Articles & Essays
(presented November 2018 at the Shanghai Theatre Academy International Conference: INHERITANCE OF ACTING TECHNIQUES AND THEIR INNOVATIVE DEVELOPMENTS)
As a lifelong practitioner of voice training for actors, I write from my own practical experience and interest. I am not an academic and will not be adhering to academic requirements for this paper. Thus - there will be no footnotes or references. I present to you some of the ideas and perspectives that interest me as a teacher and passionate theatre lover. These are personal points of view emerging from sixty years spent in drama schools training young actors, in studios coaching successful, experienced, professional film and stage actors, at the side of directors directing everything from classical to experimental theatre, as an actor playing many of Shakespeare’s women and some of his men, directing Shakespeare and the Greeks myself and running workshops in many different countries and languages.
EXPERIENTIAL PERSPECTIVES: REFLECTIONS ON VOICE AND SPEECH TRAINING
What has changed in the field of voice training for the theatre in the past 100 years? I cannot speak personally for the full century of actors’ voice training since 1915 but I will boldly claim some personal knowledge of what has happened in the English-speaking world of actor-training in the last half-century. I hope, thus, to frame my reflections on what constitutes the craft of training the speaking voice within the context of the art of theatre.
For actors, voice training for actors and new discoveries in neuroscience can help bridge the disconnect between mind and body to life.
These moods and feelings are registered throughout the body; the specificity of their expression in words depends a great deal on the specificity of the imagery that is engendered in memory, experience and imagination. However, although the parts of the brain that store memory and emotion and that contribute to the richness of vocal communication can determine the fullness of the information contained in the spoken word, these brain regions cannot be neatly connected to one or another hemisphere. Despite the wealth of information that advances in brain-imaging are giving us today, from a practical point of view, memory and imagination still operate from the realm of the unconscious mind, and the unconscious mind dances a merry quadrille from back to front and side to side of the brain.
National Academy of Theatre and Film Arts, Sofia, Bulgaria, July 1st 2009
The human voice is my subject. The theme of this Teachers' Academy meeting is storytelling, and I suspect that I have been invited to speak to you because the manner of the telling determines whether a story is successfully communicated or not and historically it is the human voice that has done the telling. I am particularly pleased to be with you in Sofia because I was involved with ELIA in the early days and because I had the distinct honour of being awarded a doctorate by NATFA in 2005. Both of those events were due to recognition of the paramount importance of voice in the art of performance. Thank you.