Voice: body and breath

Yesterday, I went along to ASU with my friend and colleague Associate Professor Micha Espinosa, to attend her advanced voice class at ASU.

What a joy!  With a mat, a small zafu and a small yellow ball, for two hours we rolled, relaxed, observed, breathed, voiced, observed, sighed, trembled, stretched and relaxed some more. This was Fitzmaurice Voicework par excellence, with Micha’s personal injection of joy and intensity.  Like most Fitzmaurice teachers, Micha incorporates and adapts exercises from other methodologies and invents her own as the need arises.  It was wonderful to allow myself to relax into student/performer mode, and indulge myself in the activities.

The next class was a group of 20 undergraduate students, a beginners’ class, and unfortunately for her, but luckily for me, the scheduled teacher had a bad bout of laryngitis, so I was invited to run the class.  I introduced them to Ira Seidenstein’s Core Mechanics,  and my version of the Vocal Function exercises.

Time and time again I found myself quoting Dame June Bloom, rephrasing my own character creation, as I explained the function and purpose of the various exercises, the relevance to performance itself – as against just being an exercise.  Hopefully some of the students will be encouraged to come and enjoy the Thunder’s Mouth Theatre show at the Phoenix Fringe.

I now realise all the links to my handouts were broken when I transferred this blog over from WordPress.com to my own hosted site with WordPress.org.  It will take me a while to get them all back up, but in the meantime, here are the Core Mechanics.


Exploring Archetypes = Exploring Your Self

Yesterday’s workshop at ASU was intense, and fun


Ten participants, 6 hours of intensive work. We managed to explore 5 archetypes – Hero, Huntress, Child, Fool and Maiden.

I work with the Archetypes as devised by John Wright for mask training. John uses masks to engender movement qualities, extending the performer’s physical vocabulary. As one of the participants pointed out yesterday, you find yourself moving in ways you would never normally think you could.

Frankie Armstrong has also worked with John, developing the Voices of the Archetypes (There is an audio cassette available, with Frankie and John working together, but I can’t find it online. Worth hunting for). Frankie utilises story-telling and especially motifs from mythology to create imagined worlds for the students to inhabit, and she leads the students into vocal experimentation that is deeply liberating.  Frankie has also worked with Janet B. Rodgers to produce a book, Acting and Singing with Archetypes, rich with exercises for  applying the concept of Archetypes to text work.

My own work has evolved since I trained with John and Frankie, in a slightly different direction to that taken by Frankie Armstrong and Janet Rodgers.  I like to encourage students to transform between the Archetypes, and to discover that place of ‘unknowingness’ that occurs somewhere in between. It’s hard to describe, but once you’ve experienced it, you recognise it as an instant of complete openness and vulnerability. It’s pretty scary!

I introduce each Archetype by describing the mask, using Frankie Armstrong’s description of John Wright’s actual masks (on the audio cassette). The students are invited to imagine these features as their own, and then to explore how their bodies respond to the facial features they now support. We then explore movement, sound, and text from the physicality and perspective of those bodies.

Archetypes are ways of being human. They don’t actually exist, they are ideas that seem to be hard-wired into our brains, or woven into the fibre of our being. We recognise the idea of an archetype when it manifests in a particular person, or story. For example, after introducing Hero to the workshop yesterday, but before identifying the mask, one student commented that he thought he was Hugh Jackman.  Of course, Hugh Jackman is a real person, and an actor, but he is known to play heroic characters, and we recognise the qualities of the Archetype of Hero that those characters have in common.

So, lots of fun to be had, along with some extremely challenging and intense practice.  There are no quick fixes here, until the training is well embedded into the body. I wish my Phoenix students much joy and many exciting challenges as they continue their explorations into the Archetypes.

There is a handout available here with an essay on the nature of Archetypes, and some descriptions of the masks.

Acting Workshop in Phoenix – Voice and the Archetypes

I arrived in Phoenix, Arizona on Saturday, after a 12 hour flight with Qantas and a one hour flight with South West Airlines.  Essentially, I am here with my theatre company, Thunder’s Mouth Theatre, to perform my show The Fall of June Bloom (or What You Will) for the Phoenix Fringe Festival, however there are some other fringe benefits to this trip as well. (This Fringe has a Fringe!)

For one thing, we are performing first at Estrella Mountain Community College, as part of the Arizona Women’s History Month celebrations.  We haven’t been mentioned on the website, I’ll get that attended to asap!  Our show takes place at 10.00 am on Thursday 24th March, in the Plaza Gallery, just before the EMCC Women’s Leadership Luncheon, which I am also attending.

Before that, though, I will be providing a workshop for graduate MFA students at Arizona State University, Tempe Campus, on Voice and the Archetypes, a full day of intensive training from 10 am to 5 pm (lunch included).  It’s pretty well booked up, but we might be able to squeeze a couple more enthusiastic actors in, if you speak very nicely to Associate Professor Espinosa!

David, Fiona and Melissa exploring Archetypes in The Acting Class

Theatre as Protest Alive and Well

There’s an interesting and provocative blog post up over at Belt Up Theatre that prompted me to join in.  The tenor of their argument is that if government funding for the arts, arts education and arts training generally dries up, then the arts will dry up.

While I agree with their assertion that artists will find it harder to make a living, and audiences will be harder to attract if the government (aka society itself) refuses to contribute to the very real financial costs of creating and presenting theatre, I can’t agree that theatre will die out.  There have been harder periods for creative artists throughout humanity’s evolution, and still live performance continues to exist, mostly to entertain but frequently to provoke and challenge the powers-that-be.

Much as I value training in the arts, especially as my livelihood depends upon it, I am also aware that actors in particular will keep on acting, creating new performances and sharing them with audiences whether they get paid or not.  Think of the so-called ‘dark ages’, when theatre was totally banned across Europe. Did this mean that there were no performances? I’m not sure of the numbers, but I believe it lasted for around 1000 years, and at the end of it there were still jugglers, singers, dancers, musicians, AND actors available, and skilled up ready to carry on, but this time legally.

Closer to home (chronologically speaking), it is sad but true that some of the most exciting, vivid and effective theatre-making happened in Eastern Europe during their ‘dark ages’ under repressive communistic regimes. Theatre makers don’t give up, they just become more and more ingenious and inventive.  I remember a production of “Lord of the Flies” by the Maly Drama Theatre of St Petersburg which I found, from my Australian/UK cultural background to be quite weirdly literal, was considered by its funding body (the communist government) to be a safe adaptation of a world classic, while its audiences read it as a refreshing indictment upon the politbureau.

Of course we must lobby for decent and adequate funding of the arts, especially for arts education if we want to live in a thoughtful, well-informed society.  One of the ways to do this is to keep on creating theatre that challenges the status quo and the assumptions of the ill-informed that the arts are irrelevant to daily life, and to a healthy society.



Well, it seems to be sorted, with fingers crossed, touching wood and breathing out – often.

I’ve just put up a whole load of links to voicey websites – all in the States, but I’ll suss out a few around Australia for you as well. There are good people out there! (As well as in here 🙂

The discussion is back on track, re my post on “A Breath of Fresh Air”. Wonder if I can provide a link to it in this post, to save you scrolling down to look for it…

Try  THIS.

Let me know how it goes.  I think we also have the email notification system back on track as well.