'How Plays Work'

David Edgar, the English playwright (http://www.doollee.com/PlaywrightsE/edgar-david.html) has a new book out, “How Plays Work” published by Nick Hern.  You can read a section here http://tinyurl.com/lo7ygc in the form of an article in the Guardian newspaper.  You can also listen to Edgar being interviewed about the book, and about his attitude to teaching playwrighting here http://tinyurl.com/ltqeqt.

As actors, we can be too precious about what we need to know about how plays are written, how they are structured (or not), and why. I do think it is important to understand how plays work, as long as we recognise that the craft of writing a play involves acquiring certain skills and techniques while the craft of performing in a play requires a different set of skills and techniques.  That said, I believe that playwrights and actors – in fact, all those involved in creating performance – benefit from the ability to analyse a play in a variety of ways.

It's all decided!

Yes, I’ve finally decided what I want to be when I grow up – nah, only joking.

I have decided, though, that the Acting Class Term 3 will run for 6 (that’s SIX) sessions, beginning on August 23 and finishing on September 27. We will work on a different Archetype each week, that means six Archetypes, with a good 3 hours each week to get them deeply experienced in the body, and deeply sounded in the voice. Boy, will we have Some Fun!

Hope to see you there…  if I can ever get RapidWeaver to publish the revised information. So, here is the deal:

Term 3

Sunday 23 August to Sunday 27 September
9.00 am to 12.30 pm
Metro Arts
109 Edward St, Brisbane, Qld, Australia
Cost: AU$315 (6 sessions)
Earlybird AU$280 (if paid by 1 August, 2009)
(Limited Places)
This term the emphasis will be on discovering characters, exploring a wide variety of physical and vocal qualities by working with six different Archetypes over six sessions.
Contact Being in Voice to enquire or to book your place.


allows you to playfully tap into the power of your inner life, learning how to release creative impulses safely, wholeheartedly, joyfully, as you discover a huge range of physical and vocal possibilities, and apply them to any text with specificity. Creating characters then comes naturally as you unlock the key to the treasure chest of your physical and vocal imagination.


is a physical and vocal training discipline that combines body, mind and spirit with voice.

Using exercises derived from mask work, we explore a range of physical and vocal qualities in order to access the Archetypes within us all*. When applied to performance of text, Archetypes offer a means of comprehending with body, heart and mind, and consequently being able to take advantage of the intrinsic instability, or paradox which is at the core of life, which the actor strives to embody in performance and which audiences recognize as ‘truthful’, ‘real’ and ‘spontaneous’.


Archetypes (Arche – original; type – pattern) are unique yet universal ideas of ways of being human, recognizable in myths and folk tales from all cultures throughout the known world and from our dreams. The Archetype is not a particular, living (or even one-time living) human being, but rather a familiar, yet heightened idea of a human being, from which we may categorize each other, our friends and enemies, dream figures and iconographic ideals. Unlike stereotypes, which can be defined as fixed, unvarying forms, embodying oversimplified conceptions of ways of being, Archetypes retain a quality of being somehow ultimately indefinable, while being instantly recognizable. It is this paradox of the Archetype that provides the actor with the ability to ‘be’ the character s/he is playing without ever ‘not being’ him or her true self.

* This work is based on the teachings of John Wright (“The Masks of the Archetypes”) and Frankie Armstrong (“The Voices of the Archetypes”). I have taken it further to incorporate working with text.

Email me at fkennedy@being-in-voice.com to book your place.

Change is a-foot

If you have visited the website lately, you will have noticed that the timetable for next term’s Acting Class keeps changing.  Well, it’s about to change again, because I have now been advised by Metro Arts that they have a room for us right through till the end of November.  So, I’m now thinking about whether we will have a break (those who decide to join the Class for both terms) or whether we won’t. In either case, we’ll be having a lot of fun.

I’m off to Seattle next week, then to New York for the VASTA conference, where the main presenters will be Catherine Fitzmaurice, Kristen Linklater and Patsy Rodenburg, with Arthur Lessac giving the Keynote Speech. Can you imagine a richer feast of Voices on Voice?

I will be presenting a performance of The Fall of June Bloom: A Modern Invocation. We (my fellow presenters and I) have been rehearsing online, it’s quite an adventure. Imagine, if you will, being real and imagined in real and virtual space and time, in three different time zones. Up till now it has always been the case that where my colleagues are rehearsing in the afternoon and evening, I am already in tomorrow morning.  But when I get to Seattle, I will be an hour behind John, who is two hours behind Judi and Micha. Weird. It shouldn’t matter. But it does.

Ruminating on Rodenburg

Before I head off to the States to attend the VASTA conference, I thought I would re-read Patsy Rodenburg’s book The Actor Speaks, as she will be one of the guest presenters at the conference.

“An unfettered voice, powered by breath and free of tension, is the ideal we strive for from the first day of class” (p5)

Lots to think about, just in that one sentence. The word ‘unfettered’ pings out at me with the image of fetters, or chains, falling away, leaving the voice, finding itself released from the dungeon, rubbing its (metaphorical, of course) wrists and ankles, standing up to stretch itself, feeling all its joints aching as it tries to move for the first time in a long time, blinded by the sunlight as it stumbles into the open, smelling the fresh scent of pine needles, relishing the access to all of its senses, realising just how deprived it has been – not just of movement – but of the sights and sounds and tastes and textures it had been missing.

Just what those fetters were made of, who put them in place and threw away the key, is still open to debate.  There is general agreement (I believe) that society, culture and family expectations impact upon growing babies/children, who learn to hold back emotions, to frame their utterances and to interact with others in accordance with accepted behaviours, and they (we) do that by unconsciously developing habitual physical tensions in the body. These physical tensions are what the voice gurus, Rodenburg included, would have us ‘unlearn’.

To be “free of tension” sounds like a wonderful thing. It can also sound quite threatening, especially to anyone who understands that it means changing the habits of a lifetime, habits which feel suspiciously like ‘who, and what I am’.  It certainly doesn’t mean letting go of every muscle in the body so that you look and feel like a bundle of rags lying on the floor. So let me be clear: aim, or strive to be free from unnecessary tension in the body, or even more precisely, as free as one can be from specific physical tensions which are inappropriate or unnecessary at any given moment.  Rodenburg’s exercises

These exercises, or others like them, such as those of Linklater, Fitzmaurice, Berry or Lessac, will help you do that. They won’t help you if you don’t know why.  Ignorance is another form of tension.  They won’t change you into someone you are not. Being aware of the actual tensions in your body, and being able to release those tensions at will enables you to change your behaviour patterns, and hence to undertake behaviours which are not your norm, but which are the norms of the various characters you are called upon to play.

That the voice is “powered by breath” is undeniably true. No Breath = No Voice.  I would go further, not because I know more about the anatomy and the science than Rodenburg does – I don’t – but I believe if we think of the outgoing breath and the voice as being ONE AND THE SAME, rather than one thing powered by another, or created by another, then we have a physical sensation integral to an image/understanding of the voice as being the power and the thing itself. Does that make sense?  I’m thinking on the hop here, listening to Jeff Buckley singing “Lilac Wine” as I write.

Think about it. The voice is a matter of sound waves, sound waves are impulses propelling air molecules through space. Jeff Buckley’s pure sound is indistinguishable from the breath coming from his body. If I hear breath as well as vocal sound I hear something not quite as ‘true’, and certainly not as healthy for the long term life of the voice. Oh, so sad, if only he had waited…

But I digress.

“An unfettered voice, powered by breath and free of tension, is the ideal we trive for from the first day of class”.

Yes, the really important thing to understand is that we continue to strive for that ideal. Achieving it is not the point, as long as we strive.

And that reminds me, bookings are open for Term 3 of The Acting Class. See you there!