The ONE THING every actor should be training, but probably isn't
approx 2.30 min read time
As one of Los Angeles' top voice teachers, Associate Teacher of Fitzmaurice Voicework® and Crash Acting Actor, Ryan O'Shea, has worked with some of Hollywoods most accomplished actors. In this blog, Ryan writes about the importance of voice work for ALL ACTORS. This is the first part of a series of blogs on the actor's voice that Ryan will contribute--so stay tuned! For more info on her work and class offerings, visit www.voiceandspeechwithryan.com
If you were told by your agent, manager, acting coach, casting director, etc. that you needed to see a voice coach, what would you think?
Maybe you’ll start noticing all of the imperfections of your voice, and come up with a long list of habits that need fixing. Maybe you’ll want to disregard their advice—after all, you work on camera and you don’t need to worry about something like volume. Or maybe—and here’s what I’m hoping is the case—you’ll start to get curious about what voice work is, or could be, to you.
What voice work isn’t
It is not a technique focused on how I *should* sound, which will make me seem formal or inauthentic and also stifle my impulses. And it is not a technique exclusively for singers or stage actors.
What voice work is
A technique that will allow me to communicate from a place of ease—in my mind, body, and breath—no matter the circumstances.
How It Will Help You
Voice training will help you recognize habits of controlling your breath and help you to surrender that control. If you’re managing your breath, then you’re managing how much you’ll let yourself be affected. So you’re also managing the scene. Think about the last time you tried to stop yourself from getting “emotional.” You probably tensed your body and held your breath, or you slowed down your exhale to slowly dissipate that emotion. A lot of actors unconsciously do something similar when they’re in a scene, and unless you’re aware of that habit (and know how to change it), your work will probably often feel labored and emotionally stuck. Finding ease and a sense of connection and play in your work requires that you free your breath.
It will help you develop a fuller range of your voice so that you can freely express as different characters. We all have our own idiolects—ways of speaking that are particular to us. But if you’re really going to live in and express from the point of view of another character, you’ll need to be able to expand the range of your voice so that you can vocally express yourself in endless ways.
You will notice the tension you have in your body and learn how to release it. If your neck is tight, if your belly is tight, if your knees are locked, etc., then your breath will feel shallow and labored, and your voice may be pinched or hoarse. Releasing habitual tension will help you find more ease in your body, and therefore in your breathing and speaking.
You will notice the tension you have in your body and learn how to ALLOW it. Often tension happening during a scene is happening because you’re being affected by the circumstances of your character. You’ve surrendered to the story and your body is responding accordingly—why wouldn’t you allow that?!
You will learn all of the ways your breath may be affected—contact with a scene partner, circumstances of the scene, your emotional state (including nerves!), etc.—and how allowing your breath to be affected can make you more present and connected in the scene.
You'll learn how to support your breath so that you can scream, cry, and do whatever else you need to vocally express yourself without losing your voice. Even basic speaking for a full day on set will cause your voice to fatigue unless you’re properly supporting your breath when you speak.
You'll learn how to support your breath so that you’re not only heard, but also FELT. Breath support isn’t just about volume. It helps you connect more fully to what you’re saying because you’re quite literally speaking from your gut. If you find that what you mean and what other people interpret often conflict, or that you’re feeling something but can’t seem to express it, then breath support may help you better connect your feelings to your voice.
There’s no manual on how to approach working on your voice. My process varies for every client, and even changes for myself depending on the character, project, etc. What is always true, though, is that we want a sense of allowance and freedom in our breathing and speaking, and this is difficult to cultivate without a voice work practice.
If you find something missing in your work as an actor or even in the way you communicate in your daily life, developing a voice work practice may just be the key to finding a consistent sense of connection in your life and career.
Have you ever lost your voice or been told you're too quiet? Do you have a voice practice?
More About the Author: Ryan O’Shea is an Associate teacher of Fitzmaurice Voicework®, a comprehensive, holistic approach to voice training for actors, singers, and anyone with a desire to be heard. Ryan received her MFA in Acting from Florida Atlantic University, and has studied with Benjamin Mathes at Crash Acting Class for the last year+. She also has extensive training in Knight-Thompson Speechwork, Alexander Technique, Meisner Method, Michael Chekhov Technique, and other methodologies of voice, movement, and acting. She combines her training in these disciplines with her experience as a professional actor to create a holistic learning experience for her students and clients.
Ryan currently teaches voice and speech classes in Los Angeles at The Studio School (formerly Relativity School) and The Art of Acting Studio, in addition to her weekly classes in Hollywood and North Hollywood and private coaching in Mid-City. Since 2015, she has assisted Master Teacher of Fitzmaurice Voicework, Saul Kotzubei, in his LA voice workshops for performers. Ryan has taught in Dublin, Ireland for the Fourth International Freedom & Focus Conference, and as a guest artist at Crash Acting, UCLA, The Australian Film and Television Academy (USA), Florida Atlantic University, Indiana Repertory Theatre, Phoenix Theatre (Indianapolis), Purdue University, Depauw University, Indy Convergence, and others. She has also formerly served on the acting Faculty at the University of Indianapolis Department of Theatre.
Find out more about Ryan and her process at www.VoiceAndSpeechWithRyan.com.