This is a misleading title – intentionally so. As actors, one of our main goals is to find our “inner voice.” This can be the roles we choose, the choices on stage we make, the tribe we collaborate with…. But in this case, it is referring to the actual speaking voice that we use on the stage. This summer we offered a great session in dialect work and I wish we had found this feature back then.
A video looks at the period films we retain from the 1930s and 40s. Acclaimed American actors, such as Katherine Hepburn, spoke as if they were English aristocracy with the affected style of Downton Abbey. But on closer examination by Brainstuff, it shows us that it was a breed all of its own and was taught in classrooms as Trans-Atlantic speech. Some of this is ascribed to radio technology where very little bass broadcasting was possible. So by adding nasal and clipped pronunciation it made listening more accessible. Give the video a look and see if this sounds familiar or foreign to you.
This comes from my Educational voice. I think it is imperative that we NEVER stop our quest for learning, no matter our age. Whether this be in terms of arts or life lessons.
So here we are in Bridport England, the ballroom of the Bull Hotel. Each week, Carla Steenkamp Sheills teaches My Ballet to a room of eager elderly women from 60-80. These are not retired divas from the Royal Ballet, but normal house fraus from the area that are seeking an active way to stay fit and challenge themselves. But what she is tapping into is something far more than that. These women are finding a creative soul that has been lingering a lifetime. The moves are basic, but the grace and passion is dynamic. It is like a Full Monty with Dame Maggie Smith and Helen Mirren. How wonderful for all involved that the gift of this creative spirit can still take flight at any point in our lives.
I’m not sure where you all stand on the divisive personality that is Lady Gaga. I know that I was dismissive of her “smoke and mirrors” at the beginning and thought she was another twenty something screaming for attention. But over the last 5 years, with each new reinvention she constantly surprises me with her talent and resilience. It is not always the same shock value of Madonna – although that quotient is certainly there. But as she branches out to do Jazz standards with Tony Bennett or impress with Rodgers and Hammerstein on the Oscars, one cannot deny that there is a mighty creative spirit at the heart of the beast.
This new Facebook video Continues to show that human side of her. She talks about her struggles of being an artist and the current sense of entitlement that badgers all young talent; whether it be music, sports or reality television. I admire that she is trying to keep it real and return to the original roots of why she set out to become this musician and writer. This is important for all our young artists to reflect on as they pass milestones in their personal journey.
We have always relied on Michelle Obama to be a strong ally and advocate for the arts and the non profit sector. Here is yet another clip of her at a recent press conference celebrating 50 years of the National Endowment. She speaks to the powerful process of what we do – writing, music, theater. Then expands to note that these same arts are not a luxury but a necessity. They are an outlet to get lost in and empower ourselves. But most importantly she shines light that they should be in tandem with schools in that they nurture not only emotion and creativity, but intellect as well.
With the first day back for everyone, Facebook has been flooded with pictures of students in their new outfits, lunchboxes and 1st Graders getting on a bus for the first time. It is a monumental change of season for them. But let’s also remember the bold teachers who come back to their classrooms year after year.
Here is a great video from AJ+ which features a handful of teachers all commenting on the state of Public Education. Not just locally, but from state to state – there has been much finger pointing about what is NOT working in our schools. Much of the focus is on Standardized Testing and Curriculum for new eras. Arguments are heated among School Boards and Public Referendums. We often get caught in the battles of Teacher Unions, but rarely do we get the perspective from those on the front actually with the students. This was very revealing.
But most telling, are the few minutes at the end of the video where each Teacher lights up in a smile and offers what they love most about this very unheralded profession. Much to be thankful for.
I am constantly drawn to the inspiration of a new generation of artists. Music, Dance, Writing…. This is a new music video by Leona Lewis and is called Fire Under My Feet.
It is an R&B anthem to all us theater folks who live outside the box, who often don’t fit in, and who constantly emerge like a Phoenix because of the passion within us. The story arcs extend from a boy emerging in drag to an athlete triumphing over her loss of natural legs. Or a boy ballet dancer. Or a gay Supermodel. Each of the performers in the video is telling their own story.
With phrases like “you can’t keep me down in my seat“, “moving on to bigger things, I began to spread my wings.” The song is infectious on all fronts. Give this British X Factor a listen and see if you aren’t motivated as well.
As we get ready for this our 26th Season; our YAC company is producing their own show in the Fringe; and summer classes are winding down – it is exciting to see a new crop of shows emerging in the greater commercial circles that really speak to our audiences. Yes, there will always be the inevitable string of Disney success which bombards us from Newsies to Aladdin. But it is rewarding to also see great offerings outside the box that really speak to the social issues type of work we do.
Fun Home was a surprise upset at this year’s Tony Awards for it’s win as Best Musical. Instead of bright and flashy, it finds humor and humanity growing up in a funeral home and a young girl confronting her sexuality in a stifled setting. Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night is a courageous portrait of a young boy with behavior difficulties, although it never really says whether this is Asbergers or autism. But it is a young man torn between the reality he sees and the logic his mind wraps around. And finally a brand new one-man piece called The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey. In this piece, actor James Lecesne was inspired by the Trevor Project and it looks at a bold teenager who lives outside the boundaries of normal and is his true flamboyant self. All three are provocative works, ripe for this generation and succeeding in pushing the possibilities of modern theater. Here here!
An important opportunity for all our summer students. I keep talking that classes should be the bridge to help you with tools and confidence to succeed when you finally are ready to get on stage. This can be in a school production or with a professional company. I am sending this out now to draw your attention to our first auditions for the coming year. YPC is seeking young actors for The Giver on Aug 17th. Full details for both the show and the auditions are on the website. Test your wings and fly….
But in addition, I found this great blog article from a director that works with young talent. It has a very strong message about owning the room when you walk in the door. Actors always beat themselves up about what not to do, what to do, how should I look,….. He says that all these things just get in the way of why you ultimately are there. Give it a read and sign up for a time.