Categories
Discussions Exercise Opinion Voice Voice work

How to Love Your Voice.

I have always struggled with calling myself an Elocution Teacher. I worry that it conjures up images of elitist communication captured in Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw in the journey of Eliza Dolittle. I have always felt that it makes me sound like someone who was “fixing” someone and getting them to the “correct” way of speaking and behaving. Like I was some strict, straight backed authoritarian who would tell you right from wrong. This is a world away from the Voice work that I practice and actually seems like this is not a process in which you would learn to love your voice.

Elocution is merely ‘the art of careful public speaking, using clear pronunciation and good breathing to control the voice’ (Cambridge Dictionaries Online). When I look at this dictionary definition, I completely see that this is all incorporated in my voice work. However that is not the entirety of my practice as a Voice Teacher. There is an increasing awareness of authenticity in the way that we communicate. People want to feel like they are heard and communicate in a way that allows them to express themselves freely. They want their voices to be credible and ultimately they want to feel confident. Many of my students seem deeply unhappy with their voice. They are very hard on themselves and feel like their voice lets them down.

Here are just some of the ways I think we can improve our relationship with our voice.

  1. Your Voice is Your Friend

Easier said than done, but I really do believe that telling yourself how your voice should sound and what constitutes a good voice is actually very unhelpful. I always encourage my students to cultivate a mindset of non-judgement. Treat it like a best friend. You would forgive your friends for making small mistakes, you would be fair and you would listen. You would encourage. You wouldn’t call them boring or flat. Imagine your voice is your friend.

  1. Explore your voice with interest.

The elements of our body that we use to speak are fascinating. From your tongue to your diaphragm , your pelvic floor to your shoulders and your jaw to your toes, there is so much to explore. Imagine you are an adventurer who is off to unchartered lands, excited about what they might find.

  1. Listen to your voice.

Whether you are singing in the shower, calling to a mate across a busy road or preparing for a presentation, listen to your voice. With the spirit of non judgement you will hear so much wonderful stuff. I encourage students to find some time to read aloud every day. It might be poetry or the news or stories to your children. Anything. Just get used to the sound of your own voice. Think about it’s shape and colour. What do you like about it? What’s it like hearing yourself?

  1. Don’t let others tell you that your voice isn’t good enough.

This may seem counter intuitive for a voice teacher to be saying this, but I really believe that someone commenting on another person’s voice is really damaging and unhelpful. We wouldn’t pass comment on someone’s appearance or gender so why is it ok to pass comment of your voice? Your voice tells your story. Everywhere you’ve lived, how your mother talked to you, your personal and your professional life. You don’t pick the voice you have but with a bit of love, understanding and work, your voice can flourish and unfold.

  1. Have fun.

Coming at voice work with a sense of play is incredibly helpful. It’s really easy to feel embarrassed and let down by your voice, but what if you were a child discovering your voice for the first time? Find that sense of fun, allow yourself to be taken by surprise by your voice. Voice work can be very funny. It involves making strange sounds and pulling weird faces. It’s incredibly relaxing and rewarding but only if you are willing to have fun.

  1. Breathe

Your voice is as strong as the breath that carries your words to their listener. We regularly take our breathing for granted as supposed to marvelling at the fact that it is an amazing network of muscles, organs and tissue that work together to make our body function. We pick up some pretty unhelpful breathing habits throughout our life. Take some time to bring your attention to your breath. Notice the way it comes into your body. Notice the way the breath travels out. Find that moment when the in breath turns to out breath. You don’t need to tell your body to do this. You don’t need to control it or hold it or push it or suck the breath in. You will just breathe and provide your body with this incredible sense of flow. Each breath is giving you life. It’s the rhythm to which we all live by. It’s reliable and strong and full of opportunity and promise. It’s the foundations that your Voice is built upon.

Felicity Goodman is a Voice Teacher based in Manchester. Please contact her if you interested in Vocal Training. To learn more about the work she does, please visit www.felicitygoodman.co.uk

 

 

Categories
Uncategorized

Back into the community, putting the Shake in Shakespeare.

After working on Just Add Water’s production of Bobby at the Lowry, I have spent the last month working with Physical Folk on a community production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Tom Barry and I co founded Physical Folk while backpacking in New Zealand. Whilst volunteering at Napier Prison, a historical tourist destination, we were asked to develop packages and workshops for schools to engage with. We worked on some short historical films about some of the characters that would have spent time in the prison. We had a lot of fun organising fright night parties for teenagers and workshops for children from 4 to 12. Baking prison food, taking down fingerprints and asking them to spot the ghosts. We started to think about theatre and workshops as a tool for engaging communities.

We have spent the last year developing work in Cheshire, working out what an audience that the professional theatre circuit rarely hits wants to see. We dabbled in both creating pieces for the community to watch and workshops and performances for the community to take part in. We’ve found wonderful support from loyal and enthusiastic members of the local community and now we arrive at a 70s inspired ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream has a cast of 15 diverse actors from the community in and around Northwich. The cast age range is 15-69 and they are as different from each other in character and experiences as Mickey Mouse and Germaine Greer. They have worked hard, taken risks and met challenges head on. They have put in hours of rehearsals, met up independently to learn lines, supported each other, created a safe place for everyone to step outside of their comforts zones and created something that they should all be incredibly proud of.

My role in this production has been the producer, and as someone had to step away from the experience, acting in it too. It’s an unusual place to be in and my roles flit from objectivity to total immersion and its been a fun but tough challenge. I have enjoyed seeing the growth in confidence of the cast as well as seeing the flexibility and quick thinking of the crew.

The Production team has worked hard to create a play that really allows the performers to be showcased. Helen Ashbrook Billinge has constantly been sketching and adapting the stage to compromise on what we could beg, borrow and practically steal and kept watch of the actors use of space to create a delightful set. Natalie Fern has turned costumes around quickly, creating a very wide array of costumes some made by her own hand and others from the local Oxfam in Northwich. Ashley Turner has written beautiful music to fit right in with the 70s folks vibe, performed with many other tracks from the 70s by John and Ailsa Booth throughout the play. Tom Barry has worked hard and created a piece that is both understandable and accessible to both the cast and the audience alike.

Whoever said community was dead should come and see it alive and at work in this play. What a community it is! This community will have you laughing till you cry and stamping your feet as they take you on an incredible journey through Love. In this small theatre – Davenham Players’ Theatre, you will be swept away into an incredibly funny reality that a whole community of people have created. Winston Churchill said ‘ Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.’ The company of A Midsummer Night’s Dream have proved this in every decision that they have made both independently and collectively.

A Midsummer Night's Dream -Physical Folk
Physical Folk’s ‘ A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ is on at Davenham Players’ Theatre, Davenham, Northwich, Cheshire from 22nd May – 25th May 2013 at 7.30pm. Tickets are £8/7 and are available via http://www.danarts.org or 0161 784442.

Categories
Uncategorized

Directing – Just Add Water Theatre – Bobby

Image

I have been directing Just Add Water’s production of Bobby for the last month and this is what I have learned…

Last year’s Just Add Water performance of ‘Bobby’ at Buxton Fringe seems along way away. We knew we would be performing in a low ceiling, cramped space and that it would create an intensity in the story for the actors and the audience in which there is no escape. People sang praises after the show for the intimacy of the the performances.

 I watched a show in the Lowry studio, where we will be performing Bobby this Thursday, and had a wave of nerves. The space seemed vast and the audience further away than I remembered from watching shows previously. While the space is clearly a studio, it didn’t feel that it had the intimacy that we had had in previous venues performing the show.

After a few sleepless nights about how we were going to make the piece ‘bigger’, I had an awakening. We could do so much more. The actors could take up more space, there could be dynamism in the aesthetic of the movement sequences, our 6 ft 7 actor would be able to stand up straight and stretch his arms up in the air, and our designer, Helen Ashbrook Billinge would be able to do more to facilitate the story. The size of the space instantly became a gift, enabling us as a company to push ourselves further.

This last month not only has Bobby gone up a few gears, but so has the way we have been working in the rehearsal room. I have been training the actors every morning to build up their physical strength and stamina and to create this sense of Ensemble. I think we have really pushed ourselves and each other to be truly collaborative, forgoing our egos, building our humility so we can tell Bobby’s story as a true collective. As a result, the actors Ben Moores, Tom Barry, Niven Ganner and Jennifer Campbell fly through emotions, landing on each state solidly and with a great depth of honesty. They pounce between emotional states, hungry to tell you this story. The language flies between them like a game of tennis, but the ball never drops. They move as one, all individuals creating a great mechanism of human truth.

Bobby will be performed at the Studio space in the Lowry, Salford on Thursday 11th April, 2013 at 8pm.Image

Categories
Uncategorized

Words mean more…

Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning.
Maya Angelou