Volume 9, Issue 5
Table of Contents:
A Message from the President
Letter from the Editor
Medical Insurance, the Professional Voice User, and the Health Insurance Market Place
Un Viaje de Extremos
A Journey of Extremes
2015 VASTA Conference Diversity/International Scholarships
The Voice of the Mexican American Woman
The Latino Theater Commons, the 2014 national convening
Engagement Committee Update
Freelance Coaching Column
As I write, autumn is in full swing here in the Mid-Atlantic region, with gorgeous foliage nearing its peak of coloration. Busy schedules extend from clear days into crisp nights. Production seasons are opening at schools and regional theatres, with the allied exhilaration and challenges of creative activity. Amidst the pressure of numerous commitments, the time needed to slow down, to enjoy, to reflect, must often be carved out, consciously set aside. If you're reading this, you've taken a break from your daily routine, and it's a good time for me to note some VASTA-related information you may have missed.
VASTA has become an honorary member of the Vocal Health Advocacy Committee (VHAC) of the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary. Other member organizations include Actors' Equity Association and the National Association of Teachers of Singing. The VHAC website is vocalhealth.org, and a related "Sing Well" Facebook page can be found at facebook.com/singwellvsi. Goals of the committee are to:
• Share information about voice and swallowing disorders and the available treatments
• Educate performers, singers, teachers, and others who rely on their voices for their jobs about voice maintenance, optimization, treatment, and rehabilitation
• Provide tips on how to keep your voice functioning well
• Link to other sites related to vocal health and swallowing well-being
I hope you'll explore the website and take advantage of information provided there on vocal health, plus a range of topics of interest to our field. Or you can engage more actively by asking a question, sharing information and joining the conversation on the “Sing Well” Facebook page.
Plans are ongoing for the 2015 VASTA conference in Montreal, August 2-5. Pamela Prather has been working diligently to shape and organize what promises to be a fantastic event. Members Cynthia DeCure and Kristi Dana are assisting Pamela. Look for detailed information and a call for presentation/paper proposals to be posted soon on the VASTA website. In alternating years, VASTA aims for scheduling our conference in the same city as ATHE holds theirs, either immediately preceding or following their conference. 2015 is just such a year, so it's possible to extend your stay in beautiful Montreal and attend both events.
In closing, I want to reflect on the loss of two of our colleagues and friends—Lynn Metrik and Matt Tomlanovich. Matt I knew from his volunteer work for VASTA, and as a fellow Fitzmaurice teacher. Even so, until recently I did not know of his efforts in revitalizing the Margo Jones Theatre in Dallas, named after the regional theatre pioneer who was its founder. Lynn was a long-time VASTA member and worked in many areas including as a speech pathologist, and a voice, dialect and singing specialist. From the VASTA family to the families and students of Lynn and Matt, we extend our condolences. We honor our colleagues through reflecting on and renewing commitments to use our work as they did: to nourish, advance, and inspire “voices for good."
Hello again fellow VASTAns!
I am so very excited to share this latest issue with you. We have our first ever non-English language piece (with English translation included) submitted for the International Column. We also have the first articles for the newly minted Technology and Freelance Columns, with our new Column Editor Marina Tyndall. There is committee news, a couple of fantastic articles for the Diversity Column, and an incredibly useful piece on navigating the health care marketplace.
I hope all the terrific content this month will inspire you in your work, and also inspire you to contribute. We want to hear your ideas! Additionally, the VASTA Voice is still seeking an editor for our Technology Column, for which our Associate Editor Josh Moser graciously filled in this issue. Please get in touch if you are interested.
Editor, VASTA Voice
As part of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. ObamaCare), the U.S. government is now requiring that every individual over the age of 18 be enrolled in health insurance. Individuals who do not have health insurance in 2015 are subject to a penalty whose fee is 2% of the individual’s gross yearly income or $325, whichever is higher. This fee will be assessed as part of the yearly income tax calculation. Individuals who are not offered health insurance through his/her employer may purchase affordable health insurance through the U.S. federal government sponsored Health Insurance Market Place, which can be accessed online at www.healthcare.gov. Most of the large insurance companies offer insurance plans through the Health Insurance Market Place, and the U.S. government will subsidize the cost of health insurance for individuals whose salary falls below a certain level if they purchase insurance through the Market Place.
All of the health plans are required to offer the following benefits: outpatient care (primary care office visits, specialists office visits, urgent care), emergency services, surgery (inpatient and outpatient), hospitalization, pregnancy care and delivery, newborn baby care, mental health (counseling and psychotherapy), substance use disorder services, prescription drugs, rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices (i.e. canes, crutches, walkers, CPAP machines, hospital beds, etc.), and laboratory services.
When choosing a health plan, however, it is important to consider the following factors:
1. What is the deductible amount?
2. Can I afford to pay the entire deductible amount at any time period during the year should an emergency arise?
3. Is there a deductible for prescription medications?
4. Is there a co-insurance?
5. Does the co-insurance apply to inpatient services?
6. Does the co-insurance apply to outpatient services?
7. What is the maximum out-of-pocket amount with the health plan?
8. Can I afford to pay the maximum out-of-pocket amount during the course of the year?
9. What is the co-payment amount? Can I afford to pay the co-payment amount each time I see a doctor, especially in the event of an illness during which I may need to see a doctor frequently?
10. Are non-generic prescription medications covered? If so, how much do I have to contribute to the cost?
What is the Co-Payment?
The co-payment is the amount that you have to pay for each office visit with a physician, whether that physician is a specialist or a primary care physician. Usually the co-payment amounts for visits with specialists are slightly higher than the co-payment amounts for visits with primary care physicians. The co-payment applies only to the office visit with the physician. If a procedure is performed at the time of the office visit, it is considered by all insurance companies to be a “surgical procedure”, even when it is done for diagnostic purposes only. This means that if you see an ear, nose and throat physician for a sinus infection and a sinus scope is performed, there will be a separate charge for the sinus scope than for the office visit. The co-payment will be applied to the office visit part of the charge, but not to the sinus scope part of the office visit. Most insurance companies apply the deductible and co-insurance amounts to any procedures that are done at the time of an office visit.
What is the Deductible?
The deductible is the amount of money that you have to contribute to your medical care, in addition to your monthly premiums, before the insurance company will begin to pay for any of the services listed above. In general, visits to the primary care doctor for yearly examinations and preventative care (i.e. yearly pap smears and mammograms) are covered 100% by most insurance companies, whether you have a deductible or not. Some plans have co-payments for office visits in addition to the deductibles. For the plans that have a copayment in addition to the deductible, usually, only the co-payment is due for both sick and well office visits. If, however, you have plan that does not have a co-payment, just a deductible amount for all services, when you have a flu or upper respiratory tract infection and need to see your primary care physician, you will be responsible for what your insurance company considers the cost of that office visit, up to your deductible amount. If you have a low deductible, such as $250, the first $250 of medical care during 2015 (beginning January 1, 2015), will be your financial responsibility. If your deductible is higher, say around $3000, the first $3000 of your medical care for 2015 will be your financial responsibility. Any procedures that are done at a specialist’s office, such as videostroboscopy, flexible laryngoscopy, sinus endoscopy, pulmonary function tests, upper GI endoscopy, chest x-ray, CT scan of the sinuses, etc. are subject to the deductible amount, whether or not there is a co-payment only for the office visit. This fact is often lost amongst the knowledge base of voice professionals, and the sticker price for seeing a laryngologist for stroboscopy becomes shocking if not understood ahead of time.
So, let’s say, for instance, that you have a deductible of $3000 and no co-payment for office visits. In January, you have the flu and see your primary care physician. The insurance company determines that the cost of that office visit is $173. You would then be responsible for paying your primary care physician $173 for that office visit in addition to continuing to pay the insurance company the monthly premium amount. You would then have $2827 (=$3000 - $173) left on your deductible amount for the remainder of 2015. Let’s say that you start coughing as a result of that flu and develop nodules on your vocal folds that cause hoarseness and are referred to a laryngologist for videostroboscopy and treatment of your voice. The insurance company determines that the cost of the office visit with the laryngologist is $173 also and the cost of the videostroboscopy is $247. You would then be responsible for paying the $173 +$247 = $420 to the laryngologist. The amount of your deductible you will have consumed at this point will be $173 (the amount that you paid for the sick visit with the primary care doctor) + $420 (the amount that you paid for the visit with the laryngologist) = $593 and you will still have $2407 (= $3000 - $593) left on your deductible. You would then need to consume another $2407 worth of medical services in 2015 before your insurance company begins to pay any of your medical bills at all. When the new year rolls around, the deductible amount will reset on January 1, 2016, and if your next year’s deductible is also $3000, you will need to pay $3000 worth of medical expenses in 2016 before your insurance pays any medical expenses for that year as well.
Anyone who has a deductible plan should place the deductible amount in a savings account or an HSA (HealthCare Savings Account) at the beginning of the calendar year. With the deductible amount already saved up, there is less of a financial impact of having to pay the deductible amount when an emergency arises. When deciding whether or not to purchase a plan with a deductible, it is wise to calculate the cost of 12 months of premiums plus the cost of the deductible and the “out-of-pocket maximum” to determine the full cost of the plan. Low premiums are not necessarily equivalent to a low cost plan.
What is the Co-Insurance?
The co-insurance is usually given as a percentage amount. It is the percentage of the total cost of medical care that the individual has to pay. Most insurance plans have co-insurances that are either 0%, 10%, 15%, 20%, and 30%. If your co-insurance is 0%, this means that after your deductible and co-payments are paid by you, the insurance company will pay 100% of the remaining amount of your medical expenses. If you have a co-insurance and a co-payment, then the co-payment is applied to the office visits that you have with your physicians. If the physician performs a procedure, such as drawing blood for labs, laryngoscopy to evaluate the vocal folds, chest x-ray or pulmonary function studies, then the co-insurance would apply to these procedures and you would be responsible for paying the percentage of the total allowed cost of these procedures that corresponds to your co-insurance. For instance, let’s suppose that you do not have a deductible. You have a co-payment of $30 for specialist office visits and a 20% co-insurance. If you see an otolaryngologist for evaluation of hoarseness and the laryngologist performs a videostroboscopy to evaluate your vocal folds, then you would be responsible for the $30 co-payment for the office visit and 20% of the allowed charges for the videostroboscopy. If the insurance company determines that $247 is the payment amount for the videostroboscopy, then you would be responsible for 20% of this amount or $49.40 (= 0.2 x $247) plus the co-payment, and your total payment due to the physician would be $30 + $49.40 = $79.40.
If you have a deductible and a co-insurance, the deductible amount must be met by you first (that is you must pay the full deductible amount in medical services) before the co-insurance is applied. Once the deductible is met, you will have to pay the co-insurance for all eligible procedures (which also includes imaging studies such as x-rays, CT scans, and MRI scans) until your out-of-pocket maximum is met. Pay very close attention to the co-insurance amount for inpatient hospitalization and surgery. One day in the hospital for a minor medical problem such as a bad tonsil infection can cost as much as $3000. If your co-insurance for in-patient care is 20%, you will be responsible for $600 per day of care. For intensive care such as is typically required for care from injuries sustained in a car accident, the cost for a day of care can range from $30,000 to $60,000 per day, in which case a 20% co-insurance would cost you $6,000 to $12,000 per day. My advice would be to purchase a plan that has a set co-payment amount for in-patient care and no co-insurance or deductible for inpatient care at all. If you do purchase a plan with a deductible amount, make sure it includes inpatient and outpatient services as equal contributors to the deductible, and not separate deductibles for inpatient and outpatient care. If you have a deductible for inpatient care, a health savings account (HSA) is highly recommended as a reservoir of funds for emergencies.
What is the Out-of-Pocket Maximum?
The out-of-pocket maximum is the maximum amount of money that you have to pay per year over your premium amount for health care expenses. This amount usually includes the total amount that you are required to pay towards your deductible, co-payments, co-insurance, and prescription drug costs for the year. After you meet your out-of-pocket maximum, the health insurance plan will pay 100% of your remaining health care costs for that calendar year. For instance, if your out-of-pocket maximum is $6000, your deductible amount is $3000, you have a 20% co-insurance, and you pay a co-payment of $30 for office visits, after you have met your deductible, you are only required to spend another $3000 in co-payments and co-insurance before your insurance company covers 100% of your medical expenses. Once you have paid $3000 in deductibles and $3000 total in co-insurance and co-payments, if there are additional medical expenses for the calendar year that ends December 31, 2015, your insurance plan will cover those expenses 100%. With most insurance plans, the deductible amount is included in the out-of-pocket maximum. With some insurance plans, it is not. When calculating the cost of your insurance plan, you need to be aware of whether or not the deductible amount is included in the out-of-pocket maximum amount or not.
What About Prescription Coverage?
Most health plans offer a lower co-payment amount for generic medications. It is important when looking for a health plan to determine the co-payment and/or deductible amount for name brand medications. Most of the newer medications that are available do not have generic versions. Oftentimes, these medications offer significant health advantages over the older medications that do have a generic version. A single prescription can cost several hundred dollars for a one month supply. If you have a large deductible amount for prescription medications, you may be forced to pay this large sum of money for the prescriptions or get the lesser health benefits of a generic formulation. In general, the better prescription plans will have a set co-payment amount for name brand/non-generic prescription medications. My advice would be to avoid prescription plans that have a coinsurance or a deductible amount for name brand/non-generic prescription medications altogether because the costs can become prohibitive very quickly.
It can be daunting to look at the variety of plans that are offered in the Health Insurance Market Place. My best advice is to consider the total cost of the plan, not just the monthly premiums. The total cost of the plan to you will be the sum of 12 months of monthly premiums plus the out-of-pocket maximum. Make sure that you understand whether or not the out-of-pocket maximum includes the cost of prescription drugs and the deductible amount. If not, the total cost of the plan for you will be the sum of the 12 month premium amount plus the out-of-pocket maximum for inpatient and outpatient care plus the deductible amount of inpatient and outpatient care plus the out-of-pocket maximum and deductible amount for prescription medications. Calculate the total cost of each plan using this formula and then compare plans using this total amount to see what the total cost/savings benefit of each plan is.
The other factor to consider is whether or not the plan provides dental and vision coverage. Many plans do not and there is a separate cost for these that needs to be factored into the total equation. It is important to have coverage for both. Tooth infections are the number one cause of serious neck infections that compromise the airway, systemic infections that cause sepsis, and infections that affect the heart valves and heart function. Dental insurance should be considered a must for everyone.
Good luck in maneuvering the Market Place!
Many teachers of speech and dialect for actors seek ways to give students a kinesthetic experience when dealing with the International Phonetic Alphabet. Paul Meier's work with the IPA and the IDEA website has been invaluable for teachers, coaches, students and actors studying speech or new dialects. With the rise of technology, having the ability to quickly access resources on iPads or iPhones makes it easy to take your resources with you to rehearsal or to set. However, flash requirements make trying to play sound files on websites almost impossible on a tablet like the iPad. Paul Meier's app - titled The Interactive IPA - is an easy way to take a reliable IPA resource with you everywhere. The app features all current official phonetic charts, as well as phthong charts for standard American and British RP, which were developed by Mr. Meier.
The user-friendly interactive aspect makes the app a kinesthetic and audiovisual learning aid. The user simply touches the symbol they wish to examine more closely. A detailed description of the symbol pops up and an option to play a sound file, so you can hear, touch, and see the symbol at the same time. The app makes a wonderful addition to classroom use for students in an introduction to speech or a stage dialects course where the IPA is used, as it can easily supplement some current popular methods such as Knight-Thompson speechwork or Colaianni pillow work. If you are an iPad or iPhone user, download the app or read some of the rave reviews other users have given it by going to your device's app store and searching for "The Interactive IPA". Now all we need is an app for the dialect archives!
Soy multi-linguÌe y multi-cultural, y también cantante, compositora y profesora de voz residente en España. Aunque nací aquí, me crié en Suecia y el Reino Unido, en un hogar en el que el castellano y el inglés se hablaban con la misma fluidez.
Para mí fue una enorme sorpresa cuando una amiga me propuso que me uniera al profesorado de un prestigioso centro de arte dramático en Madrid para enseñar canto. Era 2007, acababa de grabar mi segundo CD, y estaba emocionada con la perspectiva de tocar en el Festival South By Southwest. No me veía como profesora. De ninguna manera.
No obstante, algo en mí se interesó y acepté el desafío. En los meses que siguieron a esa decisión me encontré dando bandazos entre la dulce ignorancia de la incompetencia inconsciente y la incomodidad extrema de la incompetencia consciente. Con el tiempo resolví my falta de preparación formándome con Kristin Linklater en la Central School of Speech and Drama.
Desde ese primer trabajo, he ejercido la docencia de la voz con regularidad en una gama de escuelas de teatro privadas en Madrid, y también por libre, a menudo con personas que no son actores, en España y por el mundo. Cuando miro hacia atrás, reconozco dos experiencias extremas y simultáneas. La primera, eminentemente positiva, es el factor humano, los alumnos. He tenido el privilegio de trabajar con actores profesionales y actores en vías de formación, la mayoría interesantes, vivaces, espontáneos e imaginativos. Muchos son maravillosos, algunos excepcionales. Encuentro que en este país la interacción con los alumnos suele ser fácil. Tienden a tener una actitud respetuosa pero sin llegar a la formalidad, y suelen ser cálidos y simpáticos.
En estos momentos sus perspectivas profesionales son bastante espeluznantes. Les esperan muy pocas salidas laborales en una industria que lucha por sobrevivir, más aún en el contexto de una crisis financiera. Los jóvenes vienen de años de dormirse en sus pupitres escolares, con poca o ninguna experiencia de jugar, expresarse creativamente, desconocedores de la conexión entre cuerpo, mente y voz. Muchos se han criado pegados a una pantalla.
Al principio, como todo el que empieza, les puede resultar difícil adentrarse en lo desconocido, cultivar una mente de principiante. Pueden enfadarse y mostrar resistencias. Para ellos, el aprendizaje está asociado al aburrimiento, a la memorización mecánica y la regurgitación de datos. A menudo están deseando salir a escena y actuar, y no tienen conciencia del valor de la técnica, del proceso lento y profundo de reeducación del cuerpo y la mente que conlleva nuestro trabajo. Sin embargo, con el tiempo, aprenden a abrirse a nuevas maneras de ser, a la reconexión con el cuerpo, las emociones y los instintos, y siempre es emocionante ser testigo de ésto.
Mis talleres de voz con personas interesadas en explorar sus voces como parte de su crecimiento personal a veces son un desafío para mí, principalmente porque los participantes están todavía menos acostumbrados al trabajo expresivo y creativo que un alumno de arte dramático novato. No obstante, encuentro que estos participantes pueden estar muy abiertos y disponibles, y con frecuencia aportan al trabajo un valioso trasfondo vital de gran riqueza y variedad. Y resulta muy interesante comprobar como algunos de mis alumnos no actores se han animado a abordar trabajos creativos después de descubrir el trabajo con la voz.
En el otro extremo está mi sensación de soledad y falta de reconocimiento. Aunque hay profesionales del cine y el teatro que muestran interés y respeto por la voz, no existe una tradición vocal arraigada en este país. Durante la larga dictadura de Franco la censura sirvió como un importante instrumento de represión, y una de sus manfiestaciones más significativas fue el doblaje sistemático de películas. El público nunca oía al actor hablar directamente a cámara; las voces que llegaban desde las pantallas de los cines leían textos en un estudio de grabación, sin conexión corporal, y disociados de la acción que se sucedía en pantalla. Creo que ésto ha generado una división entre la manera en que la gente habla en su vida diaria, y cómo hablan los actores cuando están interpretando un papel. Como si volverse artificial y amanerado y completamente desposeído de nada que se asemeje a un acento fuera inherente a ser actor.
Es más, pienso que ha llevado a que el entrenamiento vocal gire en torno a la producción de voces "bellas", y no voces reales que salen de una persona real. Este enfoque limitado ha condenado a la voz a un lugar secundario en las instituciones de enseñanza. No se la considera un recurso esencial para el actor serio.
Debido a esta falta de reconocimiento, los que enseñamos voz aquí trabajamos en una gran soledad. Existe una oferta variada de posibilidades de entrenamiento vocal en mi país, pero sigue estando sin regular y sin supervisar. Por ejemplo, mi Designación Linklater aquí es papel mojado, no significa nada. En la escuela en la que trabajo en la actualidad, se considera que mis clases son en parte un calentamiento para las clases de interpretación, y por lo tanto se programan siempre a primera hora de la jornada. Los alumnos pueden optar a una formación de dos años, pero la voz sólo es obligatoria en el primer año, y sólo reciben dos horas por semana.
Y el dinero es un gran problema. Se han recortado los sueldos en todas las escuelas oficiales, y en las privadas lo habitual es pagar en negro. En los ocho años que llevo dando clases jamás he disfrutado de un contrato. Por lo tanto, cero seguridad laboral. Cada vez veo más alumnos obligados a abandonar las clases, e incluso el país, por falta de medios económicos.
Intento ver esta situación como una oportunidad, en el sentido de que queda tanto por hacer. Albergo la esperanza de que los profesores de voz españoles podamos unirnos y compartir nuestros recursos, para empezar a construir una posición de mayor reconocimiento, no sólo en el mundo del actor, sino también en muchas otras áreas en las que la voz podría ser una herramiento valiosa, como por ejemplo el mundo empresarial. En estos momentos mis compañeras Linklater y yo estamos en el proceso de encontrar formas de colaborar y generar una mayor conciencia de la importancia de trabajar con la voz.
Espero que esta crisis se acabe y que lleguen gobiernos con una mayor sensibilidad hacia la importancia de las artes. Quizás en el futuro haya un mayor interés en hablar con verdad, libertad y conexión a la emoción y el instinto.
Espero trabajar siempre con actores, y que con el tiempo aparezca una institución o un grupo humano con quienes crecer y prosperar, haciendo lo que me apasiona. Sobre todo, espero no tener que irme de mi país, como están haciendo tantos de mis alumnos.
I am a multi-lingual, multi-cultural singer, songwriter, voice coach and teacher based in Spain. Although I was born in Spain, I grew up in Sweden and the UK, in a home where Spanish and English were spoken with equal fluency.
It came as a huge surprise to me when a close friend asked me to join the staff at a prestigious drama studio in Madrid as a singing teacher. It was 2007, I had just finished recording my second CD, and I was looking forward to showcasing it at SXSW. I did not see myself as a teacher. At all.
However, something in me became interested and I accepted the challenge. In the following months I floundered from the relatively blissful ignorance of unconscious incompetence to the acute discomfort of conscious incompetence, eventually dealing with my lack of preparation by training with Kristin Linklater at the Central School of Speech and Drama.
Since that first job, I have regularly taught voice at a variety of private drama schools in Madrid, and also as a freelance voice coach, often with non-actors, in different parts of the world.
Looking back, I recognise two rather extreme and simultaneous experiences. The first, eminently positive, is the human factor, the students. I have been privileged to work with interesting, lively, spontaneous and imaginative professional actors and acting students. Many of them wonderful, some truly exceptional. I find that interaction with students here is generally easy. They tend to be respectful but not overly formal, and are usually very warm and friendly.
At present their professional prospects are pretty awful. There is very little work waiting for them in a struggling industry, even more so in the context of a recession. The young ones come from years of falling asleep at school desks, with little or no experience of play, creative expression or the body-mindvoice connection. Many of them have grown up glued to a screen of some sort.
At first, like all new students, they can find it difficult to journey into the unknown, to cultivate a beginner's mind. They can become angry and resistant. For them learning has become associated with boredom, with mechanical memorisation and regurgitation of facts. Often they are dying to get out there and act, and have no sense of the value of technique, of the slow and profound process of reeducating body and mind that our work involves. However, with time, they learn to open up to new ways of being, to reconnecting with their bodies, their emotions, their instincts, and it is always exciting to be a witness to this.
My voice workshops with people who are interested in exploring their voices as part of their personal growth can be challenging, mainly because the participants are even less used to expressive and creative work than fledgling actors. However, I find that this kind of participant can be very open and available, and frequently bring a rich and varied life and world experience to the work that is a valuable contribution. And interestingly enough, some of my non-acting students have gone on to develop creative work for the first time.
At the other end of the spectrum is my feeling of aloneness and lack of recognition. Although there are professionals in theatre and film who express interest in and respect for the voice, there is no strong voice tradition in this country. During Franco's long dictatorship censorship was an important instrument of repression, and one of its most significant manifestations involved systematically dubbing films. The audience never heard an actor speak directly to the camera; the voices that sounded from the screen were reading text in a recording studio, disassociated from their bodies, and from the action taking place onscreen. I believe this has created a divide between the way people actually speak in their lives, and how actors speak when they are acting. As if becoming artificial and stilted and absolutely devoid of anything resembling an accent were inherent to being an actor.
In addition, it is my belief that this has led to voice training being about the production of "beautiful" voices, rather than real voices coming from a real person. This limited approach to the voice has condemned it to a secondary place in teaching institutions. It is not considered as an essential resource for a serious actor.
Due to this lack of recognition, those of us who are teaching voice here work very much alone. There is a variety of possibilities for voice training in the country, but it remains unregulated and unsupervised. For instance, my Linklater Designation means nothing here. At the school where I currently teach, , my classes are seen partly as a warm-up for the acting classes, and hence always take place first thing in the morning. The students can opt for a 2-year training, but voice is only mandatory in the first year, and they only get 2 hours a week.
And money is a big problem. Salaries have been cut in all the official schools, and in the private schools it is a habitual practice to pay under the table. In the 8 years I have been teaching voice I have never had a contract! Hence, absolutely no job security. Increasingly I am seeing students having to leave my classes and even the country because they have run out of money.
I try to see this situation as an opportunity, in that so much remains to be done. I have the hope that if Spanish voice teachers can come together and pool our resources, we may begin to build a more recognised position, not just in the acting world, but for many other areas where voice could be a valuable resource, as for instance the corporate world. Currently my Spanish Linklater colleagues and myself are in the process of finding ways to work together and create a greater awareness of the importance of working with the voice.
I hope that this recession will come to an end and there will be governments with a greater sensitivity to the importance of the arts. Perhaps in the future there will be a greater interest in what it means to really speak with truth, freedom and connection to one's emotions and instincts.
I hope always to work with actors, and that eventually there will be an institution or a group of people where I can grow and prosper doing what I love. Above all, I hope not to have to leave my country, like so many of my students are doing.
The Diversity and International Committees are proud to announce the 2015 VASTA Conference Diversity/International Scholarships. VASTA as an organization values the benefit of hearing the voices and ideas of a diverse group of practitioners. These scholarships will provide an opportunity for a practitioner from an under-represented population to attend the VASTA Conference. VASTA will offer two (2) $750 Scholarships to early career voice practitioners to attend the VASTA Conference in Montreal August 2-5, 2015. In addition, the conference fee will be waived.
These scholarships are intended for:
1. Εarly career voice practitioners. This may include someone at the end of their graduate studies, a freelance practitioner, adjunct professor (tenure-track professors are not encouraged to apply)
2. Members who demonstrate a need.
3. Practitioners who have attended no more than one VASTA conference.
4. And one (or more) of the following:
• Practitioners that reside outside of Canada & The United States,
• Practitioners that identify as a member of a diverse group (including, but not limited to race, ethnicity, religion, social class, sexual orientation, and/or gender identification), and/or
• Practitioners that are non-native English speakers.
Applicants for the Diversity/International Scholarships should submit the following:
1. A 2-page condensed C.V. (with contact info) and
2. A statement which includes:
A. Affirmation that you meet the first three requirements,
B. Self-identification as a member of an international or diverse community, and
C. Explanation of how attending the conference would benefit your practice and career.
Scholarship recipients will be asked to write about their experience at the conference or how their experience at the conference affected their work.
Scholarship recipients will be invited to serve on the International Committee or Diversity Committee.
Please Note: Applicants need not be a current VASTA member.
Please submit your materials in .doc or .pdf format via e-mail to:
Michelle Lopez-Rios by the March 30, 2015 deadline.
“I’ll never forget.”
The “why” behind these words plays out in a wonderfully crafted message from Evangeline Jimenez, a third year M.F.A. in Performance and Pedagogy student at Texas Tech University. I had the privilege as mentor and voice coach to work with Evangeline on her new play she also directed centering around Mexican American Identity and specifically the area of Lubbock, Texas.
The themes Evangeline brought to light were some of the same challenges I find myself facing as a Mexican American Woman, who at times has felt displaced in many different social circles. These themes include being branded a “Coconut” (brown on the outside, white on the inside). Which I have been called because I don’t speak Spanish or have an accent but have brown skin and am full-blooded Mexican. Other topics addressed in the play are the traditional (older) Mexican values where “a woman’s place in society is in the home, not in the workforce.” She also so irreverently addresses affirmative action backlash from the white majority having a white male character express his distaste for how the Mexican American Woman took his job as partner in a law firm not because she deserved it, but because it was the “politically correct” thing do. Evangeline brings to light how sometimes educated Mexican Americans with a college degree clash with those Mexicans who don’t have a college education and the conflict between those two classes. These interracial prejudices are very real and Evangeline articulates them in this piece. The lawyer character (the mother) says of her assistant “That woman is “celoso”, “jealous” and that she needs a degree to back up her “sass.” However the protagonist “Hope” (Esperanza) is facing a different challenge. She’s a light skinned Mexican that doesn’t speak Spanish and has been displaced in a similar way. Her white American friends don’t give her any respect or acknowledge her Mexican Heritage and her family. On the other end of the spectrum, Hope’s Grandfather is disappointed in her for not learning Spanish even though her single mother never taught her and didn’t feel it would benefit her. Hope breaks down and begins to articulate how she feels unwanted by her Mexican peers for not being Mexican enough, and rejected or unaccepted by her white friends completely. What the older generation, the Grandfather reminds Hope of is that she has a rich Hispanic history that lives in her and he tries so desperately to get her to learn to speak Spanish and she eventually accepts this challenge. “Nunca Olvidare,” Never Forget.
Evangeline Jimenez a light skinned Mexican American was born and raised in West Texas and felt the need to really stand up for these themes and bring the Mexican community in Lubbock together so she began writing and experimenting with the script during Texas Tech’s Theatre Department’s “WildWind” Summer Program. Chair of the department Mark Charney and faculty here at Tech were very supportive in mounting a full production of the play for this Fall 2015. One of the unique aspects of the production is that half of the show was cast from the Mexican American community here in the city. It was also performed in places other than Texas Tech’s Theatres to reach more of the community here. It was offered free of charge and over 650 people attended the three performances. The play was also written in both Spanish and English and can be deemed a “memory play.” There were many references made to the cotton picking laborers that are primarily Hispanic and there were times were sound and movement were used to imitate these hardships and harmonies that played out in the fields. Evangeline also contacted the local Ballet Folklorico Atzlan Dance Group and they performed at intermission and a professional Mariachi band serenaded the funeral scene of the grandfather character at the end of the play. Evangeline felt the Mariachis were an important part of the traditional Mexican Catholic funeral.
Evangeline based her play on interviews she conducted in the community here in Lubbock so the play is based on truthful situations.
My job as mentor was to be a sounding board for Evangeline and her challenges and triumphs as she worked with the community actors and conveying their unique voices throughout the play without having any acting experience at all. I was very moved by her production and how much thought and coordination went into making it a community event, the first of its kind in Lubbock, Texas. I was left feeling closer to my roots. Closer to being understood because at times I find myself angry like the protagonist constantly explaining why I don’t speak Spanish, defending it, feeling ashamed and less of a Mexican for it. I love being Mexican, I love being American and I love the Mexican Language, but I don’t speak it fluently and I am not less of one because of it. The fact of the matter is, there are many people like me that just want to be who they are and have an identity. A place they can call home and not be in a constant state of having to get approval from one group or the next. To have their voice be heard and their story respected. This play is a powerful force that I am sure will be mounted again and again in theatres around the country as the subject of “identity” will never be forgotten.
The Latino Theatre Commons is a self – organizing collective of theatermakers, artists, scholars, administrators, and advocates with an interest in Latina/o theater (or the New American Theater). The purpose of the National Convening is to bring these theatermakers together to see a range of contemporary Latina/o theater, and discuss art-making and aesthetics. The 2014 Latino Theatre Convening is the largest gathering ever of its kind. It is being held at The Los Angeles Theatre Center, November 6-9th.
In October 2013 I attended the first convening at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts. I hope my reflections inspire our organization to share in a conscious collective intention to celebrate our diverse connections, our rich past, and our vibrant future.
Ojala! – God Willing
Flying against the jet stream, the sun setting on a historic event. I look down and see city lights; big communities, little communities, my community. My community full and vibrant with possibility, my community reeling from a silencing of Latina/o voices, my community where Dreamers are targeted, where Mexican American Studies fight for existence, the home of SB 1070 and Operation Streamline.
As a 3rd generation Sonoran girl, teatrista, and librotraficante- I bring the creative ethos of the Latino/a Theatre Commons National Convening home. I make a conscious intention in this moment to bring the lessons and ways of working from the convening to my community -the wisdom circles, the recognition of our elders (our pillars), the planning for the future, and the deep listening. By bringing our collective wisdom together we became conscious on a much higher level of the political, cultural, and economic contradictions of what it is to be a Latina/o theatre artist; of the work still to come. Each of us—the scholar, the artist, the writer, the arts advocate, the activist, the producer, the director—brought our individual gift but by putting it together we took a powerful step towards a collective; our individual connections weaving together to make a pipeline of wisdom.
I was given the opportunity to share one of my gifts. I am a teaching artist of voice and acting and I was honored to lead a mentor tree. Envisioned by scholar Tiffany Ana López, the mentor tree exercise was meant to map the past and facilitate future connections. I recruited a fellow Arizonan, teaching artist, and compadre Marcos Najera to help lead the exercise with 70-plus participants. After sitting, thinking, and listening all day I envisioned a time where we would map our own bodies for tensions and release tension so as to commence a healing of the mind/ body split that happens after such cerebral sessions. We began by relocating into the lobby, finding our space in the room, and gently moving our bodies, finding the spine, and then allowing our spines to dance. Allowing the breath to drop in and flow out, we used our breath and eventually our voices (hum) as a collective to bring forth the truth that resonates within us. We took our hum into our hands and hearts and then turned our attention to two theatre artists, Luis Valdez and María Irene Fornés. Participants were instructed to allow the breath and thus their bodies to flow toward their point of connection, and in a moving meditation they were instructed to listen to their impulses till they found a psychological gesture in contact with an influence and or inspiration. Luis’ tree thread in circles around him, I instructed the participants to move slowly, there was a vortex of energy around him. Allowing the movement to naturally subside we honored the connections and then began to move around the room again. Ms. Fornés was represented by her student, Migdalia Cruz; the participants moved one at a time slowly again finding those relationships, influences, inspirations. Her energetic blueprint stemmed and branched out, emanating from a central point. Marcos created a safe place where emotions surfaced and were surrendered.
The practice then shifted into an action, to be seen and be with others. We slowly moved around the room and with the same state of readiness looked for new threads and stems we might create. The group ended in 3 concentric circles where we called upon our voices to chime together.
By being with each other, seeing each other, sounding with each other an atmosphere of curiosity, possibilities, and future interests emerged. We did not just imagine but we physically manifested critical alliances to move our profession and our cultura forward.
Conscious Collective Intention!
personal and professional artistic and cultural sustainability
Conscious Collective Intention!
champion the most vulnerable within our communities
Conscious Collective Intention!
change the world Ojala!
Micha Espinosa is the author of Monologues for Latino/a Actors: A Resource Guide to the Contemporary Latino/a Playwrights.... Available on Amazon! She teaches at Arizona State University, School of Film, Dance, and Theatre as an Associate Professor of Voice and Acting.
Hi VASTA Members!
The Engagement Committee is pleased to announce a VASTA/KCACTF collaboration. VASTA and KCACTF have created a "VASTA Award" that celebrates talent and promise among college-aged students attending each of the eight regional festivals of KCACTF. VASTA members volunteer to attend a festival, serve as a selector, and present a voice workshop (expenses paid by KCACTF). If you would like to get involved in this partnership as a volunteer award selector, or for more information, contact Paul Ricciardi, member of VASTA's Engagement Committee and Co-Chair, KCACTF, Region I at email@example.com.
Additionally, the Engagement Committee would like to urge more of our members to apply for the new Conference Grant for Interdisciplinary Engagement. The Engagement Committee is excited to read your applications and help to support your interdisciplinary goals. Read more about it on VASTA's website here: www.vasta.org/interdisciplinary-engagement
Lastly, the Engagement Committee welcomes new members Cynthia DeCure, Sarah Blumenau, and Deborah Garvey. Your energies contribute much to a vibrant team. If any other VASTA members are interested in getting involved in the Engagement Committee, don't hesitate to email firstname.lastname@example.org
I would like to introduce myself as the new Column Editor for the Freelance Section of the VASTA Voice. Whether you're a full or partial freelance voice coach, we would love to hear from you with contributing articles. These include accounts of recent production coaching, changes and updates to your business practices, anecdotes about your hard-won mastery of new tech toys, or simply reflections on your one-to-one coaching pedagogy.
Since we are also eager to enliven the VASTA Voice layout, we would especially welcome your pictures, video and audio links, if you feel these are appropriate to your article. If you went out for Halloween dressed as a linguistic prescriptivist, now is the time for you to share it.
All the Best, Marina Tyndall
Column Editor, VASTA Voice
The Accent Errornomicon
On recent productions I’ve dialect coached, I’ve been thinking a lot about the principles of clear, constructive and effective feedback. As coaches, how do we gauge what kind of feedback the actor wants, and in which of many possible communication styles? From moment to moment, how much adjustment is the actor realistically able to cope with and synthesise, given:
-the time scale
-the complexity of the vocal demands
-the nature of the scene
-their vocal range and ability
-their skill at multitasking
-their ability to remain calm and confident under pressure
Early last year on the set of an action film, I co-coached a bilingual dialogue scene, along with a native speaker and translator of the non-English target language. The scene was a long one and involved all principal cast. The process was intense and challenging, with the actors switching between accented English and the target foreign language every few seconds.
My dialect coaching role and that of the translator/foreign language coach were distinct on paper, but overlapping in practice. Together, we spent some time carefully negotiating the appropriate level of coach-actor intervention during filming.
My own guiding principle was, and still is, that not all mistakes are created equal. The many production stories shared by our fellow coaches on Vastavox, by phone, by email and at VASTA conferences attest to the fact that a great deal of judgment, sensitivity and diplomacy come into play when deciding what to prioritise and what to let slide. As Joe Windley, RADA’s Lead Voice Tutor, once said, ‘[Vocal] data is flying at you, at speed, from all directions.' Picking your battles is a fast, fluid and cyclical process of constant re-evaluation.
On returning home from the shoot, however, it occurred to me that’d I’d never consciously assigned categories to typical accent errors, at least not more coherently than my own four arbitrary categories ‘Ouch!,’ ‘Whoa-,' ‘Hmm...,' and ‘Meh.’
I decided that to make a more straight-faced and specific list of these categories would be useful for my own clarity and also that of any colleague who covers a job for me in my absence. It might also help me negotiate with the actor and director about which group of bloopers they most want picking up at each stage of the rehearsal and production process.
I arranged my own list subjectively in rough order of importance, though its components are, of course, a moveable feast. Some directors will prioritise formality of speech choices, others are more concerned with uniformity of sound between blood-related or status-equivalent characters.
The list purposely excludes speech intelligibility, however paramount that is, simply because it is just as likely to be a challenge within the actor’s own idiolect and seems deserving of a category list in its own right. The category names offered here are placeholders intended for shorthand use between coaches and other coaches. There are, no doubt, catchier codewords suitable for shared backstage banter between actor and coach.
1. The Clanger
A broad phonemic error, one that costs the actor a full token of dramatic credibility as that character, e.g. a BATH word merging with TRAP rather than START when RP is the target accent. A Type 1 Clanger reveals the actor’s true accent, a Type 2 Clanger places them in the wrong region of the target country. This also includes incorrect production and distribution of any consonants identified as highly salient to the target accent.
2. The Name-Maim
Mispronunciation of a key character’s name, strange medical term, foreign greeting, unfamiliar foodstuff, or oft-mentioned place. Highly unfortunate when your lead character’s name contains a troublesome diphthong, or when there are seven different renderings of ‘Chag Sameach’ or ‘Barack Obama’ by the members of the same family in the same scene. Worse still when your Greek actor orders a brand-name soft beverage and ends up making a different kind of request altogether.
3. The Overshoot
Hypercorrection of a single target sound into something that’s mutated beyond the boundaries of decency, or feasible camouflage within the context of the whole phrase. Liable to induce mirth even in viewers not native to the target region.
4. The Pile-Up
The actor is doing just fine with oral posture, and can execute all the shifts individually. In fact, it’s all fun and games until she hops aboard a lexical set rollercoaster ride such as ‘The dog was lost in an awfully foreign sort of fog’. No matter how well she nailed it in rehearsal, it’s not good on Take 3, makes your brain hurt by Take 7, and makes your soul hurt on Take 11.
5. The Register Error
This is usually an action that falls the wrong side of the formal vs informal speech features continuum in the context of the character’s age and status and the production’s set period. The actor is consistently glottal-stopping and yod-coalescing where they shouldn’t, or busting flattened triphthongs and nasal plosion when more contemporary accents are required.
6. Compass Interference
She started out in the Welsh valleys, but now tongue tip retroflexion is creeping in. Throw in a few unaspirated fortis consonants, and before long, she’s on the next plane out to Mumbai. Your actor’s making valiant efforts to stay Mancunian, but unfortunately his mum was obsessed with the Beatles and Liverpool is the road far more frequently travelled. If this is happening on a single line or word, then your actor might have cut straight to The Overshoot or even The Clanger. If this is the case, you could go in and deal with it, although you might strategically avoid name-checking the accent airport to which he risks diverting. Or you sit tight, bide your time, and hope the bug in his software will right itself over subsequent takes.
7. The Broken Dimmer Switch
It’s late. They’ve shot the same scene a Kubrick-esque number of times. Your actor’s very tired, losing concentration, and either under or over-caffeinated. He started the day as Mikhail Baryshnikov, and now he’s gone full Borat. Or she was speaking RP at the day’s outset, and now she’s watered down into Bay of Transnarnia. They’ve lost their power to appropriately calibrate oral posture or prosody. In child actors, it’s likely to be correlated with acting too hard, a trickier and more diplomatically-fraught problem to solve.
8. Viral Veering
The actor just got pulled out of his own target region and into his co-star’s accent orbit. Oral posture creeps towards that of the second actor, prosody is wobbling, or specific words zing out as inadvertent echoes of the alternate pronunciations being lobbed in your actor’s direction.
9. The Floating Voter
Is the actor’s fictional ‘Mother’ a member of FOOT or STRUT? Does his ‘rather’ rhyme with ‘father’ or ‘gather’? He’s yet to pick a football team, and it’s very hard to tell. Depending on density of nearby errors, and quality of accent overall, you have to make the call.
10. The Kinder Surprise
It’s 03:15 on a night shoot, and we’ve entered a brand-new wonderland of weirditude. She’s never said ‘sumpthink’ with a [p] iand a [k] n it before. What is he playing at with ‘exspecially’?. For unrelated reasons, it looks like they won’t even use this take. In case of more takes, do you still go in and correct it? Or will that just plant the seed of reinforced suggestion? ‘Must not say “exspecially”...must not say “exspecially”, exspecially not in a moment’s time...oops! I just said “exspecially”!’
This list - or your own version of it - could be shared in simplified form with your actor, who might wish to start rehearsals focusing on 1, 4 and 9, shifting their attention to 2, 5 and 10 for filming. Alternatively, the list could serve merely for your own private use, as a way for you to sensibly apportion coaching time by establishing an order of priorities for each cast member and an according hierarchy of coaching needs.
Do these categories trigger any pangs of recognition? Should they have sub-categories? How might we usefully describe and simplify them for actors? I’d love to hear how other coaches identify and prioritise their errors and corrections.
We sit suspended between Halloween/Dia de Los Muertos and Thanksgiving, rushing toward the ending of the fall term, Christmas, and the turning of the year. I want to take time to wish you all a very Happy Holiday season and thank you for helping to keep the world's stories alive and well.
This issue we have news from our members in New York City. Next issue we will start the new year off with news from members listed in the Southern region. If you would like to include your member news, just reply with your entry to the email blast sent to members of your region next month. Look for an email from Keely or myself in the next few weeks with details on how to submit.
See you next year for Volume 10 of the Voice!
Associate Editor, VASTA Voice
GIGI BUFFINGTON (New York, New York) has just completed work on The Tempest at LaMama, Etc with Reg E. Cathay as Prospero, Karin Coonrod, Director, and Liz Swados, Music. She is the Director of Voice and Text at American Players Theatre, where she recently coached productions of The Seagull and Romeo & Juliet. She will coach The Merry Wives Of Windsor, An Illiad, and Othello for APT’s 2015 season. She is currently in her fifth year of teaching at NYU’s, Tisch School of the Arts, Department of Drama, where she teaches Voice and Speech, Voice and Text, and directs a production for The Meisner Studio each spring.
JANE GUYER FUJITA (New York, NY) will join the faculty of NYU’s Graduate Acting Program this Winter as an Assistant Arts Professor. This year she coached accents for the film Strange Love, Chasing Life on ABC, as well as The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls, A Streetcar Named Desire, The House That Will Not Stand at Yale Repertory Theater, and Bronx Bombers on Broadway.
KATHLEEN MULLIGAN (Ithaca College, Ithaca, NY) has been awarded a U.S. Embassy Grant from the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan to work on her project Voices of Partition during her sabbatical in the spring of 2015. In January 2015 Mulligan will join with members of Theatre Wallay in Islamabad to collect narratives of survivors of the partition of India and Pakistan. In April Mulligan will return to Pakistan with her husband David Studwell to collaborate with Theatre Wallay members on an original theatre piece based on those narratives. The resulting production will open in Islamabad, tour to Lahore, and then to Ithaca College. Mulligan and Studwell will travel to Islamabad under the Fulbright Specialist Program. The production will be available to tour to other U.S. colleges and universities while in the U.S. Please contact Kathleen at email@example.com if interested.
EDDA SHARPE, JAN HAYDN ROWLES and RICHARD RYDER are the core team at The Big Gob Squad (BGS). This year the team have been busy recording editing and uploading a collection of UK accents for their innovative new app The ACCENT kit. The IOS app launched in July this year, with the android version currently in development for a 2015 release. The app has already been described by actors as "A dream App, accents at your fingertips!" & "Amazing functionality and kits….. This is the best idea ever.” The 'Big Gobs' are also engaged in solo projects. Earlier this year Edda celebrated her 17th season in Canada at The Shaw Festival, and worked on the beautiful remake of Far from the Madding Crowd and the West End production of East is East. Jan has been trying to keep warm, as some of you may know 'Winter is Coming', on Game of Thrones Season 5. She is due to start coaching on feature film Me before You in 2015. Richard has been juggling numerous productions across the UK and in London's West End, most recently Streetcar Named Desire with Gillian Anderson, and is currently coaching on Nicholas Hytner's debut film, The Lady in the Van with Maggie Smith, to be released in 2015. The 'Big Gobs' will be key workshop leaders at Surviving Actors conference in London & NYC. As well as their app, they've also gone digital...How To Do Accents and How To Do Standard English Accents (The new RP) under the auspices of BGS, are both now available in ebook formats.
LESTER THOMAS SHANE (New York, NY) continues teaching Voice/Speech/ Shakespeare and Dialects at Pace University, The American Academy of Dramatic Arts, New York Film Academy and privately. Over the summer he coached A Loss of Roses for the Peccadillo Theatre Company (NYC) and Billy Elliot, Ogunquit Playhouse. He directed the world premiere of (Mary)Todd by Dennis Bush at the Fresh Fruit Festival (NYC) and is slated to direct Brian Friel’s Translations at Pace University in the Spring.
VASTA Board of Directors & Officers
Tara McAllister Viel
Michael J. Barnes
Joanna Battles & Tamara Meneghini
Amy Mihyang Ginther
©2010, Voice and Speech Trainers Association