Acting Tip #8: Don’t Choke… Don’t Choke…

I can’t tell you how many actors who I’ve trained over the years choke up when they speak.  Their voice appears to be glued high up in their throats.  And that’s with contemporary roles.  Let’s not even BEGIN to consider the vocal demands of Shakespeare or classical theatre.

But you’re film actors, right?  And you don’t need to worry about things like speaking the speech trippingly on the tongue.  Or being heard in the back row.  @#%& . . . WRONG ANSWER!

voice 31 Acting Tip #8: Don’t Choke... Don’t Choke...The cruel truth of it all is that if you can’t express with a full voice from your gut, you run the risk of shutting down your entire expressive apparatus.  And, guess what . . . most actors don’t start with a good understanding of this concept.  Years of forcing the voice into social acceptability and mumbling monotone take their toll.  You try to express emotion loudly and eloquently in four octaves and  . . . oh, the CHOKE of it all . . .  Don’t forget, Marlon Brando followed his monosyllabic performance in Streetcar Named Desire by harkening to “Friends, Romans and countrymen” in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.

Grotowski is the only teacher that nurtured the voice open in a variety of ways.  Of course, he meant for it to be “stereophonic” and trained for the stage, but the same principles apply.  You need a fully resonant instrument for the demands of any stage . . . sound or otherwise.  It’s one of the basics of acting.

I start with toning in my own classes . . . something that I learned from my spiritual training . . . to quickly position the voice and discover its emotional power.  Then I work with many of Grotowski’s exercises, and some others that I’ve learned along the way, to teach the body to reconnect to primal sound.  We make animal noises, try to blast the wall out with our voice, and have sound emanate from different parts of the body.  We even use sound as a weapon to “slay” our fellow actors.

Grotowski said we speak with the body first, then the voice.  We seem to have it the other way around in most classes.  But I agree with him.  First we pound the desk and then WE SHOUT!!!!!