Volume 11, Issue 3
Table of Contents:
A Message from the President
Letter from the Editor
VASTA Vocal Excellence Award Recipient Lawrence James
Conference Grant for Interdisciplinary Engagement Recipient Suzanne Cerreta: Speaking with Science
Committee Chair Updates
Awards and Grants Committee
Tech Corner: Exceptional Voice App (EVA) Review
How Bad Experiences Can Be A Gift: Roy Hart and Psychosynthesis
When I sketched out this letter at the beginning of June, as you can imagine, it was very upbeat. Claudia Anderson and her team have done a marvelous job of dreaming and organizing around the conference theme of "Dynamic Dialogues and Connections." I remain excited to write with last-minute updates on the wonderful presenters and events in store for attendees at the Chicago conference. Nothing has changed on that front.
Since I started writing, however, tragic events have added names of people and places to an already unbearable litany of victims of violence. I simply haven't the will to proceed with this message without acknowledging the terrible losses suffered. If, as a number of people have cautioned—and I agree with them—thoughts and prayers without actions are unacceptable, how does one make a start? How does one effect change? It is imperative that we find answers to these questions, and my sincere hope is that the conference will provide opportunities for us to explore them together, and that we will leave the conference better prepared to act on our convictions.
Here, then, is what I started writing in early June.
Plans for the VASTA 2016 Chicago conference are continuing apace. Finishing touches are being coordinated for a fantastic series of events including presentations, workshops, panel discussions, and papers. The opening session, “The Politics of Race and Identity in Performance” moderated by Cameron Knight, professor of Shakespeare and Classical Text at The Theatre School, DePaul University, will introduce and begin to develop one of the strands of the conference. A reminder that in preparation for the leadership sessions with Greg Eaton and Barbara Hummel, attendees are encouraged to read A Hidden Wholeness by Parker J. Palmer. The conference will end on a joyful note in a group singing session led by two celebrated members of Chicago’s famed “Old Town School of Folk Music,” Sue Demel and Bill Brickey, who will lead us in “gospel songs and harmonies with a modern twist.” Put a big group of voice professionals in a room and get them singing, and you’re guaranteed a goose-bumpy good time. What a thrilling way to experience the VASTA conference tradition of a group sing at the final session!
This April, I was honored to conduct a master class in voice and to select James Lawrence for the VASTA Vocal Excellence Award at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) in Washington, DC. Lawrence is a recent graduate of Ramapo College of New Jersey, and his impressive performance garnered him this year’s scholarship award. He received outstanding support from his acting coach, Prof. Terra Vandergaw, and his partner Sam Simone. In this issue of the Voice, Lawrence writes about his experience at KCACTF and winning the Vocal Excellence Award.
As a final note, I want to express my gratitude for the privilege of serving VASTA as President for the past two years. It has been an immensely rewarding experience, and my (already great) admiration for the dedication and contributions of VASTA members to the ongoing success of the organization has increased manyfold. Immediately after the Chicago conference, Betty Moulton will become VASTA President. Betty’s long association and record of service with VASTA puts us in excellent hands. Since the accomplishments of VASTA are, of course, all to do with the coordinated efforts of hundreds of members, it would be foolish to close my last newsletter message by attempting to thank people individually. Except for one person, that is: Mandy Rees. Mandy, your sage advice and counsel, your intelligence and keen insights have been invaluable to me. My deepest thanks! And thank you VASTAns, one and all!!
I hope this finds you well.
Lisa and I want to take a moment to send congratulations to Keely, who gave birth to a healthy baby girl at the beginning of July!
Dr. Heman-Ackah, the VASTA MD and our regular voice medicine column writer, would like your questions. Do you have something that you would love to have answered or discussed by a voice medical professional? Please send your questions in via email, to email@example.com, for Dr. Heman-Ackah to discuss in one her next columns.
We would also like to take a moment to thank Mandy Rees for her service to VASTA over the last six years in the President sequence. We would also like to thank Lynn Watson for her service as President over these last two years.
Wishing you all the best for the upcoming conference!
Editor, VASTA Voice
Presented with the VASTA Vocal Excellence Award 2016
at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in Washington, DC - April 15, 2016
To say that I was totally prepared for KCACTF would be a total lie. In the beginning, my nerves were in a frenzy, lines rehearsed left my brain and I felt this need to be "amazing." Things moved so fast, moments passed by as if I was on a moving train. Thankfully, at some point I took a breath and just became cognizant of trusting in myself, in my talented partner Sam Simone and living in the experience.
Keeping all this in mind, I grew as an artist in this short week. I enjoyed my time with Dell'Arte International's James Peck, who taught us above all to be fearless, to make breaking your limits a habit. Also, I participated in a Fitzmaurice workshop with the incomparable Lynn Watson. The physicality of it all completely helped with my breathing. The other workshops had an impact on my artistry as well. What brought it all full circle were my fellow talented Irene Ryan finalists. They became my comrades and I hope to keep in contact with them. So much encouragement, energy and authenticity all around; you forgot it was a competition at times. I enjoyed the week watching plays, meeting artists in other fields of theater, sightseeing in Washington, DC and all the theater education I could ask for in such a short time.
As it turned out, I won the VASTA Vocal Excellence award scholarship and the N.A.P.A.T. scholarship for a fellowship at the Shaw Festival in Canada this summer. These awards will help further my education at Florida State University/Asolo where I will begin in the graduate acting program this fall. Thank you VASTA! I left the Kennedy Center with so much nourishment for my artistic soul and a new breath of confidence. I am ever indebted to KCACTF for this wonderful experience for the collegian artist. Special thanks to my wonderful scene partner Sam Simone, Prof. Terra Vandergaw, Prof. Maria Vail, and everyone in the Ramapo College of New Jersey Theater department.
back to top
Conference Grant for Interdisciplinary Engagment Recipient Suzanne Cerreta
Speaking with Science: Inspiring connection between pronunciation research and theatre at the American Association of Applied Linguistics 2016 Conference
Suzanne Cerreta is an actress with a BFA in acting from Carnegie Mellon University, an accent and dialect coach at Accent Guru in NYC, and an applied linguist finishing her masters at Concordia University in Montreal, QC. She is also a veteran voice over artist, working with Innovative Artists NYC, voicing numerous national commercials, film roles, and audiobooks. She continues to promote diversity in speech and combine the science of linguistics with the meaningful context of theatre. www.accentguru.com @suzannecerreta
“Drama can act as a bridge between the classroom and the real world.” – John Archibald (1987, p.153)
Have you, at any point in your career, felt you have had a foot in two different boats or topics, trying desperately to connect them, because together they could facilitate more action, or at least keep you from falling into the water? Then you could imagine my joy in receiving the VASTA 2016 Interdisciplinary Grant, and the opportunity to take the next step in bridging two passionate disciplines of mine: theatrical voice and speech and applied pronunciation linguistics. Known as the most prestigious applied linguistics conference in North America, the American Association of Applied Linguistics invites colloquia, presenters, researchers and graduate students from around the world, with presentations in English, French, and Spanish, and including research topics ranging from cognition and episodic memory (e.g., how we process languages with built-upon memories) to case studies on acculturation and LGBT representations in language and code switching and everything in between. This conference challenges its attendees to open their minds to the different cultures and contexts around the world in order to champion the one thing we all have in common, communication through language.
This year, I was asked to present my paper based on a curriculum I designed to help second language English speaking actors in Quebec learn North American English pronunciation, using sensory learning methods in line with Dudley Knight’s speech work. Since reading about and working with Knight’s methods, and creating a sensory technique to accompany Omnish in my classroom, I have been eager to empirically test these practices. A lot of times in the arts, we use instinct to guide us with what methods feel right for our students. In applied linguistics, I have learned what it means to use those instincts to guide the development of research methodologies that help prove those methods beneficial, not just for actors, but all speakers of English. Having the opportunity to present voice and speech training methods in front of leading pronunciation researchers was an experience I will never forget.
But, before I get ahead of myself, let me first say that walking into that hotel, with rooms teaming with star researchers, and extensively published and touted professors, made me a little more than intimidated. It would be like walking into a room full of Mamets, Brechts, Lin-Manuel Mirandas, and Shakespeares and setting up shop to introduce your ‘big ideas’ that you have been pounding away at alone in your workshop for the last ten years! Once I dove into the program and saw topics such as, "Overcoming whole group speaking anxiety: The role of drama pedagogy", "The view of identity in its relation to intention: A new approach to identity in language studies", and "The Thresholds of Intelligibility in Different Varieties of World Englishes" I knew I had found the 'dock' for those two boats and no longer felt like an imposter.
Presentations: Drama in the second language classroom
To date, many researchers in second language pronunciation have suggested that drama activities and theatrical methods would be beneficial to language learning and pronunciation, but no one has tested these practices in the language classroom, at least not empirically, until this year. In fact, only three studies have looked at these benefits, and they were all presented at AAAL 2016. One of them, titled "The effectiveness of drama as an instructional approach for the development of second language oral fluency, comprehensibility, and accentedness," authored by Angelica Galante and Ron Thomson focused on Brazilian Portuguese students in an English foreign language context, where they were learning English as a second language. The researchers used exercises from Spolin’s improvisation techniques, as well as scripted role-play activities, and culminated the drama-based language class with a prepared group performance of scenes and monologue after four months of instruction. Comparing the two groups of learners’ rated sound samples, one in the drama-based condition and the other in a basic language condition, they found that the drama-based condition made significant improvement in fluency of speech and accent and more improvement on all measures over the regular language class. I’m sure most of you are smiling and nodding your head, “Well, of course it did!” It was incredibly validating to finally see the statistical evidence in a large study clarify what we as theatre and speech teachers have known instinctively, that drama activities, including putting language into meaningful and intentional speech, can help in the acquisition of speech elements, language, and learning in general.
The second study to date that has looked at the effects of drama activities in the language classroom was from Siljia Weber and entitled, "Overcoming whole group speaking anxiety: The role of drama pedagogy". Weber looked to address the issue of motivation, willingness to communicate, and fear of speaking in front of people. In her research, she found that she had mixed results, where some tasks (i.e., group collaboration, or personal story/monologues) actually did help students feel less anxiety when speaking their second language, but other activities actually added to student’s anxiety. I spoke with this presenter at the end of the session and suggested that she separate her next study into task type and add a component where the author of a personal monologue actually directs a fellow student in that monologue. As teachers of performance, we know that performing someone else’s text brings elements of understanding, connection, and empathy of the character or writer. She agreed that performing one another’s text, while using the language to give directions could be more collaborative and less anxiety-provoking for the students.
My presentation, the third of the three studies that have actually looked at using drama and theatrical-based methods in language and pronunciation acquisition, was entitled "Engaging the senses: A sensory-based approach for L2 pronunciation instruction." The main difference between my study and the previous two studies was that I drew from a theatrical method of teaching whereas the other two used drama activities as a way of practice. In other words, I drew the “how” to teach (i.e., sensory memory/sensory learning) from theatre, and they implemented the “what” to teach (i.e., role-play, monologues, scenes, etc…) from drama. Mine was a case study that took place over four months of instruction. Using my sensory-based curriculum I followed two French speaking Quebec actors in their pursuit of more native-like English pronunciation. One of the two actors in my study did make significant improvement in accent ratings and also noted the sensory work (adapted from Knight’s work) as the most helpful part of instruction. One of the researchers mentioned above, Ron Thomson, was front and center at my presentation and sitting with another colleague, Jennifer Foote, a good friend and prestigious researcher in her own right in the study of pronunciation instruction. After my presentation, Dr. Thomson, Dr. Foote, and I chatted over lunch, inspired to collaborate on future research. This was an immeasurable opportunity in which to share aspects of my work as an actor and speech teacher with linguistic researchers and actually be taken seriously. So many times I felt like the “theatre person” in the room, not really having a weighted perspective. Perhaps this is part of the imposter syndrome, perhaps this is part of being a bit of a pioneer in a new territory, combining two disciplines. That day, I felt that all my hard work to keep my foot in two boats was finally paying off.
As I am at the end of my studies in Montreal, and will be defending my thesis in a month, I have been asking myself where I want to go from here, and what I want to do with the research I have gathered. One particular presentation at the AAAL 2016 conference helped me to clarify that. The presentation was entitled, "Variationist Sociolinguistics in the English Education Classroom: Pedagogy and Methodology Toward Linguistic Diversity" and presented by Lee Torda and Marino Fernandes. They looked at students in their final year of teacher training to be an English as a second language teacher and their perceptions of the different dialects of speech in the surrounding New England area. They provided the student teachers with a map of New England and asked them to fill in each state with adjectives and descriptions of their impressions of the dialects. What the researchers found was surprising. In a field where these student teachers are meant to be tolerant of nonnative speech and native speaker variations of English, not discriminating, Torda and Fernandes found that the pre-service teachers were quite ideological and stereotyped pronunciation from the very areas in which they will be teaching. Some comments of the areas of Boston were labeled ‘blue collar’ and ‘poor’, and areas of Vermont were labeled as ‘crunchy granola’. Now, as an accent and dialect teacher, I know very well that these are not really descriptions of actual speech, but stereotypes of people based on their speech and location. When asked further what influenced their labels of speech, the students continually answered ‘TV’, ‘movies’, and media. This is where the great debate of standards of speech come in to play. It is our responsibility as stakeholders of media, whether commercially, on stage, in our writing of TV shows and films, to show not just visual acceptance of different cultures and peoples, but acceptance of how we sound as a multicultural continent. Moving forward, I will be looking into the role of media in proliferating standards of speech with a documentary plan in the works. Additionally, George Smith, a Ph.D. student at University of Hawaii, whom I connected with at the AAAL 2016 conference, will be collaborating with me in bringing my sensory-based curriculum into the second language classroom with Vietnamese speaking students.
This conference allowed me the chance to spread my wings and be heard on an international platform where two feet in two different boats could come together and land in a place of opportunity. I learned to not doubt my past experiences in theatre and art, that they are just as valid, if not even more interesting, than simply coming from a long life of only linguistics. Whether you are coming from theatre or computer engineering, we all have a voice and that voice comes from an experienced life worth sharing. Thank you VASTA for this lesson, for allowing me the opportunity to attend this conference, and for facilitating the first steps on my next path of research and collaboration. For more information on the Conference Grant for Interdisciplinary Engagement visit: www.vasta.org/interdisciplinary-engagement
The VASTA Awards and Grants Committee is pleased to announce that the recipient of the 2016 Clyde Vinson Memorial Scholarship is Ann Louise Wolf. Her mentor, Mary Irwin, University of North Carolina School of the Arts, nominated Ann Louise. Ann Louise holds a BFA in stage management from UNC School of the Arts and is a 2016 candidate for the MFA from Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in Voice Studies. She currently holds a junior faculty appointment at UNC School of the Arts, where she is teaching and coaching voice and dialects. Although not a deciding factor in the review of her application, it is noteworthy that Mary Irwin studied with Clyde Vinson and was a past recipient of this scholarship in her early career. In her nomination letter, Mary commended Ann Louise’s work in dialect coaching for her “great sensitivity, artistry and precision-all qualities essential for success in this field.”
The Committee congratulates Ann Louise Wolf and Mary Irwin. In addition, the committee found all of the applications indicated that VASTA has remarkable early career members with potential for great accomplishments.
Happy Summer, VASTA Community, from the Engagement Committee!
Did you know the Engagement Committee administers two grants on behalf of VASTA: the VASTA Conference Scholarship for junior high and high school drama teachers; and the Conference Grant for Interdisciplinary Engagement? Distributing these resources are part of our efforts to expand and diversify the scope of our organization. Do you have other ideas to broaden the visibility of VASTA while serving our membership? If you are interested in helping us with the implementation of new projects, please consider joining us at the upcoming VASTA Conference this summer in Chicago. We will be meeting over dinner on Tuesday, August 9th to discuss the future endeavors of our committee and would love your participation. An Announcement on the specific meeting time and place will be made at the Opening Night Ceremonies. Looking forward to seeing many of you there!
VASTA Engagement Committee Co-Chair, Joanna Battles
The VASTA Focus Group is very excited to be attending the ATHE Conference, Bodies at Work, Performance, Labor and ATHE @ 30, August 11-14 in Chicago, (directly following the VASTA Conference) and to be involved in a total of ten presentations, including our Debut Panel! We are so proud to represent VASTA and share our research with the larger theatre education community. We will be holding our VASTA Happy Hour on Friday, August 12th from 6pm-8pm at Plymouth Rooftop Bar and Grill 327 S Plymouth Ct Chicago, IL 60604 - if you are around, we would love for you to join us! Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
Looking forward to enjoying the windy city in August!
Kristi Dana: ATHE Conference Planner
Rene Pulliam: ATHE Focus Group Representative
Megan Chang: Associate ATHE Conference Planner
Shannon Holmes: Associate ATHE Conference Planner, 2016 Conference Representative
As a gay male vocal coach and LGBTQ ally, I have been intrigued by the idea of “gendered” voice. As a cisgender male, it has been challenging for me to understand the presentation of one’s self through a gender lens. It wasn’t necessarily something I thought about growing up. Because of my theatre training, I found a comfort in gender fluidity and a frustration in the need to conform to gender norms in order to “pass.” It would be so much easier if society would accept each of us simply as we are.
But this isn’t about my ideals and me. It’s about the support available to those of us in the LGBTQ community in need of representation. With the success of the film Do I Sound Gay? and the increasing visibility of the transgender community, methods for coaching vocal identity are increasing.
Developed by internationally renowned speech pathologist, Kathe Perez, EVA (exceptional voice app) is a phenomenal app series available to iOS and Android (Galaxy S3 and S5 for now) users looking to pursue voice feminization or voice masculinization. The apps offered by Exceptional Voice, Inc. were designed for those in the transgender community. The goal is to develop a “vocal gender” that more closely aligns with the users identity. Through guided exercises designed with exceptional feminine or masculine voice in mind, the user works to develop their ideal voice.
Having worked with transitioning clients and those seeking empowerment through vocal identity, I have found need for supplemental materials. I find it isn’t enough to meet for an hour once a week and give “homework” to my clients. How do they know if they’re doing it “right?” What about feedback?
In August 2014, I stumbled across an article from Colorado Public Radio titled “Transgender People Whose Voice Doesn’t Match Their Looks Turn To New App” by Shanna Lewis. This article provided a video of one of Perez’s clients sharing her former voice and newfound feminine voice. The results were astounding. After some brief searching, I found the EVA and EVA M “Breathe” and “Pitch” version 1.0 apps on the App Store. At $4.99 per app, I purchased four primary apps: EVA Breathe, EVA Pitch 1, EVA M Breathe, and EVA M Pitch.
This app was designed for MTF vocal development and includes an introductory video, an instructional video about respiratory mechanics, a practice video exploring posture and styles of breathing, and a series of interactive exercises. The focus of these exercises is to develop abdominal breath support (sustain ‘sss,’ ‘sshh,’ and ‘fff’). Using a 5 second timer, visual feedback, and microphone sensitive input, the exercises run a set of 3 trials to train proficient (80% success threshold) breath support.
EVA Pitch 1:
For MTF vocal development, this app offers an instructional video introducing the elements of an exceptional feminine voice, a practice coaching video teaching pitch tuning (to A3), and a series of interactive exercises. The exercises work to develop sustaining sound (he, ha, and hoo) on A3 using an interactive pitch tuner, visual feedback, and volume meter. Using a 5 second timer and a set of 3 trials with an 80% success threshold, these exercises help to tune the voice toward the ideal 200-250hz feminine range.
EVA M Pitch:
Focusing on FTM vocal development, this app offers instruction on accessing the lower pitch tuning necessary for a masculine voice. The app features an instructional video about sliding down in pitch, a practice video with a male voice model demonstrating the vocalization exercises, and a series of exercises sliding down from C4 in major third intervals practicing to sustain on E3 and A2. The slide exercises offer a visual graph to track pitch movement from one point to another. The sustain exercises use a 5 second timer and a set of 3 trials with an 80% success threshold to tune the voice toward the ideal 100-150hz masculine range.
EVA M Breathe:
Designed for FTM vocal development, essentially this app is exactly the same as EVA Breathe 1.0 with male pronoun usage rather than female pronoun usage.
In the Breathe apps, Perez presents the ideas of proprioception and metacognition as elements to keep in mind when working on your ideal breath. Proprioception, as felt sense, helps the user to focus on their physical body as they take on the posture aligned with their identity and breathe in a manner physically conducive to the ideal. Metacognition, as thought awareness, allows the user to connect their actions to the psychology of the moment. This allows the user to further integrate the technique into daily use rather than temporary exercise.
In the F Pitch apps, Perez begins by breaking down and presenting the voice in five categories: power source, sound source, sound shaping (resonance), speech shaping (articulation), and prosody. This gives the user a more detailed, yet still compact, understanding of areas for manipulation in acquiring an ideal voice. Perez further expounds upon these categories by presenting the nine elements of exceptional feminine voices: pitch, voice quality, loudness, resonance, articulation, phrasing, pacing, melodic intonation, and fluency. Rather than being fully geared towards what the “ideal feminine” voice is and how to get there, these categories are simply presented as further detail for the user to be aware of when working.
The exercises present in the EVA Pitch apps are very much singing related as they explore tuning to, matching, and sustaining specific pitches. Working around the idea that the average male voice falls within the 100-150hz range and the female voice falls within the 200-250hz range, the exercises work to reset the user’s “neutral” pitch to somewhere within their desired range. This is primarily done through practice sliding from one pitch range to another and sustaining within that new range. By using a prerecorded video, Perez leads users through practice in:
Sustaining sound on pitch
Using words on pitch
Repeating words with proprioception
Checking in with tuning
Priming for new motor programming by connecting posture, pitch, breath with circumstantial response using metacognition and proprioception
It isn’t expressly stated, but daily practice of these exercises in smaller doses would be more efficient than simply jumping to the desired pitch and choosing to speak there. This gives the vocal folds and laryngeal muscles time to stretch and relax into their new posture.
Since the development of EVA in 2014, Exceptional Voice, Inc. has worked tirelessly to develop Eva 2.3 under Vox Pop, LLC (now available for iOS devices). An article about the new app version was published in The Guardian in July 2015. Eva FTM and Eva MTF are still in development, but seem to offer much more than the previous versions. These new apps are initially free, as they offer in-app purchases of the Breathe and Pitch courses instead of multiple external apps. At the same price as before ($4.99 per course), the courses have a bit more structure to them.
Eva M courses:
Voice Masculinization Fundamentals
1. Breathe – Same as EVA M Breathe
2. Pitch 1 – Same as EVA M Pitch
3. Getting Started – not developed
4. Resonance 1 – Coming Soon
5. Resonance 2 – Coming Soon
Eva F courses:
Voice Feminization Fundamentals
1. Sample Lesson – a substantial sample of breathing and pitch fundamentals
2. Breathe – The same as EVA Breathe
3. Pitch 1 – The same as EVA Pitch
4. Pitch 2 – Consonant pitch slides
5. Pitch 3 – Ascending pitch slides to A3 and C4
6. Pitch 4 – Descending pitch slides to A3 and C4
7. Voice 1 – Coming Soon
8. Voice 2 – Coming Soon
Beyond the Fundamentals – Coming Soon
Mastery of Your Feminine Voice – Coming Soon
Both apps offer a Tools section for continued practice. These tools include:
Sound Pressure Level Meter
The Pitch Tuner is the only tool with full functionality at the moment, the rest are still being developed.
Though the Eva 2.3 apps are still in development, it is evident that the goals for this project are to begin addressing the other elements of fully realized vocal identity (resonance, prosody, fluency, etc.). They are far more graphically friendly than the previous version and easy to navigate. Another article about the research and development of these apps was published by Smithsonian.com in December 2015. 
Unfortunately, it does appear that the FTM app development is moving at a slower rate than the MTF app. This is a major disapointment for me as I have had many clients express their method of moving from a feminine to masculine voice as simply smoking and drinking until their voice was “manly.” Or they would wait until their insurance would pay for hormone therapy. Excess smoking and drinking obviously brings about many other health concerns that I would much rather my clients avoid. Medication, though effective, creates erratic changes that can be traumatic for a transitioning person and make them feel powerless over their own voice.
Though $4.99 per app can start to add up, it is a small price to pay for the accessibility to such carefully researched tools. These apps may never replace a good session with a qualified Voice Coach, but I believe the development of these apps is a step in the right direction towards addressing issues of vocal identity and empowerment in the transgender community
One of my students came into my studio because his voice was stuck. He had been offered a part in a play but was scared because he is just a stagehand not an actor. Even though he loved acting, he felt judged by some of his colleagues, had lost confidence and was scared of being unable to do the performance. We started with some relaxation and technical exercises but nothing happened in his voice. He was unable to recognize his value as an actor. At a certain point I decided to play with him. I asked to him to choose some lines of his text and I chose a monologue from Shakespeare. We were face to face and I asked to him to put one hand on his belly and I did the same. We looked each other in the eyes and we started to play a dialogue. I said some lines of my text and he answered with his. I looked at him with kindness and complete acceptance of his person and his voice. I asked him to speak from his belly and to feel that his voice had roots there; to feel his belly as his “home”. Something changed. His voice became more powerful and free. It was a very simple exercise, but at the end he looked at me and he said: “Thanks Chiara. I could see myself through your eyes and now I know where I have to come back to when I'm lost!”
I have always marveled at the fascinating complexity of the human voice. It is so abstract but at the same time so concrete. You can listen to the voice of people you know without seeing them, and immediately their face appears in your mind. You can listen to “your own voice” and you see yourself as if you are looking in a mirror. Often these voices can excite you even though you can’t touch the mechanism that creates the sound of the voice, as you would do with another part of the body.
After studying voice at the Academy of Dramatic Arts in Italy, I became more and more curious to learn about the parts of the body that create it. The need to learn more about my voice grew when I started having problems with a cyst on my left vocal fold. The way I felt wasn’t just physical, but also mental and emotional, as if along with my vocal cords, something inside of me had fallen ill as well. I started to research the subject and thanks to Roy Hart Theatre, Linklater’s method, and an MA in voice from the University of Bologna, I learnt of the great importance of breathing in the life of an actor, ranging from voice to physical and mental wellbeing. And when I studied Psychosynthesis (a branch of psychology founded by Roberto Assagioli) and Alexander Lowen's Bioenergetic analysis, I understood how the breath is linked with our emotions and our psyche. If I wanted to know VOICE I would have to study much more than the basics of the vocal mechanism.
Antonio Damasio says in Descartes' Error: “....one of the meanings of the word psyche is Breath and Blood....”.
I say: “If psyche means breath (and blood) and voice is breath then VOICE is PSYCHE”.
When I first encountered Roy Hart Theatre voice work, I understood that there was something deeper than the simple sound in a human voice: there was my whole personality. I worked on vocal archetypes; I gave voice to a big rainbow of emotions from my pain and suffering, to my joy and enthusiasm. I sang with my chest, with my pelvis, with my internal organs and with my heart. I performed my night dreams and “I let them sing”. I became aware that different emotions create different muscular tensions in the body, and these tensions influence our breath and so our voice. I felt better with each workshop, my voice becoming free and I felt pleasure in my psychological state. I found new space, which was reflected in my vocal tract, giving more colour to my voice.
Alexander Lowen says in The Voice of The Body:
“Proper breathing involves the muscles of the head, neck, thorax, and abdomen. It can be shown that chronic tension in any part of the body's musculature interferes with the natural respiratory movements. (…) The depth of the respiratory wave is a factor which varies with emotional states. Breathing becomes shallow when we are frightened or anxious. It deepens with relaxation, pleasure and sleep. Breathing easily and fully is one of the basic pleasures of being alive. The pleasure is clearly experienced at the end of expiration when the descending wave fills the pelvis with a delicious sensation. In adults this sensation has a sexual quality, though it does not induce any genital feeling. Though the rhythm of breathing is pronounced in the pelvic area, it is at the same time experienced by the total body as a feeling of fluidity, softness, lightness and excitement."
We have to find the pleasure of an easy breath and the pleasure of expressing ourselves through our voice. For many psychologists the throat is a centre of pleasure. One of the first pleasures that babies feel after they have been born is when they swallow their mother's milk for the first time. The pleasure of feeling that warm milk passing through the throat and arriving in the stomach calms the pain of being hungry and creates a sense of great release in their bodies; their breathing calms down with a sigh. In an adult there could be many other forms of pleasure, for example erotic pleasure (in Greek, Eros means love, it is the vital principle of the Universe), but over and over life experiences limit our feeling and pleasure is lost. We have to rediscover it if we want open and powerful voices. On the other hand, if some part of us suffers, our voice reflects this with sound distortion, tensions and even dysfunctions. Thanks to Roy Hart voice work I realized that every part of us can be identified as an internal “character”. There are many “characters” in us and they are linked with specific emotions. I found the scientific explanation of this intuition in Psychosynthesis, which provides a great tool for observing how these internal characters act to influence the voice.
Psychosynthesis is a psycho-spiritual therapy that recognizes and develops a person’s potential for growth and fulfillment, rather than treating them as emotionally wounded patients to be healed. By integrating Western analytic psychology and Eastern meditative psychology, we have a comprehensive approach to human development held in a spiritual context. It is a means of self-discovery and of becoming Self. Some of the techniques we use for accompanying this journey are found in other therapies, but all are held in the context of a person being more than just a body with thoughts and emotions. We give a lot of importance to feeling and understanding how we experience consciousness and will, love and power, purpose and values, soul and shadow.
Instead of being consistent and unchanging personalities, in this work we find ourselves to be a mix of contrasting, changing elements, which in psychosynthesis are termed sub-personalities. In the words of Assagioli:
“We are not unified. We often have the illusion of being so, because we do not have many bodies or many limbs, and because one hand does not fight with the other, but in our inner world this is actually the case – various personalities and sub-personalities struggle continuously with each other; impulses, desires, principles and aspirations are in continual tumult.”
When the various elements of our being are in conflict or we identify with one aspect of ourselves to the exclusion of others, our energy becomes blocked and this causes pain. However, when a synthesis of two or more parts of our personality occurs, energy is freed and we experience a sense of wellbeing. This is the essence of psychosynthesis: the harmonious integration of all our component parts around a unifying centre. The tendency towards synthesis is inherent within us. Rather than being an artificial imposition of techniques, psychosynthesis unblocks and stimulates a process that’s more closely allied to us than any other: becoming who we are...
Discovery and identification with our inner essence comes when we can un-identify from our sub-personalities. In the same way, I believe the voice is something to discover and not to construct or create. From birth the voice lives in us, and through our early childhood we respond to emotional, physical and psychological stimuli, instinctively with the voice. When babies feel hungry they cry. When they are happy they chuckle. As a child grows older social restrictions, especially events experienced during childhood, can limit the voice and the child’s ability to express him or herself. Because of these negative experiences, the autonomic nervous system will send “secondary messages” to the body that will impede the impulse to express itself freely. Therefore the link between emotions, thoughts and the voice is broken and no longer direct.
We are our voice. From childhood to adulthood we develop an internal image of ourselves, which is linked with a specific internal emotional state. Naturally, this image is formed by all the experiences of our life, including those negative events described above and by the masks (sub-personalities) that we wear in our life to defend ourselves from pain and judgment, or which are created by the role we have in the society. Our voice expresses this image through sound. For this reason, finding our natural voice means reconnecting our inner world, our awareness, to the need of expressing it through the voice and sometimes changing the internal image that we have.
As an actress, singer and voice teacher I don't want to limit my work to an analysis of voice as an instrument. I prefer to help myself and my students to free themselves from their physical, emotional and mental blocks through their own voice.
With Roy Hart Theatre voice work and Assagioli’s ideas it is possible to create a working path for freeing the artist’s body, mind and voice. It is also possible to work on the autonomic nervous system through imaginative exercises borrowed from Psychosynthesis. Imagination is the language of the autonomic nervous system and through the use of it I can reach involuntary muscles, such as the diaphragm, which are fundamental to free and support vocal expression. Furthermore, the use of specific visualisations can help free the emotional life of an artist and consequently their voice.
If we explore all these emotions and give voice to them, we can discover the natural voice of our inner essence or Self. And from this point we can find the nuances in the voices of the “personalities” we play on a stage.
Voice is the muscle of the soul (Alfred Wolfson)
I’m looking forward to gathering with colleagues in Chicago. It is ever so vital to engage in dialogues about race and diversity in light of recent events in our country. I am happy to be contributing to the conversation in the sessions on The Politics of Race and Identity in Performance: Implications for Voice and Speech Training and hope that our discussions foster deeper understanding.
Plan ahead for our Diversity Committee meeting during the conference, which will be held on Tuesday, August 9th at 12:45pm. Bring your lunch and join us in the Theater School Lobby.
If you are interested in sharing a song, poem or a piece of text, please sign up for our 3rd Annual Identity Cabaret (an initiative of the Diversity Committee). Performance slots are limited as is the time allotted for each performance (3-5 minutes each). If you are interested in performing in the cabaret, please contact Judith Shahn at email@example.com.
Lastly, please join me in congratulating this year’s recipients of 2016 VASTA Conference Diversity Scholarship, Oscar Quiroz, and the International Scholarship, Morné Steyn. Thank you to all of this year’s applicants.
Abrazos y adelante!
Diversity Committee Chair
Dear VASTA Community,
This edition of the VASTA Voice contains member news from members living in the Northeast and New York regions (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland). In the next issue, we will be including news from all 'South' and 'Southeast' members (Virginia, West Virginia, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida). If you live in that region, please send in your member news by Sunday September 3 for inclusion in the September newsletter.
After months of helping Claudia Anderson and Rachel Hirshorn with coordinating Member Presentations for the Chicago VASTA Conference the time to attend some fabulous presentations is almost here! I can't wait to finally meet a number of you fabulous VASTA members in person.
Happy reading! I look forward to meeting some of you in Chicago!!
Associate Editor, The VASTA Voice
ANTONIO OCAMPO-GUZMAN (Boston, MA) Last Fall, Antonio directed his own translation of Federico García Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba at Northeastern University, where he is an Associate Professor of Theatre. This summer, Antonio directs a double-bill of Donizetti’s Il Campanello and Mascagni’s L’amico Fritz for Boston Midsummer Opera. He spent part of August in Mexico City, celebrating the tenth anniversary of CEUVOZ. Last fall, the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México published the third edition (and first digital edition) of his adaptation of Linklater’s work into Spanish. Last spring, Antonio spent five weeks leading a study abroad program for Northeastern students in London.
BETH MCGUIRE (NYC)’s book, African Accents: A Workbook for Actors (Routledge Press), was published earlier this year. It is the first practical comprehensive analysis of African accents for English speakers. Beth was the vocal and dialect coach for the Tony award-winning play Eclipsed by Danai Gurira, which featured the Liberian accent in the book. In June, she gave an African Accents workshop in NYC, the first in a series of workshops exploring ethnically specific accents of Africa. Beth is also co-teaching a 4-part workshop series, A Window into Speech, with her colleague, Jane Guyer Fujita (NYC). The second workshop focuses on Speech and Text, and will take place October 15 & 16, 2016. Beth will be coaching the world premiere of Scenes from Court Life or the whipping boy and his prince by Sarah Ruhl, directed by Mark Wing-Davey at Yale Rep, in September.
LUCILLE S. RUBIN, PHD (New York, NY) has a private practice, Professionally Speaking, in which she coaches performers and corporate clients. She's also on the voice faculty at Circle in the Square Theatre School. Lucille is a Founding, Honorary, and Distinguished member of VASTA, and an active member of the Voice Foundation's yearly symposium, "Care of the Professional Voice" at which she coaches international presenters, serves on the Advisory Board and continues to support the work of the Presentation Outreach Committee with chair Donna Snow. It was Lucille's inspiration and perseverance to bring the June session of "When Exceptional Speaking Skills are Required" that brought together diverse voice disciplines with emphasis on vocal potential rather than vocal disorders. Nancy Solomon served as organizer and moderator of six participants including Michael Sheehan, coach of presidential candidates and congressional members. Bonnie Raphael discussed vocal concerns of the overworked actor's body and voice. Additionally, Lucille contributed to the recent book: Broadening the Circle; The Formative Years and the Future of The Voice Foundation by Martha Howell. Earlier Lucille received the V.E.R.A award from Dr. Robert Sataloff, Chair of TVF for the role of the voice in communication.
JOY JONES, MFA (Washington, DC) recently completed her first year as a Master Instructor at the Shakespeare Theatre Company of Washington, DC, where she taught Voice and Speech and Introduction to Acting. Earlier this year, Joy also co-taught Voice for the Shy Performer at the Actors Center, and Voice and Speech, Scene Study and Audition Techniques at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, all in Washington, DC. She also performed in the radio play, String Music, which will be broadcast this summer on the BBC.
JEFF S. DAILEY, PHD (Brooklyn, NY) directed several works this past year. His movement-based play The Bull of Heaven (based on an episode from The Epic of Gilgamesh) premiered at the Midtown International Theatre Festival in November. This was followed by another work he created, the text-based Seafaring, at the American Theatre of Actors, consisting of his translations of Anglo-Saxon poetry dealing with the sea (see https://seafaringblog.wordpress.com/ for details). He then directed a production of Sophocles’ Ajax at the John Cullum Theatre in May (see https://ajax2016blog.wordpress.com/).
KRISTI DANA has been appointed as the Interim Director of the MFA Acting Program at Brooklyn College, CUNY for the 2016-2017 academic year and will teach all Graduate level Voice courses (substituting for Professor Judylee Vivier during her one year sabbatical leave). She recently completed a two-year apprenticeship and mentorship with Professor Scott Miller, hosted in part at the Graduate Acting Program at NYU|Tisch School of the Arts, and is a teacher of the Miller Voice Method (mVm). Additionally, Kristi recently completed the Michael Chekhov Technique Advanced Teacher Training as well as the Knight-Thompson Speechwork certification course. This summer, she will be co-presenting at the VASTA Conference in "Miller Voice Method: A Breath and Presence Experiment"; "Drill Baby, Drill: Building speech skills WHILE Breathing"; and "Michael Chekhov Technique: The Radiating Voice." Kristi is the ATHE Conference Planner for VASTA and will be presenting her paper at ATHE, Breathe, Energize, Activate, Integrate: Igniting Conscious Spontaneity as part of the panel, "Working Hard at Letting Go, Exploring the use of conscious spontaneity in performance" and will co-present with members of the Miller Voice Method team in the workshop Integration: The Physical Routines of the Miller Voice Method (mVm).
STEVEN ENG (New York, NY) is spending this summer at Seattle's acclaimed 5th Avenue Theatre performing in the new "revisal" of the musical Paint Your Wagon. The new book is written by Pulitzer Prize finalist Jon Marans to accompany the classic Lerner & Loewe score, with new characters tackling complex issues of race. The show will continue to the Ordway Theater in St. Paul, MN in August. In the show, Steven speaks both in Cantonese and Cantonese-accented English. Earlier in the fall, he performed in the new musical Waterfall by Tony/Oscar winners Richard Maltby, Jr. and David Shire, speaking Japanese and Japanese-accented English. New large-scale musicals with characters speaking in Asian languages and their accents of English is uncommon, and he's looking forward to sharing his experiences in September when he returns to teaching Voice & Speech at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, The New Studio on Broadway.
LENORE HARRIS, ACTRESS, TEACHER, COACH (New York City, NY) is now on the faculty of the Susan Batson Studio teaching classes in Speech Fundamentals and in Accent Reduction for professional international actors and speakers of English As A Second Language. Her Speech workbooks The Speaking Image I and The Speaking Image 2 are based on Lenore’s training as the protege to the renowned phonetician Alice Hermes, one of the leading speech teachers of actors in the United States. Lenore also teaches privately and her clientele includes actors and business professionals. This summer she will begin writing a book on her acting training with legendary master teacher Paul Mann. Her website: LenoreHarris.com
JOAN MELTON, PHD, ADVS (New York, NY) coached and wrote music for New York Classical Theatre’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Central Park, then led 1st and 2nd Intensives for the Certificate Course in Integrative Studies IV, offered by One Voice Centre, NYC. In the fall, she will be on faculty of the new musical theatre program at the Manhattan School of Music, and will initiate an international research study focusing on voice and the actor. On October 16th, Joan will present NYSTA’s fall workshop in NYC, and February/March 2017 she will return to Sweden, Gothenburg and Stockholm, to teach in four conservatory programs.
ELISSA WEINZIMMER (New York, NY) just launched How Your Voice Works, an online course explaining the anatomy and mechanics of the human voice. The course is open for enrollment on an ongoing basis, and more information is available at www.howyourvoiceworks.com. Earlier this summer, Elissa had the pleasure of presenting a workshop on breathing anatomy at the Voice Symposium in Philadelphia, and a workshop on vocal vibration at the Body-Mind Centering conference in Montreal. She looks forward to presenting in Chicago at the VASTA conference as well!
AMY STOLLER (New York, NY) With the recent success of Women Without Men, and the upcoming A Day by the Sea (directed by Austin Pendleton), Amy is celebrating her 20th anniversary as resident Dialect Designer & frequent Dramaturge at off-Broadway’s award-winning Mint Theater Company. Continuing her collaboration with Anna Deavere Smith, over the past year she has worked at Berkeley Rep, Stanford Live, the New York Public Library, Baltimore Center Stage, and Philadelphia Theatre Company on Notes from the Field: Doing Time in Education; with new editions forthcoming. Other recent engagements include Himself and Nora (off-Broadway at the Minetta Lane Theatre), Mozart in the Jungle (Amazon) and Power (Starz). Private practice continues in New York and by video-conferencing.
DEBORAH KINGHORN (New Hampshire) completed her 16th year at the University of New Hampshire by reading Margaret in Henry VI-1,2, & 3 and Richard III for 7 Stages Shakespeare Company. Earlier in the year, she dialect coached Big Fish, Dead Man’s Cell Phone, and The Crucible, the last with co-designer Aimee Blesing. She was keynote speaker at both the US and South Africa Lessac Conferences, and travelled to Brazil and Croatia to present workshops in Kinesensics. This summer she will teach the Lessac Summer Intensive at DePauw University, and present a one week workshop for the Academy of Arts in Helsinki, Finland. She is also a featured speaker at this year’s VASTA conference, along with Barry Kur and Nancy Krebs. She and Erica Tobolski recently completed an article entitled “Finding Common Ground: Lessac Training Across Cultures”, which has been accepted for publication in Theatre Topics.
BARRY KUR (State College, PA) was thrilled to be invited to lead master classes at his undergrad alma mater, SUNY Oswego Theatre Department to start the academic year. He followed that with a three-week residency with the acting school of the University of Rijeka, Croatia. He led the one week Introductory Lessac Workshop at the University of Mary Washington, Fredericksburg, VA in June and looks forward to co-leading a two hour Lessac Kinesencics workshop at the VASTA Conference in Chicago with Lessac Master Teacher colleagues Nancy Krebs and Deborah Kinghorn.
LIZ CAPLAN (NYC, New York) Liz Caplan Vocal Studios, LLC. Liz was the Vocal Consultant on NBC's The Wiz (live telecast on 12/3/15). She was the vocal supervisor on Hedwig and the Angry Inch on Broadway from 2014-2015. Her student, Neil Patrick Harris, won the 2014 Tony for Best Actor in a musical. As well, her student, and creator of Hedwig, John Cameron Mitchell won an honorary Tony Award in 2015. Ms. Caplan is the Vocal Consultant on Disney's Aladdin the musical (James Monroe Iglehart won the 2014 Tony for Best Featured Actor in a musical). She was the vocal coach on the 2015 revival of Fiddler on the Roof and the Vocal Supervisor of the new David Bowie musical, Lazarus, starring Michael C. Hall at New York Theater Workshop. She is about to begin a vocal consultancy on Director Alex Timbers' The Robber Bridegroom for an off-Broadway run. She began work with Hugh Jackman on his upcoming musical film The Greatest Showman based on the life of PT Barnum. She began work last year as vocal supervisor on director Baz Lurhmann's Netflix show The Get Down which will air in 2016. She was the Vocal Coach for the 2015 Academy Awards.
ANA CRISTINA GIGI BUFFINGTON (New York City) has successfully completed her review at the Tisch School of the Arts, New York University, and received promotion to Associate Arts Professor. She is the resident Voice and Text Coach for Compagnia de Colombari, and the Director of Voice and Text for APT. To commemorate the 500th anniversary of the foundation of the Jewish Ghetto in Venice and the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, she is currently coaching Colombari’s The Merchant Of Venice, performed by an international cast in multiple languages in the site-specific setting of the Venetian Jewish Ghetto. She recently coached: Steppenwolf’s Mary Page Marlowe, the latest collaboration by Anna Shapiro and Tracy Letts; East Of Eden, adapted by Frank Galati, directed by Terry Kinney; Colombari’s, Texts & Beheadings: Elizabeth R, for BAM and The Folger Theatre, written and directed by Karin Coonrod. She will lead a Voice and Shakespeare’s Text workshop in Chicago in August. She recently directed Alexandra Cunningham’s Number 11 (Blue and White) at Tisch, and continues her private coaching with professional actors.
MARYA LOWRY (Brandeis U., Actors’ Shakespeare Project, Boston, MA) played Duchesses of Gloucester and York and Northumberland in ASP’s production of Richard II ((Feb/ Mar) and Lottie in Schaffer’s Lettice and Lovage at Gloucester Stage Co., with Lindsay Crouse (May/June). Summer Roy Hart voice workshops: Joan Melton’s ONE VOICE Integrative Studies summer program and an August workshop w/ Phil Timberlake coming up in Chicago, also on going private and small groups classes. She joins the new BFA in Contemporary Theatre at Boston Conservatory this fall, teaching Roy Hart and extended voice. She’ll play Prospero (a) for ASP this Nov.-Jan.
ROCKFORD SANSOM, Ph.D., M.F.A. (New York, NY) teaches voice, speech, accents, and singing at Marymount Manhattan College, the American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA), and HB studios. Rocky also works as an Associate for the London-based communications group Cmt, working with Fortune 500 executives, U.N. delegates, and political figures. He is now a Certified Master Teacher of Estill Voice and a certified teacher of Fitzmaurice Voicework and Knight-Thompson Speechwork. He has recently been published in “The Voice” from the Voice Foundation and “Theatre Topics,” and he currently serves as the Associated Editor of singing for the VSR. Rocky is a 2016 VASTA Dorothy Mennen Development Grant recipient. This summer, he is teaching and coaching for the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey.
VASTA Board of Directors & Officers
Tara McAllister Viel
Michael J. Barnes
Janet B. Rodgers
Joanna Battles & Tamara Meneghini
Amy Mihyang Ginther
©2010, Voice and Speech Trainers Association