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

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Keeping Busy

After sixteen years in Canada I'm still not totally accustomed to Thanksgiving falling in mid-October: of being able to eat piping hot Turkey in the warm fall sun.  Yet, I love the break to reconnect with family.  This Thanksgiving we got together with all the cousins, roasted marshmellows, explored treehouses and took long naps.  In between, I found myself, yet again, trying to describe to my extended family what it is that I do.  Well, here's an example of some of the day to day work that happens to come up.

Practicing voice overs is actually a great way to think about your speech.  What are the visuals you are trying to create with your voice?  How does the voice convey these different feelings?  The trick with this one was that I had to do it in about twenty minutes having never seen the text before.  The thoughts in here come pretty quickly so it was tricky to match sense with meaning and clarity..



How can it have been 52 weeks already?  It doesn't feel like it, but it must have been a year ago now that I signed up for Craig Valentine's "Speaking Tip a Week" series.  Every week he has sent a podcast revealing incredibly helpful strategies for creating an effective presentation. 

Now I would be lying if I said that I listened to all 52 podcasts or that I have practiced each technique.  It has been a huge treat, however, to start out each Monday with a steaming cup of hot Market Spice tea (direct from the damp and pungent tea shop that always takes on a little bit of a fishy smell in Seattle's Pike Place Market) and the sound of Craig's warm and thoughtful voice.  I think I've already admitted that some public speakers with their overly prepared, trite and condescending tone can send me into a tizzy and leave me questioning why I am not spending more time on the stage.  Craig, on the other hand, though definitely rehearsed, has the gift of being confident, energetic and commanding and  yet at the same time comes across as humble and likeable.  Post number 52 gives direct and concrete tips on  how to do this that we could all benefit from.

I encourage everyone to sign up for this service or if not to find a way to dedicate a little time each day for whatever practice you would like to develop.  I joined an amazing writing group in early March.  One day a week is all I can eek out between work, children, family, cleaning, etc. but I am already deeply impressed by the two full journals I have completed.  One hot summer night just a few months ago we even concluded our first set of classes with a reading.  This had been a little closet dream of my for probably thirty years and all it took was a few months and an amazingly supportive teacher and group to make it happen.  Malcolm Gladwell in "Outliers" contends that to become truly proficient at something  you need to have invested 10,000 hours.  I think it's important to not undervalue the benefit of 100 or even 30 hours.  The trick is starting and sticking to it.  Thank you Craig for giving me a tool that helped me invest fairly consistently over the past year.    

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Singing Warm-Ups

For all of you interested in a quick singing warm-up check out Donya Metzger's website for several links. I met Donya years ago when we were teaching at a musical theatre camp at the Richmond Gateway Theatre and I am so glad that her work is accessible on-line.


Pondering an Echo

You know that saying, "If my first child was like this I never would have had a second." Sometimes, in the wee hours of the night, my husband and I admit this to ourselves. Yet, like every parent, the next words out of our mouths are, "But thank goodness we did because, had we been deterred by the behavior of our first child, we wouldn't have been blessed with our Miss Grace." Gracie is almost three and full of a vibrancy of sound I thought I would enjoy, but I find myself appreciating her freedom of expression and moods mostly in her absence. She is our firecracker with a misleading porcelain doll exterior, and our princess with an affinity for pink and sparkles but with a lion inside. She marches with the confidence of a world leader and I hope she never loses any of it. What astonishes me professionally, however, is how keenly she is aware of her environment.

While leading a private voice session this morning a faculty member and I were discussing acoustics. She remarked that her young daughter is quick to notice every space that holds the potential for an echo. I was immediately reminded of my Gracie. Not only does she NEED to physically explore every object and surface in a new room she explores the acoustics as well, throwing her voice here and there and waiting for its reaction. She literally plays with the sound in the room.

It leads me to ponder when we stop paying attention to our aural environment. I still vividly remember playing the silence game as a child. My camp councilor asked everyone to be absolutely silent for three minutes. When the time was up we were supposed to name all of the sounds we heard. It was a huge "aha moment" to hear the sounds we often don't pay attention to. Yet, Gracie's attention is even more keen than that, she has the ears of an opera singer attuned to the vibrations of air between matter. When does the excitement of an echo, or the potential of how sound moves through a room leave us? Is it when we begin to define play as something organized, outside of our everyday living. Spurred on by Stuart Brown's book play I'm curious whether we would have the projection issues I so often see if we gave ourselves permission to vocally play in every new space.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tongue work unveiled

For all of you out there who have been diligently doing your tongue work, you will be pleased to see the exercise in action. A new documentary film about Kristin Linklater's work has been released and on her website there are now a few excerpts. If you click on the final video you will witness the tongue exercise and soft palate work in action.

Go to Media Gallery, Workshop Videos:


Linklater Voices

From my old stomping grounds comes an interview that beautifully articulates the benefits of Linklater training. Kristin Linklater is the author of "Freeing the Natural Voice", one of the first books I recommend to students who are looking at exploring their voices. If you are at all interested, read this interview first, as it gives examples of some of the tangible results Linklater trained actors experience and the underlying reasons behind many vocal issues.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

From the Heart

Heading into last week I had a sinus infection, a sick child and husband, and a completely full schedule of workshops. The thought of making it through the week in one piece was unfathomable. Then on Tuesday afternoon, in the midst of my racing around like a crazy person, I walked into a beautiful classroom in downtown Vancouver with gorgeous windows looking out on the first sunny days in weeks and met such an extraordinary group of individuals I was literally brought to tears.

Jo Lemay and I had met in a similar classroom about a year ago for a private session and little did we both know that that was the beginning of a new journey for each of us. Hers was that of exploring voice, giving herself permission to command attention and mine was connecting with her inspiring students. The Certificate in Community Capacity Building guides participants in the process of creating a community program that will help make their community stronger. The stories that people shared were heart-breaking testimonials to the strength of the human spirit and the necessity of both community and service in the role of healing. Each participant brought an honesty, passion and vulnerability to their presentations that was truly riveting. Half way through the program it hit me that in voicing their vulnerability I was able to comprehend what incredible strength each person possesses. These individuals were living proof of Emerson's observation that, "Our strengths grow out of our weakness." They were also clear reminders of what Kahil Gilbran noted, "It is better...to have a heart without words than words without a heart." He was referring to prayer but I recognized that it is just as appropriate for communication.

The Certificate in Community Capacity Building is designed specially for individuals "who experience systemic barriers to post-secondary education." Yet, it was here, in this unique space that I heard the most rich sounds I have ever heard in a classroom. As we experimented with different tones, harmonies of exquisite beauty filled the room.

I am a firm advocate of technique, but without the heart it means nothing.

So the question I pose for you is, "How do you add heart to your presentations or your practice?"