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About My Work

A lot of energy is put into studying voice at many acting colleges, acting departments, voice training classes and so on around the world, and often a great deal of focus is placed directly and almost solely on working with sound based exercises right from the start of studying. In many instances such as in relatively homogenous and tolerant cultural environments this may be completely appropriate. But my experiences in a multilingual / multicultural / complex communication and social environment (such as that found in South Africa) have so far proved that this is not enough.

In SA it is not enough due to the often uncertain and unclear relationships that South Africans have with each other and with their own accents (and perhaps even languages). (This may also well be true in the rest of Africa and beyond). From old apartheid ideas, to class divides, from cultural attitudes to age and respect to remnants of the caste system, from one language to another and from one cultural grouping to another we often find ourselves in a rather diversely murky and frequently hostile social space. And this can happen on both a personal and a group basis. It is a somewhat complex space fraught with profoundly divided communication realities based on cultural, social, gender, religious and historical differences.

So tentatively with this in mind I take a two pronged approach that focuses on the way we speak and the environments from which and into which we speak.

On one level I work and deal with the speech apparatus itself: with breathing, the body (physical habits, behaviour, movement and blocks) and so on. And on another level I work with and in relation to the psychological and intellectual impetus behind speech (understanding content, emotion and your desire to communicate). I encourage the speaker to understand and explore the politics of speech, language and culture, and to understand and explore the politics of listening!

And then on a third level, when we have waded through some of the tough stuff, and if training time permits, I get to do my favourite fun work, which is getting the speaker to explore, embrace and revel in the joy and excitement of opening his or her mouth to speak the instinctual, energetic and often onomatopoeic sounds and rhythms of their languages.

And when you put the three together I believe that the speaker can begin to communicate fearlessly, efficiently and excitingly with others.

© Donald Woodburn

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