How to own your voice as an actor.

On the pursuit of harmony between body & speech

Let the feet tell the story: the effect of movement, posture, and grounding on voice

So what are some of the things that affect my voice?

On posture: how balance affects resonance

One of Euclid’s axioms provides a glimpse into how your body affects your voice for ‘things which are equal to the same thing are also equal to one another’ (Euclid, 2013, p. 222). Great performers understand that the body works as a chain of progression, ‘you cannot release the natural voice until you’ve singled out that one flaw, the personal physical trap that triggered the chain reaction’ (Rodenburg, 1992, p. 21). If one muscle is under-utilised, then another will compensate to maintain the equality, even if it is at the expense of integrity. A constricted stomach means the breath cannot travel into the depths of the individual, too much tension in the shoulders lock the ribs from swinging outwardly, and if rounded, causing the neck to compensate by pushing forward, tightening the vocal tract. As the director, I have had to learn how to keep the vocal apparatus working efficiently whilst also being aware of how the biomechanics of the character affect their voice, and how to work around it if the situation demands. Antony Sher’s characterisation of Richard III is a prime example of someone working with a voice coach to maintain his vocal integrity whilst exhibiting some of the most demanding postural characterisations. And there’s the crutch, no great character has a perfect posture, or the perfect voice. It is up to the actor to use what he or she has at their command to adopt the mannerisms and vocal traits of their character at the expense of their own personal integrity; so that they may achieve what Suzuki called universal transformation (Suzuki, 2015, p. 71). Those with trained understanding of voice are aware of what effects these transformations will have on their body and voice, and how they can adapt to it. The result of sub-optimal performances is the tendency for generalisation, and so in the adoption of postural characterisation, which will affect the voice, every movement must be specific and accounted for in releasing the natural voice. With this attention to technique and cognitive understanding the actor can learn to trust his new-found mold. It is only through this trust that his breath can drop and give weight to the words he is about to express. The specificity is a crucial link in allowing the words to have a life of their own; Jung put this technical specificity thusly:

Voice Coach and Founder of Orator | Masters in Voice Studies, The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama | Currently Coaching in London | www.oratorvoice.com

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