Articles & Essays
(Keynote speech given at the 2019 PEVoC meeting in Copenhagen, 28th August)
My reputation as a voice teacher rests on the fact that I teach from a solid methodology that delivers an organically logical progression of exercises addressing each of three general areas of what comprises the two to three octaves of the speaking voice. By ‘each general area’ I mean the musculature of the voice, the resonators of the voice and the articulation of the voice into words. These areas break down into many large and small fields of consciousness and reconstitute as one integrated whole.
We wouldn’t have to have conferences such as this if it were simple to describe how the voice works - how we make the raw vocal material that either speaks or sings. I am here to contribute my version of the process and to listen to other versions. I doubt if I will contribute any new knowledge but sometimes a rearrangement of the vocabulary can shed new light on a familiar subject.
What does “the breath of life” mean?
As you breathe out you are already preparing for new breath coming in. And yet you don’t have to do anything about it - breath comes in and nano-moment by nano-moment you are propelled forward to the next momentary new phase of your life. On a larger scale you may be breathing in the air of a new job, or travel, or a well-deserved vacation. Or, metaphorically, in life terms, you may be breathing out very, very slowly, letting go slowly because you have no idea where the next breath is coming from.
(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.