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Michael Chekhov's 'Theater of the Future' -- what does it have to do with you?

The Relationship Between Voice Work and the Chekhov Technique

Stacey Jack - 15 July 2012

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A stream of consciousness record of the conversation:
Participants: Ediana, Mara, John McManus, Ellie Heyman, Suzanne Bennett, Peter Tedeschi,

-We are interested in discussing how this topic resonates for us today as opposed to a formal lesson.

-Speech is action. Speaking a word is powerful. Speaking words can haunt someone, terrorize, soothe, seduce…

-Our voices are ourselves.

-Our voices contain everything that has ever happened to us.

-Linklater and Fitmaurice Voice Work create an excellent foundation from which to begin the Chekhov work because they deal with the body and breath.

-If we lived in a healthy society, we wouldn’t need these methods of Voice Work.

-Part of being an artist is engaging in a process of healing oneself from the violent/destructive forces in society.

-Artistic training has 2 key aspects: Developing Capacities and Dissolving Hindrances.

-Going on stage often produces a habitual contraction.

-The first thing to address is the body—Often, we can’t get the breath in.

-John told a story of growing up on a farm—working on the farm created space for breath to enter his body. There was a natural rhythm to it.

-In our modern society, we have lost connection to these instinctual rhythms. The muscles around our ribs are no longer actively worked. They become lazy and the space within our bodies contracts.

-When the body is tight and contracted it prevents our breath, speech, and impulses for movement and gesture to flow freely from a range of locations. When our breath is pushed up, we lose connection to our lower body and our power center.

-A natural breath feels like relief and release.

-Breath is nutrition.
-We are breathing to keep our feet alive. Every capillary oxygenates when we breathe in.

-We are 2 different animals capable of different types of thought depending on whether our breath is flowing freely or not…

-Jon talking about his journey from his early training to his interest now—30 years ago he began to train in Rudolf Steiner’s Creative Speech in connection with Chekhov’s Technique and later he studied Eurhythmia. He fully allowed the experience. Then he realized his technique was “hindering him.”

-You can become skillful at Chekhov Exercises or Shakespeare and put a big fence around your work, so although it “looks good,” the audience is sitting on the other side of the fence.

-This realization led John on a journey to free himself of this mask/barrier/way of hiding. He studied with the ideas of: Cecil Berry, Linklater, Patsy Rodenberg, Fitzmaurice and others….

-Patsy called him on “showing his technique” and so he allowed himself to let it go.

-“When you forget the work, inspiration comes”

-Now John is interested in a process of reconnecting the training methods he’s studied while continuing to let them go.

-“If a technique becomes a habit, it stops serving you.”

-It is essential to have voice work that releases habitual tension because one needs physical availability in order to be present in the moment.

-The ability to hear tension is like hearing a bell that is cracked. There is an intuitive lack of clarity.

-When one is acting, it is not useful to use one’s directing and teaching skills.

-There seems to be a continual process of learning, codifying, releasing and re-exploring—when one is in a relationship to a technique.

-An awareness of all of the different aspects, gestures, archetypes living inside of us allows us a kind of inner flexibility conducive to voice work.

-John discovered the work of Louis Collainanni which has led to his exploration of taking voice work into speech. He uses phonetic shaped pillows to explore sounds. Students discover the form or gesture of the sound. This is very similar to Eurhythmia but the student discovers the form organically. This work is very different than Skinner’s work which dictates a correct external form.

-There are positive and negative results when classes separate Body, Voice and Acting. Sometimes an exploration is able to have more depth, but sometimes it inhibits synthesis or an actor’s sense of the whole.

-Voice Work is essential in relationship to the Chekhov Technique because when Mind/Body and Voice are one, then the Chekhov work changes the voice based on the gesture or quality…

-Babies are fully connected in Mind/Body/Voice—and voice work allows adults to regain this Sense of the Whole. If you are properly synced up, if you have an impulse, your voice will naturally go to that place.

-Humanity didn’t evolve to need microphones. Our voices are capable of far more than we think they are in mundane life.


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