On my bookshelf

  • "The Breathing Book" by Donna Farhi
  • "Confessions of a Public Speaker" by Scott Berkun
  • "My Freshman Year" by Rebekah Nathan
  • "Power Presentation" by Patsy Rodenburg

Thursday, January 31, 2008


Seventy-five high school drama students in a small theatre. Sandwiched between their early morning technical rehearsal and their afternoon run-through, I had the privelege to deliver a two-hour workshop on Voice. Some of them definitely did not want to be there. Some maintained a steely concentration that allowed them to focus on the material for their own benefit, others went through the motions because that's what they "should" do, and still others were much too pre-occupied by the woman or man standing in front of them. The challenge of being heard was multi-layered. Physically the task of enabling them to hear my voice, was a challenge to say the least, then the idea of communicating a message was an even greater challenge. To allow them to move through their own fears of being embarrassed, doing something different, trying a new way of relating that may not be be deemed "cool" was a mighty endeavor. I encouraged them to participate, bravely, and speak from their hearts.

This morning a faculty member was experimenting with gesture. "I'm not good at that." she stated. The rest of the class refuted her claim. "Yes, you are, you just did it!" And she had.

At night, in the few moments between doing dishes and preparing for the next day, I pick up "Reading Lolita in Tehran" by Azar Nafisi. Nafisi asks her students how novels can relate and inform their lives. I ask myself how this book can relate to my life. It is teaching me bravery and passion around my profession. To allow myself to believe in the transfomative power of voice work, even in it's smallest gesture.

At the end of the workshop for the high school students, a young man with pale blond hair and a red toque came up to me and gave me a hug. "Where did you learn all that?" he asked. He had been brave and spoken from his heart in front of the group. Somehow, despite the noise, I had been heard.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Vocal Yoga?

So I finally had a chance to get back to my yoga routine. Twenty minutes was all that I found, wandering between the dishes, email and a fast approaching bedtime. I wanted to kiss those twenty minutes when they were over. My body felt more relaxed than it had in ages and it was as if I had polished all the rough edges off of my voice. While working with a student last week, we were opening up the rib case (cage) with some gentle lengthening. "This is just like yoga!!!" She exclaimed. "It is yoga." I replied.

I did a little search and found that, sure enough, someone is actually leading coarses in Vocal Yoga. She even has a nice and simple description of Fight or Flight's association with breath. Check it out if you get a chance:


I'm not one for selling products but if you need a quick twenty-minute guided yoga workout, get ahold of either Suzanne Deason's Stress Relief Yoga for Beginners or Patricia Walden's PM portion of the AM/PM Yoga for Beginners and ease your way into a blissful sleep.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

What I didn't get for Christmas

To prepare for my graduate defence, I was required to read what felt like four hundred books, consisting of both theorectic texts and plays. Like any sensible student, I put off reading the majority of them until the final six months. Bleary eyed, I became more excited about the little red check marks used to tick off the title of each text than the process of reading. There was one exception-- the voice books.

Huddled uncomfortably in a wooden framed library chair overlooking the snowcovered limestone walls, I started to feel my breath in the same full and easy way I had experienced in my voice classes. The more I read about the breath, the more I experienced it in my body. Since then, I have relied on books on breath and voice to keep me sane whenever I have been unable to attend a voice class.

In the chaos of this holiday season, traveling back and forth between relatives and attending celebration after celebration, I realized that what I should have asked for was a breath book. The one I am most curious about is called, "Free Your Breath, Free Your Life" by Dennis Lewis. I haven't had a chance to pick it up yet, so let me know if you get to it before I do.

In the meantime, here's a great little exercise to keep you busy, or rather to slow you down:


Happy New Year!!