Take a Deep Breath

Geraldine Cook examines two competing pedagogies in her article: Voice and the Imagination – Transformative Learning Through Actor Vocal Training.

Metamorphosis2She draws a distinction between two learning paradigms, the transmissional approach to vocal training which tends to take place in school drama classrooms, versus the more experiential transformational approach, common in professional actor vocal training, which makes ‘implicit knowledge explicit by expressing the physical and emotional experiences in meaningful cognitive tasks’ (O’Toole and Dunn 2002).  Cook suggests  that transformative learning “develops a change in perspective, thinking and feeling through the individual’s body.”

When I started exploring this idea a year or so ago, I was working with some private students who were taking their ANEA Acting Diploma and I was exploring a number of methods of teaching solo students which went far beyond just vocal training, as one of my brainstorming sessions illustrates:

Screen Shot 2018-04-03 at 13.10.14

In terms of voice work, however, the work of Cicely Berry, Kristin Linklater and Patsy Rodenburg were ideal, and quite straightforward to adapt to the solo student. Combined with yoga breathing exercises, I found ways to enable students to connect with their imagination and, subsequently, their characters and monologues – rather than just carrying out technical exercises which, quite frankly, bored them and were meaningless out of context.

Here is an example of one such  session, where we linked character to breath. It also shows how my approach was personalised to the student:

Screen Shot 2018-04-03 at 14.41.44

Fundamentally, the actor trainer has to start from a willingness to transform. In the sense of the craft, this means a desire to “become another” through language, body, voice and imagination.”  In the vast majority of cases, students preparing monologues for acting exams do have the desire and willingness to transform into another character – or at least be given the tools to do so. (Geraldine Cook)


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