Anyway, in our last class (for a while) we did the tantrum exercise. Kristin likes to do things twice, which I think is really wise because the first time your body is just "testing the action" (like my physical theater teacher David Taft used to say) and the second time, it actually gets to experience the action. It was very warming and very fast to experience the voice and the breath at a heightened level.
Similarly, the running dog exercise also worked that way, and felt kind of like I was sweating from my heart. I suppose that is something that I will be doing for the unforeseen future with the mourning of my father, but...it felt good to let some of that tension I have no control over go. I recently watched one of the Ken Burns' JAZZ episodes and in it they said that Benny Goodman cried about his father every time he was mentioned until Benny Goodman, himself died. I suppose I might be in the Benny Goodman category of mourning because I can't seem to not cry anytime my father is mentioned...
So...Kristin had a good idea about my kinesthetic approach to re-reading the voice texts. She said that I should read the conclusions next, which, of course, is a kinesthetic learning trick, so, I, as a kinesthetic learner, thought it was great idea and jumped right to it.
So...we began last time with Wilhelm Reich's THE FUNCTION OF THE ORGASM and now we're on the last chapter (Chapter IX) following Kristin's suggestion. This Chapter is called "From Psychoanalysts to Biogenesis".
Well, when we last met Reich he was trying to persuade the reader of his worthiness by talking about his connection to Freud's own work into repressed instinctual impulses. Right away the word biogenesis strikes me as new (after all, I didn't go to school for psychology...). It was coined, apparently, in 1870 and is the development of life from preexisting life. It also means there is a supposed tendency for stages in the evolutionary history of a race to briefly recur during the development and differentiation of an individual of that race. Or...it means the synthesis of chemical compounds of structure in a living organism. (Thank you Merriam Webster).
Then, of course, many other words showed up right away in the chapter that I needed to look up because I thought that there might be some secret code in the words that I may or may not need to decipher this conclusion to Reich's book that inspired Catherine Fitzmaurice's work:
Bioelectric: (1918) of or relating to electric phenomena in animals and plants.
Psychogalvanic: Breath/Life/Soul = of or relating to or producing a direct current of electricity in our breath, our life, our soul...
Anode: The electrode of an electrochemical cell at which oxidation occurs.
Oscillograph: An instrument for recording alternating current waves forms or other electrical oscillations.
Tumescence: The quality or state of swelling; esp. readiness for sexual activity...
Syncytial: (1877)A multinudeate mass of protoplasm (as in the plasmodium of a slime mold) resulting from a fusion of cells.
Yikes! But...this will come full circle...because I made quite the discovery from this chapter, and then subsequently have been singing and talking with a lot more freedom...who knew Merriam Webster could be so helpful in my process of learning the part-to-whole process of Voice and Speech work.
In this next paragraph, I just want to quote something I really liked because paraphrasing it will not do it any justice: "If the subject in an experiment is told to breathe in deeply, or to press as if to defecate, and the differential electrode is placed at the middle of the abdominal skin above the umbilicus, there is a more or less sharp decrease in the surface potential in inhalation, which increases again in exhalation...In inhalation, the diaphragm is depressed and exerts pressure on the abdominal organs; it constricts the abdominal cavity. In exhalation, on the other hand, the diaphragm is elevated; the pressure on the abdominal organs is reduced and the abdominal cavity is thereby enlarged. In breathing, the cavitites of the chest and abdomen are alternately enlarged and constricted, feet which shall be considered elsewhere. Since pressure always lowers the potential, there is nothing remarkable about the lowering of the potential of the skin in inspiration. What is remarkable is that the potential decreases, although the pressure is exerted not on the surface of the skin, but the center of the organism." (375-6)
I also like the quote, and this is the one that starts to put everything together for me...: "It is only biological pleasure, accompanied by the sensation of current and sensualness, that produces an increase in the bioelectric charge. All other excitations, pain, bright, anxiety, pressure, vexation, depression, are accompanied by a reduction of surface charge of the organism." (376)
But, before we put everything together, another vocabulary lesson from Merriam Webster...
pseudopodia: (1874) a temporary protrusion or retractile process of the cytoplasm of a cell that functions (as in an amoeba).
I love this because I have this acting exercise that I adulterated from Lecoq's work that I call "Amoeba" and it always seems to function with a sense of electricity on the skins of the actors in the ensemble that allows them to work together in a more intuitive way. It is simply a non-verbal exercise that requires everyone to move at the same speed, but that they have to start and end in stillness. The more the actors breathe, the better the exercise is, and Reich's work is telling me that it has to be the exhale that creates that sensation of electricity which, arguably, we can feel kinesthetically when we are in close proximity to that sensation...
Alright, another quote before we can really put this together: "The biological process of expansion illustrated by organ erection or the extension of pseudopodia in the amoeba, is the overt manifestation of a movement of bioelectric energy from the center to the periphery of the organism. What moves here, in both the psychic as well as the somatic sense, is the biological charge itself." (378)
I really liked the above quote because this is a statement based on scientific fact of what I feel on my skin when I am "fully present" on-stage; I almost feel like I have thousands of little electric cells jumping off my skin every second, and, maybe, just maybe the sexual excitation that Reich was testing is akin to the sense of presence that we theater educators try to teach. If sexual excitation and 'presence' are the same thing, then that electric charge from the skin on the human body could be the very thing that creates "chemistry" on stage and the ability to sense your acting partner and the audience. And, arguably, if we become addicted, as we should be, to sexual excitation (because without it, where would humanity be? But I digress...), I think I can assume that same electricity in presence is why many of us are bitten by the 'acting bug'; it feels like creating life...
Back to the Merriam Webster vocabulary lesson:
Entelechy: [LL to have more at wheel/scheme] The actualization of form-giving cause as contrasted with potential existence. A Hypothetical agency not demonstratable by scientific methods that in some vitalist doctrines is considered an inherent regulating and directing force in the development and functioning of an organism.
I hate it when I look up one thing, only to have to look up another...
Vitalism: (1822) a doctrine that the functions of a living organism are due to a vital principle distinct from physico-chemical forces. A doctrine that the processes of life are not explicable by the laws of physics and chemistry alone and that life is in some part self-determining.
Okay, more Merriam:
Mechanism: A doctrine that holds natural processes (as of life) to be mechanically determined and capable of complete explanation by the law of physics and chemistry.
Orgone: (1942) a vital energy held to pervade nature and be a factor in health.
Vesicles: a membranous and usu. fluid-filled pouch (as a cyst) in a plant or animal.
Gonadal: a reproductive gland (as an ovary or testis) that produces gametes.
Bions: relating to data relating to the functioning of biological systems.
Protozoa: Chiefly motile and heterotrophic unicellular protists.
Corpuscles: a living cell.
So, finally, we can put this weird hodge-podge of writing together: At the conclusion of Reich's book, which is also an introduction to the second volume of this study, the reader finds out that the discovery of the orgone (orgasm) has made cancer research boom and research on weather because there was a connection between the vitalists and the mechanists that no one expected, (including Reich) and it was that both doctrines were right, but also wrong, because they needed each others' suppositions to work. The two doctrines have to work together. So that means that unexplained things in weather can, indeed, happen because non-living matter can have orgasms that create electronic surges and unexpected events. (pun intended)
Anyway, it got me thinking about Tadashi Suzuki's famous actress, Kayoko Shiraishi, who, once, while in full 'presence', saw weather coming at her during an outdoor performance and she proceeded to use that weather while she was crating a spell slowly in the play MEDEA. I wondered, can this orgasm, this electricity be infectious by non-living matter...? All the wonders of string theory abound in this one little wonder of mine, but...but...so much more could be discovered with Reich's work in regards to theater. Is what we do, when it's "good" as exciting and fulfilling as an orgasm? And, could, just possibly the non-living part of the Earth be affected by our exhales? That's a lot to take in, but maybe that's why a good portion of my colleagues call what we do magic - that even our breath can create weather...
Onto the next book on our "Kinesthetic Reading" roster: THE PASSIONATE TEACHER: A PRACTICAL GUIDE by Robert L Fried. His last chapter is Chapter 19: "Is Passionate Teaching for New Teachers, Too?"
Well, last time we visited this book we were being told that passion is what makes good teachers and, of course, I agree with this. The last chapter focuses on being a new teacher, although, I am not a new teacher; I'm taking a class that assumes I am. Anyway, I need to move on, or...god forbid, I'll lose my passion.
Anyway, I tolerated the chapter because it was very validating in things I have learned as a teacher the hard way (in the classroom) in my first years of teaching, and now things seem simpler because I've always put the student first, I avoid teacher-cliques like the plague, and I'm always striving to be a better teacher. I stubbornly and like a mule seek out things that might help a student I'm having trouble with. Also, as a human-being (yay for Captain obvious), I've never felt uncomfortable with not knowing something, and, yet...if you don't believe me refer to my blog on "Doing Things that Scare Me".
However, I have fallen into many of the discipline "traps" this last chapter discussed, albeit, those were during my substitute teaching nightmares from last school year, which included 2 months in a class that had had 11 substitutes before me after their main instructor lost her 19-year-old son, and another 2.5 months in a P.E. class that had had, at least, 6 permanent substitutes to take over for the gym teacher who is currently stationed in Afghanistan. All of the substitutes did not have lesson plans and let the students play basketball and open gym. I am not that kind of teacher, so 40 students in a class wanted to win the battle of having what was essentially recess instead of a Physical Education class. I will just say I only won the battle some of the days. What I tried to rely on was the fact that I've always believed that discipline can only go so far without a relationship with student, and I try to rely only on that. Relationships will allow the teacher to get what I learned in a workshop yesterday is called a "Trust Bank". The student will forgive a minor discipline trap lapse if the teacher has already built up a "Trust Bank". It's very hard in a class that is traumatized or that has had a "Lord of the Flies" feel most of the year. I did my best.
There were some suggestions in this last chapter in regards to parental relationships, and, I think, the relationship discipline theory applies here, as well. My "Trust Bank" can only go so far without a relationship with the parents, so...that will be the thing I will leave the conclusion of this book with. I plan to have a Musical Theater Newsletter once a week to send home.
Next book on the roster: TEACHING PASSIONATELY: WHAT'S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT? by Joan Wink and Dawn Wink - Chapter 9 (the end) "Teaching Passionately with Action".
Well, I've finally actually started the class where this book is used, so I might need to phase it out and read along with the class, but...maybe, I won't...I don't know the rebel in me rarely likes following the rules of someone else's pedagogy anymore, but...we'll see...sometimes the straight arrow part of me takes over. If this book is not in the roster next time, that's probably why.
When last we met this book we found out about its general purpose and organization. I also read Chapter 1 that time because the Preface and Chapter 1 weren't very long. In Chapter 1 I was walked through my spiral of literacy (or...how I finally learned to read) and what my cultural eye as a teacher is, so I can either use it or allow it to phase itself out if it isn't helpful with some students. I also found that I liked the whole-to-part learning process vs. the part-to-whole learning process, and realized that I am the former, normally, but that I am now trying out the other in order to "master" it and receive my New Mexico Teaching License along with my Fitzmaurice Teaching Certificate. I suppose somewhere some philosopher has written about what it is to learn vs. what it is to "master".
So, to continue with "The End" theme, the last chapter, chapter 9, walks the reader through our passions and shows us how to create curriculum and lesson plans that include these passions because it reminds us that cynicism and apathy will burn us out, and if we have our passions daily or weekly or whatever, it will help the burn out process to stay on the sidelines.
Lastly, it reminds us, yet again, to stay away from poisonous teachers and to always "love" what we do because teaching is always about the relationships with the students (much like that 'trust bank') and if we love what we do, we will love our students in turn, which will provide us with that 'trust bank' that we need to convince them to learn something they don't want to learn or if we get a little out of hand and start to fall into some discipline 'traps', then the forgiveness process from the student will be faster. In essence, 'what's love got do with it'...everything...
Chapter 15 "Some Observations on Voice and Speech Therapy" from Arthur Lessac's THE USE AND TRAINING OF THE HUMAN VOICE: A PRACTICAL APPROACH TO SPEECH AND VOICE DYNAMICS.
Last time we met Lessac we learned about what he calls "vocal life", an emotional and physical life for the voice and the synergism of all things connected to communication that are important to his work: culture, education, inspiration, and physical sensation. He also discussed his belief that the voice is much like a musical instrument.
Continuing on my kinesthetic quest, Lessac's final chapter focuses on the touchstones of Lessac's method in voice and speech therapy from Cleft Palates, to stuttering, to Dysphonic conditions.
I loved his definition early on in the chapter for the "ideally trained voice and speech therapist" which is: "I believe that the ideally trained voice and speech therapist should be a combination of speech teacher, singing master, voice specialist, speech therapist and experimental phonetician -- and from my point of view, this does not mean a man with five different specializations but rather a man with strong and integrated proficiency in all aspects of one area of specialization, only when all are mastered can one become an expert or specialist or master teacher." (256) Lessac calls the above quote a goal: I think it's a good one.
I liked this chapter a lot because it synthesizes many of the issues I've come across in my work with students and myself. In the past four years I have had some Dysphonic times and I haven't really understood until now that there is physical therapy necessary for the re-education of that musculature and there are ways around surgery. Pretty cool.
I also liked the quote: "Unfortunately, the weakest link in the team is often the representative in voice and speech. It is not unusual to find a specialist in speech who knows little or nothing about voice training or a voice expert who knows little or nothing about speech. Either one is only half-trained." (255) I've been in this new Fitzmaurice-land to marry my Speech training largely learned from my undergraduate work in the classics and with Edith Skinner's book with Fitzmaurice's "De-Structuring". Fitzmaurice calls her speech-work (for lack of a better term) "Re-Structuring". She calls the work "Re-structuring" when you bring what Lessac calls the "reeducated" voice back to speech, but...it often feels false to me. I think it's just the process of mastering one area and then eventually, I hope, the two will synthesize nicely into Lessac's goal of an ideal teacher/master teacher is.
When last we met Cis' (Cecily Berry) VOICE AND THE ACTOR she talked about the voice as a complicated mixture of environment, ear, physical agility and personality. She also talked about the fact that breath is the initial impulse for sound...which, from the above writing about Reich...it is the only connection to the world that theater needs to inhabit. More on this later...when we get to Linklater.
The last chapter entitled "Summary of Exercises" in Cecily Berry's VOICE AND THE ACTOR reminded me that reading this last chapter is akin to cheating or having the Cliff Notes of an assignment because she gives such a wonderful warm-up at the end that is all the touchstones of her method detailed in the rest of the book: Simple, clear, thorough. I liked the quote that began this wonderful summary/warm-up: "These exercises are for greater freedom in the voice, and to make one increasingly aware of the difference between one's personal tension and the tension of the character and situation. Unnecessary tension is energy wasted. It is important to clarify and inform the world because it is the word that is the result of all you think and feel and which finally impinges on the audience. The word must be crystal clear and not over-balanced by tone, though the more whole the sound the more conviction it carries, and the more satisfactory it is to the ear. The balance is vital." (137) I like this because if you follow Lessac's idea that you must work with the whole person not just a list of symptoms then you need a path/goal to embark on first.
When I taught Interpersonal Communications, I really liked a problem-solving method that asked you to define whether or not the goal or the relationship was more important and that would lead you to which problem-solving method to use (REACHING OUT by David W. Johnson). In this instance, Berry asks you to decide whether or not the character or yourself is in an anxious/tense state and that will lead to a freedom in your goal for your warm-up. It's so nice to problem-solve.
The last time I talked about Cis' other book THE ACTOR AND THE TEXT I mentioned her quote "...finding the right energy for that particular text." as the whole-to-part aspect to learning Cis' speech methods. Cis also made two general points, which were: (1) We often make words literal, logical or emotional (never all three of those things at once.) and (2) The imaginative process often becomes ordinary at the moment of speaking.
The final chapter of Cecily Berry's THE ACTOR AND THE TEXT entitled "Further Perspectives" begins with "Almost as soon as you define anything about voice - you want to change it. I suppose that is the nature of the work this is not only because one is working with different people who bring different energies and perceptions to the text: it is also because the way we speak, and therefore the way we interpret, is subject to considerable change, and we must be constantly alert to this." (285) I find this, again, to be true especially when I mentioned in my first Voice Blog that it actually goes against my nature to write any of the things I'm writing down because theater is so ephemeral that once we state something as a fact it is in the next moment discredited. But...the further truth, in this sense of the ephemeral, is that we as voice professionals or theater artists must believe in change because we really don't know who we will be teaching or what discoveries will be made that will make that teaching easier. We must do the best that we can when we're in the room with our students, but...we also must be open to change.
Berry also sets out her goal, as Lessac did in his summation of his book, in regards to why some of us feel the need to teach voice and speech to actors: "What seems to me important is that we in the theatre retain the power to excite people with language; it should not be owned by the educated and/or those who rule, so we must awaken peoples' ears to the pleasure of verbal communication -- to it's music and to it's cultural diversity, for I do believe that there is a generation now which has not experienced this, and I think that this is because the culture has more to do with visual than with aural stimuli." (285)
Berry's touchstones of her work continue in this conclusion: balance, and specifically the balance "between what is ordinary and what is extreme, between entering the image in its extravagance yet not sounding false or melodramatic." (286)
The controversial aspects of voice work are discussed by Berry in this conclusion, the almost Orwellian conversation of "Are we losing our vocal history?" because she had found that in her work in China that it didn't take very long for the students there to lose thousands of years of vocal history simply by an edict of a dictator who thought all their past culture should be thrown out.
Later in this conclusion, Berry spends some time outlining the English vocal history and her own addition to that history: which was to find a new balance between the old tradition and the Method Acting Style popularized in the early 20th Century and now pervades the scripts written for film and stage. The essence of this exploration by Berry is found in the quote: "...to find a bridge between naturalism and extravagance." (290)
Berry then launches into her work with prisoners and Shakespeare, which, of course, from my own work, peaked my interest. I found her discoveries to be the same as my own. In that population, the subversiveness of language and its power when one surrenders to the surprises is monumental. In this she also outlined her process of teacher/coaching pretty succinctly: "The first puts us in touch with the sound and the music, for each language has its own, and is of itself capable of arousing our emotions. The second perspective, the rough end as it were, puts us in touch with the need to speak." (292)
Lastly, Berry touches on culture and its development in the choice of a standardized sound for class purposes. She acquiesces to the acceptance of new sounds opening up the possibility for story-telling and interpretation; continuing her theme of working towards a balance between the old tradition and the ever-pulsating new tradition.
This conclusion ends with a reiteration of the change that is ever-present and inherent in this work and she reminds us that as teachers we must stay relevant to these sounds and incorporate them or we will lose our students' trust.
Last time we talked to Patsy in her book THE RIGHT TO SPEAK: WORKING WITH THE VOICE, Ian McKellan let us know that Patsy always says that it is what we say rather than how we say it that is important. Patsy also talked about her journey to becoming a voice professional, which included her continued journey to overcome her fear of public speaking and her shyness (which, of course, from my own background made me love her all the more). She also mentioned that beneath our habits/fears/barriers are the colors and wonders of our voice.
The Final Chapter of Patsy Rodenburg's THE RIGHT TO SPEAK: WORKING WITH THE VOICE, entitled "Working Further with the Voice" is the longest and the most thorough conclusion to a book I had every read, until I read the conclusion to her next book, which is twice as long, and twice as thorough. I'll take a moment here to comment on the fact that my writing of this blog was slowed down by the fact that Ms. Rodenburg is so thorough. It makes me laugh a little to see how the personalities of each voice professional I am reading for my, now epic kinesthetic journey, are so different, and it has become endlessly fascinating to me to try and solidify their beliefs into my own. Their writing style and their approach to teaching are succinct on one hand (Berry) and epic on another (Rodenburg), however, both perspectives are so necessary to read, practice, and teach, because the students that I have and will encounter are twinned in that same diversity.
Much like Berry, Rodenburg's final chapter of this book almost feels like cheating because she outlines for the student such a thorough understanding of her praxis. I also feel for those who have studied her, and want a 'refresher' will simply have to read this chapter to be fully reminded of the breadth of her work. Rodenburg summarizes everything an actor or a voice coach needs to do in order to keep their voice or to maintain their trained voice thus allowing the actor or teacher to accomplish any of the really "hard" things they are supposed to do in any given script, i.e. crying, screaming, laughing, etc. The quote to her final heading in this chapter entitled "Some Final Thoughts" succeeds in this summary really well: "...the main things to always keep foremost in your mind are: how your voice works naturally; how habits prevent it from working; where habits have taken root both inside and out and how these habits can be brought under control...Voice work requires vigilance and a ceaseless desire to explore yourself and your physical make-up. It also takes courage." (299)
So, this chapter was almost 50 pages, and a lot is covered in those 50 pages, which are truly inspiring, but I'll try to stick to some highlights that help the process at hand: Which is to marry my past voice and speech training with my certification in a new pedagogy (Catherine Fitzmaurice's Method).
In my last Voice Blog I mentioned that Fitzmaurice is one of the few voice practitioners that wants you, the student or future teacher, to bring your past work with you to your understanding of her work, which is partly why I have given myself this little blog assignment, and Kristin Loree, the woman who is training me, has encouraged this exploration as well, so...I am plugging away at this gargantuan task of re-reading several texts slowly to create some synergy with my new discoveries in Fitzmaurice.
Anyway, back to Rodenburg.
She starts this final chapter exploring the necessary freedom for dialect work, she also discusses how to really be a whole-to-part learner in this work because it doesn't do to just phonetically mimic the work. "If you are going to sound convincing with an accent you should be able to read it 'off the text', that is, converse in it. Most actors make the mistake of being accurate only with the text they speak. They can sound frigid because they have not genuinely warmed to the accent." (253)
I appreciated the fact that she discussed when it was okay to compromise an accent because when I have done dialect coaching, and a student is new to it, they really want to create a dialect that is "accurate," and they typically get mad at me when I give them notes on clarity. It will be nice to have this very detailed bullet-pointed list as to when and why a performer should 'compromise' a dialect close at hand when I need to provide that performer with another perspective to back up my argument.
It was also fascinating that she discussed how to do glottal attacks without really doing glottal attacks because some accents (specifically Brooklyn) call for that "bad habit", and when you're trying to break the voice student of that habit, they, again, typically, get angry when something seems inconsistent in your note-giving. I didn't remember this technique from my earlier reading of this text, and now that I've experienced this problem when I'm a dialect coach; it will be nice to have a method to use in those instances that won't seem like I'm contradicting other notes of not doing a glottal attack.
I welcomed her section on "Listening" with open arms because I always say 90% of acting is listening and the rest is homework. Rodenburg says: "I think that a good voice and good speech come as much from listening as from anywhere else." (254) I tried out her exercise on pages 255-256 in regards to Listening on my high school and middle school sections of Musical Theater and they really enjoyed it. These "native users" of technology have really been denied the simple joys of just sitting and listening. Their ears seemed hungry for this activity, and I found that their creativity in rehearsal was much better after this exercise, only going to prove myself and Rodenburg right...
Next Patsy goes on to summarize her rules for a warm-up, much as Berry did in her own summary of her Voice Text. The purpose of Patsy's was "...In principle a warm-up is simple. The aim is to stretch, flex, oil and warm all the working parts of the voice and speech apparatus." (256) She then gives a basic routine, as though you didn't read the book, but...so very helpful. She adds that the basic warm-up should stay the same because it helps concentration, but that adaptations should be made if there are extenuating circumstances such as nerves before a performance, a larger space, heightened text, dead acoustic spaces, language-based plays, musicals, television and film (this adaptation made me laugh a bit because of its inherent "easiness"), crying, shouting, cursing, screaming, laughing, singing, chorus speaking, sight reading/cold readings and voice-over work. Lovingly, she goes on to give the reader/student the rules and regulations for each and every one of the the adaptations I just listed. Again, I will mention, this is the most thorough conclusion to a book I have ever read because it's almost as if you don't have to read the whole book to get the gist and the gift of Patsy's method.
So, all in all, I think the theme to this very long conclusion is the subheading on page 283: "Assessing Vocal Demands and Preparing for Them." She starts this section with an Assessment Section and launches into, again, a very thorough description of the rules and regulations for caring for the voice as well as diagnosing and dealing with any problems with the voice. (I'll add that this section is very similar to Lessac's, but very British in its sense William S. Gilbert satirization of "Protocol".)
In one of her last sections, Rodenburg discusses the training of Voice Coaches (ah, the very thing I'm doing right now) and she starts this summary with: "...extended professional voice users and students and teachers preparing for a career in voice work. All other speakers can be effective and efficient with their voices without going further into these more athletic areas of training. Any voice, I believe, can be rapidly changed and improved within weeks for the average range of vocal tasks. It takes longer, however, to train and mould a first class professional voice for acting, singing and public speaking. It is even harder, I think, to train good teachers of the voice." (294) ...Well, well, well, I agree...I have seen and experienced many voice teachers, and, for the most part, they were all good, but without all of them, I might be lost. That is to say, I wouldn't be able to be a teacher of voice without the many perspectives I've been blessed and lucky enough to experience. Each teacher has given me one or two things I continue to use in my own praxis of voice training for the stage, but if I had stuck to one pedagogy, I don't think I would be able to reach the many different kinds of students I've already had and the many more I'm going to meet.
One really awe-inspiring things about the very end of this very long conclusion to this book is her advice to future trainers on pgs. 297-298; she even gives us a timeline for "normal" students, "exceptional" students, and "troublesome" students. I also like that she gives a concise curriculum for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd years of training. In undergrad I had 4 years of voice/speech training, and the first three subscribed to Patsy's prescription pretty well. The fourth year focused on many of the adaptations that Patsy laid out to the warm-up earlier in the chapter, especially dialects. Anyway, it was a long summary, but I was still inspired by the last sentence..."It also takes courage..." (299)
When last we were examining Patsy's other book THE NEED FOR WORDS: VOICE AND THE TEXT, she simply let us know that this was a companion book to her Voice book and that we should "know and trust words." I also mentioned that I liked her concept that it is usually the words we fear that are often the ones that free us.
The final chapter of Patsy Rodenburg's THE NEED FOR WORDS: VOICE AND THE TEXT, entitled "Working Further with Texts", as promised, was just as long, in fact, longer, than the final chapter of Patsy's previous book THE RIGHT TO SPEAK. Over 100 pages of Patsy's very thorough style was here to enjoy. I will try my very best to be succinct in the writing of my attempt to synthesize this perspective with my new perspective, but...I'm dubious that even I, with my epic/wandering writing style will be capable of this...well...a challenge, to say the least, will embark now.
Patsy ends this 100+ page chapter with: "In fact, it is a good place to both end what I have to say and give you the speaker one final challenge of matching your voice with a text." (263) That text is Aphra Behn's epilogue to SIR PATIENT FANCY spoken by the character Mrs. Gwynn. This speech is the conclusion to Rodenburg's book and her last section entitled "Prologues and Epilogues".
Ms. Rodenburg defines epilogues as "...either an excuse or a good reason for the play...it often serves to tell the audience what they have learnt." (263) So, in her clever way, Ms. Rodenburg is ending her book with the very thing that her whole book was about: finding a way to marry the discoveries the student of acting has made about their voice and applying it to the challenging writing that makes up the history of theater, and, since that history is long, this final chapter, will, naturally, be long.
Mrs. Gwynn's speech from Aphra Behn's SIR PATIENT FANCY is in iambic pentameter, has many different rhyming couplets, discusses female writers (which is still strangely controversial today), has complicated beats, interesting assonances, summarizes the play, and plays heavily on comedic antithesis. A challenging speech to end a challenging chapter...so...on I go with the 'challenge' of summarizing a chapter whose theme is, indeed, 'challenge'.
I do find it 'challenging' to move from the joys of freedom found in any good voice exercise to text. It often feels foreign and fake. I am comforted by the fact that most of my colleagues experience this 'fake' feeling as well. Though, when I do find a great text exercises that alleviate the challenge of this 'fake' bridge from voice to text, I feel liberated, as does my voice and the text I'm reciting.
Patsy's entire chapter entitled "Working Further with Texts" details each of those challenges that often feel 'fake' to the liberated/free voice with wonderful exercises that feel like voice exercises and not 'fake' speech exercises. "The voice and the text should marry. One is mutually dependent on the other for sound and sense. One ought to partner and support the other in any speaking act. A voice that is lost or uncommitted loses connection with a text. A text that eludes us will never find a voice...Not only must a marriage take place between the voice and the word in order to release a text, but the great juggling act in speaking a text magnificently is the further marriage between two clear tensions in the text: the overall structure and style of the writing and your very own personal association to words and images." (154)
The second important thing about this chapter is how she talks about the actor's relationship not only to their voice, but to the writer. Each challenge she details in its own section on style is almost like a dance that the actor must learn to partner appropriately with that writer and that writing style. "The first tension could be described as the speaker's respect for the writer's skill, the way a writer marries words and sentences together. All good writing is skillfully wrought. You play the text the way a musician plays a score adding your own unique expression and emphasis as a crucial ingredient to an imaginative act already in action on the page...The second tension is when the speaker's own experience and creativity must emerge without imposing too heavily on a writer's achievements. Your voice blends with that of the writer. Every individual's connection to a word is unique and this area of work normally satisfies actors more than the first half of the marriage: respect for the writer's words." (154)
So...this marriage has many obstacles and Patsy touches all of them and gives exercises to train the voice to have the ability to overcome those obstacles. These obstacles that she provides protocol to are: poetry, verse, and rhetorical devices. She then launches into the bulk of the chapter, which outlines exercises for writers and the style they write within. These include: Shakespeare (pgs. 167-208); Medieval Verse (pgs. 208-211); Christopher Marlowe (pgs. 211-213); John Milton (pgs. 213-215); Jacobean texts (pgs. 215-223); Alexander Pope and his Age (pgs. 223-227); Restoration dialogue (pgs. 227-233); Oscar Wilde (pgs. 233-235); George Bernard Shaw (pgs. 236-239); Greek Tragedy (pgs. 240-245); Edward Bond (pgs. 245-248); William Blake (pgs. 248-250); Samuel Beckett (pgs. 250-253); Harold Pinter/any writer who utilizes sub-text (pgs. 253-257); Lyricists (pgs. 257-259); Bad Texts (pgs. 260-261); and Prologues and Epilogues (pgs. 262-264).
It would be impossible for me to summarize and synthesize all that Patsy outlines so thoroughly in these above-mentioned sections, but I will add some highlights because I think her approach provides me, an emerging voice professional with some handy tools that can inform Fitzmaurice's "Re-structuring".
In "The Poetry Barrier" section Patsy writes that poetry is a 'need' not a 'want' and should be approached as a 'need' and not a barrier. "Whenever our life is in a state of crisis or severe deprivation we find we need poetry. It cuts to the roots of our dilemma more clearly than wordy prose. As a means of exposure it is instantly naked. Acute images speak for themselves. I think we need poetry at certain times of our lives. We harbour a secret wish for it and probably resort to it more than we know...The poet explores and refines the process of emotional articulateness under stress by choosing images, line length, rhythm, rhyme and repetition to create a linguistic scaffolding so that the full intensity of an emotion can be contained, focused and then powerfully released...An American director I know always says that you can tell whether or not Shakespeare trusts a character's humanity because only those with the greatest compassion use poetic images with complete ease. Poetry for them is neither empty nor laboured. Its need is instantly felt." (159)
In rhetorical devices Rodenburg discusses them as adventures, not as something that is archaic. Thinking of rhetorical devices as games instead of boring text work would definitely make the training of "native" technology uses easier. So, in essence, she details exercises for Anacoluthons, Antithesis, Alliterations, Assonances, Circumlocutions, Climaxes/Ladders, Consonances, Echoisms, Emphasis, Euphonies, Onomatopoeias, and Puns, that would allow the actor to find them in "challenging" texts and make them their own. These rhetorical skills are especially important in texts where the sword and the wit are respected equally.
In her lengthy sections on Shakespeare, Patsy details rules of the text, exercises with his sonnets, verse, prose, and his verse duets. I think all of these sections are extremely useful to the student, teacher, director, and Shakespeare scholar, but she helps me in my current synthesizing exercise with this quote: "It is generally agreed that Shakespeare's plays and sonnets explore with enormous compassion and variety all the great dilemmas facing human beings in conflict. Nothing about the human psyche and human action seemed to escape either his interest or understanding. When we speak Shakespeare's words today they sound as fresh and meaningful as the day they were written. These aspects in themselves are amazing. But for our specific concerns there is more. He was a magnificent wordsmith who always matched the needs of the voice with those of the text." (167)
The next sections with Medieval Verse, Marlowe, Milton, Jacobean Dramas, and Alexander Pope did not have any highlights, just wonderful exercises and advice.
In the section on Restoration Drama, which I love, though I have never performed professionally (though I studied it in undergrad) had a lovely quote that I can use in my future as a voice professional: "I suspect anyone living in this age, the early eighteenth century, who was not successful with words rapidly dwindled from the scene and out of all the important social circles for lack of a voice. The need for words must have been crucial." (227)
There were also many exercises and clever pieces of advice in the Restoration Section and the next sections on Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw. I so appreciated Ms. Rodenburg's stance on Wilde and Shaw because she mentions that their writing depends largely on status and lives in dialect. I have seen some eye-gouging-inducing conceptual productions that lack dialect and thus lack the writers' and the performers' need for the text. "All the texts in this section, from the Restoration through Shaw, are generally meant to be spoken in Received Pronunciation or Standard English. Not to comply with this can send an audience storming out of the theatre in horror...I look at it this way. All these plays are examining and confronting the higher echelons of a class system. All the characters speak with confidence because of their education and background. They have the right to speak and need each word they say. These characters not only wanted to speak, but the wanted to sound fashionable - their version of a right way to speak. Above all they want to impress us, make us listen. That right and freedom would originally produce a free forward and effortless sound arguably close to RP." (239)
The sections on Greek Tragedy, Edward Bond, William Blake, Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter, Lyrics, Bad Texts, and Prologues/Epilogues, again, did not have any major highlights or discoveries for me, but did contain the necessary exercises and advice to make my voice profession work smoother in these areas.
To finally finish the challenge to summarize/synthesize 100+ pages, I'll end with this lovely quote from Ms. Rodenburg: "To marry both forms of speaking the text you will need enormous intellectual and emotional energy: an athletic vocal technique, a spirit willing to experiment and experience sound and sense, a full generosity to share all with an audience by exposing the secret of the texts form and power." (156)
Linklater's FREEING THE NATURAL VOICE is where we journeyed next in my last Voice Blog, and when we journeyed there I started with the quote, "The natural voice is transparent - revealing, not describing, inner impulses of emotion and thought, directly and spontaneously. The person, is heard, not the person's voice." (2) I also mentioned that up until now, Linklater was the voice pedagogy that I was the most familiar with and that the thrust of her work to create an "Emotionally/physically/psychologically integrated speaker" was the vocabulary I was the most comfortable with. However, after begin this re-reading of texts that I read in concert with the practice of her work, I find that her goal is no different from Lessac's "Vocal Life", Berry's "Complicated Mixture", and Rodenburg's "Colors and Wonders".
In Chapter 19 "Observations and opinions on voice and acting" from FREEING THE NATURAL VOICE by Kristin Linklater (1976 edition...because I'm aware that her newest edition has a very different conclusion, and not one that is an improvement, unfortunately, maybe another Voice Blog will be dedicated to this newest edition) Ms. Linklater begins this final chapter with a problem/solution argument. Problem: "In general the problem about "voice and acting" is: How does an actor work on his or her voice with self-awareness and a conscious desire to improve its function and at the same time act, or learn to act, with unself-conscious absorption in the character and the situation of the play?" (192) Solution: "Ideally the result is the integration of person and voice." (192)
Linklater then proceeds to talk about how a voice teacher goes about making this solution happen by defining what a voice teacher is: "A voice teacher essentially deals with five different areas of voice work: training, "band-aid," coaching, development of skills, and experimental work." (193) She then goes on to define training, "band-aid," coaching, development of skills and experimental work...all of which were very well done, but would take too long to quote here, but, essentially she goes about, continuing the "solution" theme, making the "solution" happen by diagnosing and solving any problems that may come up with the voice from tension to a loss of the voice (Dysphonia). I will note here that Ms. Linklater has some very interesting opinions on Dysphonia that I'm not sure everyone would agree with, but...I might use them in the future because this "I have no voice" excuse happens too often when I'm directing, and her solution seems very logical.
Her next "solution" to an "integrated person and voice" is through a four-year ideal/unrealistic (her words not mine) acting program. Much like Rodenburg, Linklater leaves the reader with a curriculum for four-years (as opposed to Rodenburg's three), but I'm assuming this is for what Rodenburg calls the "normal" student. It was also funny to read this, supposed, "unrealistic" prescription to a four-year program because some of the things Ms. Linklater calls "unrealistic" happened in my own four-year undergraduate acting program, i.e. the not being in a production for the first two years of the program. So, I guess, this is not such an "unrealistic" prescription.
The main thrust of her four-year program is to release/reprogram (much like Lessac's reeducating idea) the actor to "...remove habitual controls, to recognize and learn to follow impulses, to trust vulnerability, to explore and become familiar with different emotional conditions, and to begin to know how to enter and inhabit the interior world of self." (203)
The last thing she discusses in this chapter is her academic work in trying to integrate sound and movement earlier in the process of an actor's training. This is the portion of the chapter that I found the most eyebrow raising for my Fitzmaurice journey. It seems as though Ms. Linklater's desire for this sound and movement integration was solved and is currently being practiced and taught by Ms. Fitzmaurice and her certified teachers.
I starred a section in this last chapter of FREEING THE NATURAL VOICE, in regards to this sound and movement idea, that said, "The first stages of such work should seem like self-indulgent play, on the principle that until you have given pleasure to yourself it is hard to know what you are giving to others...The first process is the one that interests me the most, as it promises the expansion of the actor into an augmented state of energy that can provide for spectators the electric experience that draws them to a desire for their own expansion. This magnetic power is the reason, I believe, for theatre as an art form." (208) Fitzmaurice's work, which is, inspired by the work of Wilhelm Reich's with the orgasm (which, naturally, is the buzz word for what Linklater is calling 'pleasuring yourself'). At the beginning of this "The End" Voice Blog, I looked up several words I thought were "code words" for understanding Reich/Fitzmaurice's work and one of those was "Bioelectric" (of or relating to electric phenomena in animals and plants). Another was "Psychogalvanic" (Breath/Life/Soul = of or relating to producing a direct current of electricity in our breath, our life, our soul...). And, to refresh our memories from the beginning of this blog, the quote from Reich's writing, which was: "It is only biological pleasure, accompanied by the sensation of current and sensualness, that produces an increase in the bioelectric charge. All other excitations, pain, light, anxiety, pressure, vexation, depression, are accompanied by a reduction of surface charge of teh organism." (Reich, 376)
I also mentioned, earlier at the beginning of this long blog, that if sexual excitation and 'presence' are the same thing, then the electric charge from the skin on the human body could be the very thing that creates "chemistry" on stage and that weird ability I talked about in my "Invisible" blog that allows you to "sense" your acting partner and the audience. So, I guess I can conclude that what Fitzmaurice has created with her "De-Structuring" movement and voice work are exercises that not only do the release and reprogramming that Linklater gives as a "solution" to the voice "problem", but Fitzmaurice also does with that prescription Linklater was hoping for in regards to her academic studies on Sound and Movement. Ms. Linklater believed in her 1976 edition of her book that this "electricity" that she was finding in her academic exploration in sound and movement was the thing that theatre needs to survive. "Today's actors, if they are to compete for audiences with the technological powers of film, electronically souped-up music and television, must generate within themselves an electric presence that transcends technological excitement. The power is in there to be tapped, and the expansion of the theatre experience into something once more significant..." (Linklater, 210) I suppose I should add to her list all of the things that my "native users" of technology, current grades 6-12, use on a daily basis such as video gaming consoles, MP3 players, I-Pads, etc. This electronic presence is addictive and if we are to compete with it, theater generalists will have to recognize that theater training, not just in the voice, needs to have more "electricity," and this might include furthering the expansion of projection/sound/lighting design, adding Twitter seats to the back of the theater (American Theater July/August 2012), and anything else that might electrically excite our patrons. I could go on and on about this "electric" aspect to theater, but...it doesn't stay on the topic of voice, so...I'm going to stop this summation of this particular book here.
So...on to the other Linklater text, FREEING SHAKESPEARE'S VOICE... Last time we looked at this book, I raved about its efficacy in performance and alleviating problems in performance. I quoted Ms. Linklater in her belief that Shakespeare is experiential, rather than prescriptive (1) and that he isn't as far removed from our current human experience...he's just larger in our supposed "wrong to express emotions" society. I, lastly, mentioned last time that I loved the idea that Shakespeare has to live in the body...not on the page. Take that Shakespeare Purists!
So...I type with a sigh, we move on to the final chapter, Chapter 13 "Whose Voice? The Man", from FREEING SHAKESPEARE'S VOICE by Ms. Linklater. Well, I knew this chapter was coming because I remember that when I read this book before, it rocked my world. That at that time, I felt somewhat cheated because it felt like a weird ending. In the years following, my first read, I just ignored this chapter because I remembered hating it and being mad at Ms. Linklater for trashing my blue-collar/American Dream-esque image of the person she calls the "Stratford Man". And...even later, in 2001, ended up doing dramaturgical work on Amy Freed's play THE BEARD OF AVON, which discusses the very thing discussed in this odd conclusion to a voice text: The Authorship Question.
Ms. Linklater argues that knowing who the author is heightens our ability to have an integrated voice ("emotionally/physically/psychologically). She is what academics like to call an Oxfordian; that is, she believes that Edward deVere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, wrote Shakespeare's plays and not the "Stratford Man". There are good arguments to this theory, which I won't bore this Voice Blog with because I don't believe this has anything to do with freeing the voice of Shakespeare or anything to do with the task at hand, which is to integrate my past training with Catherine Fitzmaurice's work. Ms. Fitmaurice hasn't indicated in any of the writings I've read that she thinks knowing the playwright's history helps, so...let's just end this supposed conclusion to this otherwise helpful book, here...
The other books I talked about in my first voice blog from Edith Skinner to Anne Bogart/Tina Landau/Mary Overlie's Viewpoints do not have conclusions, so I will just add them to the future blogs that will continue in a more linear fashion. Thank you for your patience in this long blog, and I hope those of you that are reading, will continue on my Voice Adventure.