Saturday, June 25, 2011

Articulation-Bottle Tree Productions

A comment was made about my obsession with articulation at the expense of other forms of acting techniques. I certainly appreciate the dialogue. The comment suggested that articulation alone does not work in big theatres. It sure doesn't hurt. An audience wants to hear the story. They want to hear the words the writer wrote. At least I do. Sometimes, a small theatre can have worse acoustics than a large one. Sometimes the theatre has an echo, or dead spots. The audience can affect the actors words, often swallowing them up with their presence. What sounds good in rehearsal can be inaudible during performance.

But what to do in a big theatre, assuming that the acoustics are fine. Well, turning out is a good start. Turning out aims the voice at the audience. Use your diaphragm, the muscle below your rib cage, to push the words out. You can't move your upper jaw but you can certainly drop your lower jaw when speaking. An open mouth will effortlessly take your words throughout the theatre. Imagine an egg in the back of your throat to keep it open during speaking(singing as well). Learn to breathe and to relax so that there is no tightness in the avenue of your vocal arsenal that will inhibit speech.

Practice in the theatre, on stage, before the show. Warm up vocally. This will allow you to be able to find the range of the house. If you have lines gto be delivered to the wings, or to the back of the stage, make sure you are that much stronger in vocal delivery. One reason, working on your consonants is important in theatre is that articulation of the words with emphasis on the consonants takes a lot of breath and energy. It is a workout in itself. This trains you for work in bigger theatres.

And one simple trick to let your voice carry to the back row, is to look at the back row when you are delivering your lines. We all know about actors looking over the audiences heads. One reason is to keep in the moment without succumbing to an inadvertent connection with an audience member. Another reason is to aim that voice at the back row. It is like throwing a ball. If you do not look at the person you are throwing the ball to, it is very difficult to get the ball to your partner, unless your name is Dan Marino. We look at who we are talking to, and our brain alters our vocal volume without us really knowing it. If you want to reach the back row of a big theatre, make sure you are warmed up, you articulate, drop your bottom jaw, use your diaphragm, keep that egg in the bag of your throat, face the audience and look over their heads to the back of the theatre.

What is ironic is that more amateurs will likely play in big theatres than professionals, at least in Ontario as 800 seat old opera houses have been converted to community theatres, while professionals work in smaller venues due to the unfortunate costs in maintaining professional theatres.

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