Barton - Vocal Inventory.pdf

76 ROBERT BARTON ACI'ING ONSTAGE AND OFF more streamlined...

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Unformatted text preview: 76 ROBERT BARTON - ACI'ING: ONSTAGE AND OFF more streamlined version of the checklist, with more room to write, which is available on the companion website.) When words fail you, you draw (stick figures sitting, a facial expression sketched, a diagram of a series of gestures) to help clarify points you want to make. At some point in the work with your partner, you decide which of you is going to be the Primary Presenter of which observee, probably because you have more of a knack for one subject than the other. The Primary Presenter will be the first one up to demonstrate what he has discovered. Step 4: Results are due. (See Appendix C for a suggested imitation sequence and other imitation assignments.) Imitation Payoffs What has all this accomplished? 1. You’ve looked at yourself in physical categories to begin to get a sense of the kind of figure you cut in space and how you use the space around you. 2. You’ve presented yourself in an everyday situation to the class, demonstrating basic acting principles firsthand. You’ve performed realistically with a heightened reality. 3. You’ve observed other actors (and others have observed you) going through the Self-Imitation exercise to get precise inforrna— tion and personal insight. 4. You’ve spied on your subjects to sharpen your sense of detail, for nuance of movement, and your sophistication regarding the body. 5. You’ve partnered with someone, making all the negotiations and compromises that always need to happen between sets of actors. 6. Two people closely watching you have helped you recognize, for better or worse, many of your own tendencies. 7. You’ve given a gift to other actors, by mirroring them, so they experience a friendly but revealing reflection. 8. You’ve experienced the sensation of performing with both in- volvement and objectivity. 9. An exchange of mutual benefit has happened between a group of actors starting to trust and support one another. 10. You now have many resources to put together a physical charac- terization for a character in a script. You do not have to play only parts that are already perfect for you. You can begin to characterize. CHAPTER 3 - INDIVIDUAL INVENTORY 77 —————____________ 11. You’ve been able to not only watch but to also organize what you see, so that a system of physical characterization is available to you. It was challenging playing a gracious and contained woman {in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon}, because the character was so for from who I am and who: I brow. So I just started working with one derail after another. —Michelle Yeoh Applying Body Awareness What do you do with this information now? It depends on how close or distant your “mirror” was to what you’d expected. How pleased or dis- tressed you are by what has just been reflected to you. This project aims to enlighten, not necessarily change. Do any of your mannerisms inter- fere with the effectiveness of your communication? What you commu- n1cate may be just fine, and you now have self-awareness to add to self—acceptance. Or you may choose to proceed with some changes. If you want to change, you can apply skills you developed in imitating others. Vocal Awareness Body work comes before voice work because it’s easier. You know yOur body better. You can see it and feel it. You can look at most of it. The rest you can see in the mirror. The family album is full of you in venous sizes and shapes. Imagine the family voice album. The body is out there to be counted. The voice can"! be seen or touched- It's hiding. In fact, your own voice may still be a stranger to you. The result? A whole society of people who have no idea how they sound. The world is full of women who spend many daily hours work- mg to look breathtaking, but they sound like Bambi. 0f men who pump enough iron to look like warrior chiefs but talk like 'I'humper. They don't seem to notice. It’s almost as if they think like a silent film. Yet, countless crucial moments depend on the voice. Onstage, the action of the play stops, an actor sits on the edge of the stage. and beautifully speaks a soliloquy that may be the heart of the whole even- ing.- Offstage, speaking on the phone, reading aloud to a group. talking wrth a lover in the dark of the night, encouraging hope in a friend whose eyes are closed in anguish, over and over again, the full expres- srveness of the voice is essential to acting your own life. 78 ROBERT BARTON . AcrINc: ONSTAGE AND OFF ——_—_—_— Body work also tends to precede voice because the body houses the voice. If the body is free and aware, chances are better that the voice will follow. The good news is that much body awareness is transfer— able. The bad news is that you probably have a lot of catching up to do. You may be starting with 20 years of voice habits and no voice thought. But you can work on your voice in the grocery store, the car, the shower, wherever you have the inclination. First, some basic terms. You see women who are absolutely stunning, in $10,000 worth of clothes and jewelry. And there they are at Spago [an exclusive Los Angeles restaurant] and they say, “Well, I’d like a prosciutta pizza” [said in a Minnie Mouse voice] and you think, Oh shit, what did they waste their money on this for [pointing at some imaginary Balenciaga gown]? It’s ugly. I mind it very much. —Kath|een Turner Quality Your voice has a tone and texture unlike any other, determined largely by a combination of surfaces inside you (facial bones, nose, sinus cavi- ties, mouth, pharynx, chest) where sound resonates. Voices are tradi- tionally described as harsh, mellow, thin, full, light, dark, husky, nasal, strident, resonant, large, small, breathy, hoarse, or, in more meta- phoric terms, like silk or velvet. Tempo/Rhythm You have a rate of speaking and a stress pattern within that rate. The voice uses the same relationship between speed and emphasis, explored in the body section of this chapter, frequently with surprisingly little connection to the timing of physical movement. Articulation How crisp or precisely you form sounds is determined by how your consonants are completed, where the articulation organs are put (place— ment), how long the contact is sustained (extent), how much force is behind it (pressure), and whether or not your vocal folds are engaged (vibration). When someone says he can’t hear you, most of the time, he actually can’t understand you because of poor articulation. CHAPTER 3 - INDIVIDUAL INVENTORY 79 —5——__________ Pronunciation How close to standard is the way you speak? To the speech heard most often in performance, which does not seem to come from a particular, recognizable region or group? Some confuse this category with the ar- ticulation. Pronunciation has nothing to do with how precisely you say something but instead with how close you say it to the way most other people say it. The standard pronunciation of a word can actually be quite slurred. Pitch Your speech could be written out on sheet music identifying the various notes employed from the top to the bottom of your own register. Your of their range. Volume Most of us are aware of tendencies toward loud or soft (Are you some— one who is always being asked to speak up? Are you someone who is always being shushed?), but it takes a sophisticated understanding of projection to adjust to varying listeners and spaces. Word Choice Do you tend to choose primarily complex, four—syllable words? Explicit four—letter words? Or both, depending on the occasion? The choices you make strongly define you. Vocal Nonverbals No one utters just words but also countless noises or spurts of sound. These express emotion beyond words. Nonverbals add color and inter- est to vocal life. Oddly enough, beginning actors frequently fail to use them in scene work because the playwright usually leaves it up to you to add them. A scene will often seem too clean to be real, but once sprinkled with nonverbals, it will breathe with new believability. Off- stage, nonverbals are used heavily when we’re surprised and thrown off by the cue we’ve just received. They help fill our evaluation period while we recover. (“Hmmmm I uhhh (sigh) think we .. ummmm (tiny laugh) need to talk about this.”) 80 ROBERT BARTON - ACTING: ONSTAGE AND OF —_—_——— Influences You can look at your vocal life from the same perspectives we used for your physical life. Habits: What are the characteristics of your voice in standard, low-key, daily circumstances? Adaptations: How does it change in public, when your bubble alters or your mood swings? Cultural Binding: Which of the influences of geography, family, con- ditioning, interest, age, and sex figure strongest in what other people hear from you? The Voice Awareness Checklist that follows the next set of exercises will help you remember all these terms and categories. Basic Parts of a Vocal Life Unlike the body, the simplest vocabulary regarding voice may be unfa- miliar or unsteady to you. You may need to track down some of the following terms in the dictionary. In each of the following categories, jot down one- or two-word responses as they come to mind. Quality 1. What is the basic tone or texture of your voice? 2. What adjectives or abstract words best describe your voice? 3. Where do you primarily resonate? Tempo 1. What is your standard rate? Fast, slow, medium, or somewhere between? 2. How does your vocal tempo connect with your physical movement? 3. Are you constant or do you use different tempos? When do you change? Rhythm 1. Do you stress certain words or give all relatively equal value? 2. What kinds of phrasing patterns do you use to separate parts of your statements? Where do you take pauses or breaks? 3. Is the overall impression smooth or jerky and erratic? How fluid is your speech? For Tempo and Rhythm together: What does it sound like if you try to tap out your own timing like beating a drum? CHAPTER 3 - INDIVIDUAL INVENTORY 8] Articulation 1. How precisely do you shape each sound? Is it crisp? Do you mumble or have lazy speech? 2. Are there particular words and sounds that always give you trou- ble? Which challenge you most? 3. Do you drop consonants or syllables? Swallow endings? Which sounds do you tend to omit? Pronunciation 1. Is your way of saying words standard? If not, how far off? In what way? Regional? Ethnic? Idiosyncratic? 2. How easy is it for you to slide in and out of various accents, dialects, mimicry? How sharp is your ear? 3. Are you aware of substituting one sound for another? Which ones? Pitch 1. Is your voice higher or lower than most peoples’ for the notes used in everyday speech? 2. Do you have a regular melody pattern? 3. How close to the top and bottom do you venture? What restric- tions do you place on pitch? What is your range? Volume 1. Are you basically loud, soft, where on the continuum? Do you project or fill a room effortlessly? 2. Does your voice seem to have power, or are your aware of need- ing to push in large space? 3. Under what circumstances does your volume knob get adjusted? Are you sensitive to being too loud or soft for others’ comfort? How adjustable are you? Word Choice 1. Is your working vocabulary relatively large? Is your language for- mal, casual, full of slang, big words, fad words, meaningless phrases? 2. How do you arrange your words in sentences or thought clusters? Verbs first? Non-sentences? Your typical syntax? 3. Are there certain words and phrases that are definitely yours? Specific vocabulary choices (like computer language or theatre terms) used no matter what the circumstances? A fondness for certain kinds of images? Your own lingo? 82 ROBERT BARTON - ACTING: ONSTAGE AND OFF ———_—_‘—_—_— Vocal Nonverbals 1. How many stalling sounds do you make when you are pondering a question? What kinds? 2. How likely are you to sigh, groan, growl, moan, chuckle, pop your lips, or yawn audibly? To hum, whistle little snatches of tunes, or make percussive sounds? Which sounds dominate? 3. What is your laughter like? Squeals of delight? Guffaws? Esca— lating bubbles that gurgle up like a pot boiling over? Sudden, brief explosions? Little titters? Voice Awareness Checklist Habits Quality 1. Tone 2. Description —____ 3. Resonance —_—_, Articulation 1. Precision ———__ 2. Challenges 3. Omissions Volume 1. Projection 2. Power 3. Sensitivity Tempo 1. Rate _____ 2. Connections 3. Change ———__ Pronunciation 1. Standard 2. Ear 3. Substitutions Word Choice 1. Vocabulary “ 2. Syntax 3. Favorites ———__ Rhythm 1. Stress 2. Pausing 3. Fluidity Pitch l. Placement 2. Melody Pattern _ 3. Range Nonverbals l. Stalling __ 2. Dominance 3. Laugh ———_— CHAPTER 3 . INDIVIDUAL INVENTORY 83 ~—————___________ Adaptations Groups ____ Contact .__‘ Mood Cultural Binding Geography Family Conditioning ._____ _____ _____ Interests Age Sex ___ Using the Vocal Awareness Checklist Use this checklist as you did the Body Awareness Checklist. Analyze yourself and then listen to others. Imagine when putting together a char- acter that you hear the character speak. Sharpen your Skills with imita— tion. Try these small awareness examples: Resonators The sound of the voice is strongly influenced by the place where some— one resonates. Here are dominant locations and the resulting stereotypi— cal sounds: HEAD: “Heidi’s head voice gives me heartburn and a headache.” MASK: “Max’s mask makes for major magnification.” NOSE: “Norm’s nasality and neckties are noticeably nerdish.” SINUSES: “Selma’s sound search settles sharply in her sinuses.” THROAT: “Thelma’s throat thrashes, throttles, and throbs.” PHARYNX: “Phil’s PM fullness comes from his pharynx.” CHEST: “Charles’ chest sound challenges, charms, and takes charge.” Classic Voices Use the same approach to this list of standard voice descriptions. Start close to the stereotype the line suggests and then move away to subtler variations. There will be some inevitable overlap with the resonator list. HARSH: “Hey, Harry, howscomes Helga hates your hide, huh?” MELLOW: “May tomorrow mean more music and magical memories.” THIN: “Think thankful thoughts throughout your thrashing, Theodore.” FULL: “Ferdinand’s final fanfare filled and overflowed the farthest foothills.” ...
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