For our Wednesday afternoon sessions with Lynn, the focus will be on the voice, in this particular session, the aim is to be able to learn what factors are important for a performers voice, especially for us year 2 performers. It will be important as next Easter, we will be performing a Theatre In Education project which will be performed around primary schools across Bury St Edmunds. We will be performing to primary school children in venues where we will not know the performance space until the day, for example, we could be performing in a large hall where the acoustics will be large.
We started off by discussing what aspects of the voice we need to practice and keep aware of, volume was the first point mentioned as it must be adjusted for children. If our voices are too loud then it may cause distress to our audience as it can scare them. I then mentioned about the importance of the speed of our voices, with anyone, especially children, they can get confused and miss parts if we speak too quickly. Speaking slowly can prevent this and it also gives a greater opportunity to invite an audience in to keep them interested. One final way that was mentioned which is in terms of preventing audience confusion is clarity, it will be very important that we speak clearly so they understand what we are performing. Although this isn’t about the voice, it is a point about keeping young audiences interested and that is eye contact, if you are able to connect to the audience, they will know you are getting their attention and will be more likely to watch.
Following that discussion, we then began to learn about different breathing exercises as actors on stage can sometimes forget to breathe as they are so caught up in the action and focused. Therefore we took part in breathing exercises and this involved breathing in for 8 counts, locking it in for 8 and finally breathing out for 8. Following this, we again breathed in and locked it in the diaphragm, but this time instead of breathing out, for 8, we would burst out a word. This exercise taught me how to control the volume of my voice from breathing in and locking the air in my diaphragm to then burst out words, which I observed come out sharply and therefore, louder.
The second exercise we took part in was writing down and learning tongue twisters, the two examples we wrote down were:
- Two tutors who tooted the flute tried to tutor two tooters to toot, said the two tooters “Is it easier to tute or to tutor two tutors to toot”?
- If two witches were watching two watches, which witch would watch which watch?
As I was saying these tongue twisters out loud, I noticed that I got confused quite quickly and had to repeat them a lot while reading them to be able to fully say the sentence. However, this exercise is all about articulation and to get our mouths working so it taught me to speak slowly (which we will have to remember when performing in T.I.E and any other future performances) and really concentrate so the sentence is clear, improving my clarity.
Afterwards, we got into partners and had an observing exercise, I was partnered with Lou Rowe and the aim was to have a conversation about our favourite or least favourite character that we have played in the past. The main thing I observed about Lou was that she does not vary her voice much, it stays at the same tone throughout and she will sometimes pause during a sentence before continuing. She then told me that when I speak, my body language is always similar, I will fold up by crossing my legs and partly folding my arms and I use my hair when I speak, afterwards, I began to notice that when I speak, I tilt my head and try to move my hair by moving my head, something I hadn’t noticed before. In terms of my voice, it can go quite high and I can often speak quite quick, therefore, speed is something I really need to work on. Observation was key in this exercise and you had to really concentrate to examine anything that we could comment on afterwards.
The observations we made then went into the next task of trying to change the way they speak based on what we noticed. We were given the beginning of Born Yesterday by Philip Larkin: ‘Tightly folded bud, I have wished you something none of the others would’. Firstly, Lou helped me interpret it differently to how I would normally read it, she suggested that I speak slow so that I am understood and I can also emphasise certain words. This did help and this was commented on afterwards when we presented our sentence, a comment I had when I presented it was that it sounded stabby and sharp. For Lou, I suggested that she ranges her voice so it ranges from high to low on certain words which will avoid it being one tone all the way through, which worked well.
Overall, I was able to learn about the key aspects that help your voice during a performance for a young audience and I can now go away and focus on improving speed, clarity and the volume of my voice. The exercises we took part in have made me want to go away and observe the way other people speak to try to find differences and I now know how I am when I speak. Over the next week I want to continue with the tongue twisters and practice them to improve my articulation.