line shapes to curved shapes? How about a combination?


Step 4: Group time

Have the students get into their project groups. Tell them to discuss and play around with the idea of duration and shape in the story they’ve chosen to tell. What are some shapes that you might use to tell the story? Circulate around the classroom as the students experiment with shape and their story.


Step 4: Closure

Tell the students they will add even more to their Visual Theatre vocabulary next class.