Yes, we make funny noises!

It’s true, when we work on our voices, we make sounds we wouldn’t normally make in the course of our everyday lives. That’s because we are extending our range, broadening our capacity, developing our potential. It doesn’t make sense to just sound the way we usually do, after all, that is why we are training in the first place.  And of course, we use our bodies to do it.

So, here is a short film of some of the Being in Voice Acting Class students, generously sharing their process with you as they did some of their own individual warm up in class last week. Mostly they are exploring Fitzmaurice Voicework exercises, but there are other influences present also. Then you will see them playfully exploring some particular Archetypal qualities.

The Acting Class 20 Sept


Wanna be an Actor? or wannabee actor?

Here are some excellent tips for how to present yourself at auditions.  The tipster is Ken Davenport, a highly respected off-Broadway theatre producer.

The Producer’s Perspective

Ken makes the point that many people think they are actors, but there are very few Actors around. The difference is not in the level of talent or training, but in the level of professionalism and commitment that is brought to the process.

I shouldn’t be surprised, or shocked any more at the care-less attitudes I hear about among actors, but I can’t help being hurt when I come across them. Yes, foolish as it sounds, I actually care so much about Theatre that I feel personally offended when I come across examples of disrespect towards it.

Recently I heard about some students (on a respected University degree course) who decided they didn’t need to participate in group assignment work, because they were ‘going to New York’, presumably to find opportunities to let down even more colleagues. Actually, they are in for a very rude awakening if they do make it to the Big Apple hoping to get into a drama college, or to make it on Broadway.

Those of us who care about theatre, and who work to create theatre that is engaging and provocative, entertaining and refreshing, we know that it doesn’t happen without a great deal of hard work, sacrifice, love and patience. It requires people to arrive at rehearsals on time, and to stay till the rehearsal is finished; to take regular classes (arriving at those on time also); to audition over and over without getting frustrated with the auditioners; to put up with boring paid work in order to survive while doing soul-sustaining unpaid work, and to REFUSE to be involved in unpaid work that is not creatively satisfying – because it is not true that any stage work is better than none.  It is bad enough when shallow, mediocre work is presented on our mainhouse, funded stages: we don’t need to add to the agony by dropping our standards to the lowest common demoninator.  This applies whether you are an actor looking for work, or a director looking for actors. Be choosy, be selective, make sure you know the difference between an Actor, and a wannabee.

Oh, I could rant on – and I do – but I guess I’m ‘preaching to the converted’ anyway. So, good on ya! Carry on fighting the good fight! Let’s make some cracking good theatre, together, soon…

Some more Really Useful Blogs

I’m adding a couple of new links, these are fascinating blogs by dedicated actors, teachers and theatre makers.

The Shakespeare Blog offers some great insights into matters of interpretation, and performance techniques on all matter Shakespeare.

The Ottawa Theatre Network is going to be an interesting discussion to follow, as a group of actors and theatre makers set about organising themselves into a force to be reckoned with.

Sterling Lynch is the Ottawa-based actor who is keeping the information flowing for the Ottawa Theatre Network, and his own personal blog offers some insights into the life of a working actor.

Closer to home, take a look at Kate Foy’s blog The Groundling. Kate is former head of Voice at USQ, still a force to be reckoned with on all matters theatre in and around South East Queensland, and all round wise woman.


Janis McGavin on Being an Actor

Last week, I managed to catch up with Janis McGavin, actor, currently on tour around Australia with Monkey Baa in Thursday’s Child. Janis trained with Being in Voice for two years before being accepted into WAAPA. She graduated from the program two years ago, and has since been working as a stand-up comic and professional actor, based in Sydney.

Janis took time out to chat about how she got into acting, and the journey she has been on since going to drama college.

She was battling with a nasty dose of pharyngitis, (throat infection) one of the perils of  the hard-working professional actor when constant travel and late nights take their toll.  I was happy to recommend she start working on the vocal function exercises, which won’t cure an infection, but which can keep the fitness levels up so that the infections don’t last as long.

Janis was too modest to mention it, but actually Thursday’s Child is not ABOUT Tin, the title character. It is actually about Tin’s sister Harper, (played by Janis) and how she and the rest of her family deal with the challenges of growing up in circumstances of great poverty and hardship in rural Australia.  It is a beautiful play, beautifully produced and with excellent performances throughout.  If this play comes to a theatre near you, don’t miss it.

And now, here is your podcast:

The HERO challenge

The new sessions of The Acting Class began on Sunday morning, with the first of the six Archetypes we will be exploring – one per class.

What is an Archetype? Well, first let me acknowledge that everyone who works with some principle involving Archetypes will do it differently. I begin with John Wright’s Masks of the Archetypes approach, and then play with it my way.

You will do it differently. That is because Archetypes are just ways of being human, ways of recognizing certain ‘types’ of people, ways of recognizing certain aspects of our own ways of being. There is no such thing, in the world, which can be identified as being an actual Archetype, and there is no such person who can, either. You can be a hero, huntress, child, fool etc, but that just means you are manifesting qualities which are recognizable from our mutual idea of what we understand as Hero, Huntress, Child or Fool. These are ‘types’ which occur in the folk tales and songs of cultures throughout the world.

Batman is a hero, just as Hercules, Sigurd, Beowolf, Calamity Jane, and Cathy Freeman are all heroes, real or imagined. Actors are heroes (NOTE to our American colleagues, here in OZ we are non-gender specific with the word ‘actor’).

A hero is an individual who behaves heroically, or does something heroic, and thus we call him a hero, or her (more usually) a heroine. The Archetype, Hero, has become manifest in them, and we recognize the qualities of Hero, and so we call them heroes. Note where I capitalize, and where I don’t.

So, having spent some time on Sunday exploring the physical experience of embodying Hero-like movement qualities, I have challenged the class to practice the exercise, to spend as much time in the coming week in Hero body as they possibly can.

This morning, I went out for a morning walk, before the heat settled in. As I headed down through the streets of Milton, along Park Road to Coronation Drive and back up Cribb Road, I challenged myself to move into Hero movement qualities, feeling the power in my legs, finding myself looking up and out as I walked (instead of my customary watching the ground). My shoulders dropped back, my chin tucked in and I noticed the impulse for propulsion forward in space now very definitely came from my centre of gravity, which was slightly higher than usual, somewhere round the solar plexus region.

It felt pretty good, I can tell you!  Then it lapsed, and I had to focus to regain the sense of equilibrium, it drifted, I brought it back – and then I realised just how much this way of working is analogous to Fitzmaurice tremoring. Just as the tremor is the body’s response to being placed in an impossible dilemma – the muscles begin to shake, and the breath flows in and out at its own pace – so trying to embody an Archetype is an impossible situation, brain and imagination struggle to make sense of the task of achieving an impossible goal, the body responds as best it can and then the magic happens…

The moment you feel LIKE a hero, it seems as if you’ve lost it. Here you are, all Heroic, and yet you’re being asked to do something absolutely ridiculous like hop on one foot, or remember and speak lines. You feel insecure, the only thing you are sure of is that you are ‘wrong’. In fact, you are absolutely on track, because what you feel is what your particular Hero is feeling, i.e. ridiculous. But you want to be Heroic, and sensible, and so you feel embarrassed, even a sense of failure. WOW!!! How cool is that? A hero who is embarrassed, who feels like a failure?

Your task, now, is to keep working to become more and more familiar with the physical movement qualities, to practise BEING in those qualities (just as you would practise speaking in a new language, or a new accent, if you want to become really skilful with it). I’m sitting here at my desk, realising that I am slouching, so I’ve now drawn up my spine, acknowledged my handsomely ridged brow, strong nose and firm mouth, my furrowed cheeks and my cleft chin, and Boy, am I going to defeat a few evil armies before bedtime?

Of course I shall.