State of Play – a Clown Symposium

Just happened to spot these two wandering up Mount Pleasant as I arrived back home in Liverpool after the Clown Symposium in Ormskirk.

Now that was fun. Two days spent in the company of clowns, clown teachers, clown researchers, sharing ideas, concerns, challenges, and provoking each other to be even more generous with our ideas and our concerns.  All thanks to Barnaby King, senior lecturer at Edge Hill University, Ormskirk, and his colleagues Richard Watt of the School of Arts and Media, University of Salford, Brian Desmond from Uni of Chester, as well as The Performer’s Playground and Teatro Pomodoro.

I had the opportunity to run a workshop, “Voice of the Clown – Literally!” and I cannot begin to express what a thrill it was, to have 30-odd clowns sighing and humming, Creatively Twisting their way into their fabulous voices and creating some wonderfully inspiring sounds along the way.

Let’s hope we get to do more of the same before long.

The view from my Ormskirk window.

Clown Secret

Ira’s book is out, and it’s wonderful.  It reads the way he is, total clown from head to toe whether drinking excellent coffee, describing the Creative Twist, side-coaching newbies in an exercise or just chatting. He reminisces and draws upon his lifetime experience of travel, friendships, clowning and teaching clown all over the world, sharing his unique philosophy – the ‘clown secret’ – which is also a philosophy for living a creative life, whatever your discipline.  

Clowning is challenging, as well as being life enhancing and very satisfying – eventually.  So is this book. Enjoy!

More workshops to come!

The Expressive Voice Workshop went down a treat last weekend. 8 participants from a great range of work and life experience joined in to fill the back room at 81 Renshaw with joyously wacky soundings, finding vibratory freedom in the Hungry Giant’s castle.

Some feedback:

Flloyd’s Expressive Voice Workshops offer an informative and professional blend of theory and practice that will benefit performers and public speakers alike. I definitely benefited from attending this workshop”

“I took away a tremendous  amount from your timely workshop (coming as it did, 4 days before my stand up set which was last night). Time went really quickly. My watch is unreliable and I didn’t realise the time had hurtled around to 3.45. I enjoyed all of it. I DID get the small part that I auditioned for so I shall be forgetting about projection and thinking more about the giant and resonance…. he really helped! So all in all. A very useful and enjoyable workshop. I would recommend it to others and come back again.” 

“Thanks again for your expertise and help at the workshop. I really enjoyed it and learned a huge amount. The elements which particularly helped me were the thorough background discussions, particularly of the anatomy involved. When I understand what’s happening on a physical level with any activity, I feel better able to tackle it. I also really liked examples you gave of poor voice control – the contrast of good and bad made it clear what we were aiming for, as well as being playful and amusing!”

“Thanks again for your expertise and help at the workshop. I really enjoyed it and learned a huge amount. The elements which particularly helped me were the thorough background discussions, particularly of the anatomy involved. When I understand what’s happening on a physical level with any activity, I feel better able to tackle it. I also really liked examples you gave of poor voice control – the contrast of good and bad made it clear what we were aiming for, as well as being playful and amusing!”

So now I am thinking of setting up regular weekly sessions, which will be in two parts.  The first hour will be a open drop in class, which will involve a warm up, and then working on whatever those present choose to work on.  The second hour will be limited to 8 participants, and will have a specific focus, e.g.

  • pure voice and vocal power;
  • range and colour (resonance);
  • clear speech;
  • accents;
  • Archetypes
  • textual analysis;
  • public speaking;
  • cold read;
  • audition monologues;
  • Shakespeare;
  • singing for non singers;
  • clown voice;
  • microphone technique etc.

Let me know in the comments if you have a preference for any of these, or other suggestions. Probably beginning in October.

The Mental Health for Actors Debate

Here’s a thought…

1st year actors begin their warm up for voice class

When it comes to Warmup up and Warming down:

Is it possible that a consistent training program that allows the performer to warm up to a state of readiness that is heightened but not hyper, could eventually allow that state to become habitual? Not to be habitually heightened, but to the extent that the performer is able to control and manage the degree of heightened-ness, and hence at the end of a performance they could manage the necessary readjustment – if any – to an acceptable ‘norm’.

In other words, the performer is totally in control of their own inner state at all times, on stage and off. The training allows them to acquire this skill, the ability to turn up and down AT WILL the level of heightened awareness necessary to perform on stage or in front of a camera – in other words, in a stressful situation requiring a high degree of conscious awareness coupled with an equally high degree of acting skill.

In my opinion, and from my own experience, it is not necessary to ‘psych oneself up’ to perform at maximum capacity if one has the appropriate skills. Because, in a sense, one is already there. And if that is so, it is not necessary to cool down afterwards on every occasion. Sometimes, yes. And this is also a skill that needs to be acquired through training and practise.

Such a training program would also benefit from the kind of cultural
awareness proposed by Kristine Landon-Smith. This kind of awareness makes a complete nonsense of the concepts of ‘neutral’ or ‘natural’ that are currently ubiquitous in Western actor training. These concepts are nothing but the hegemonic culture assuming a place at the head of a cultural hierarchy.

Ideas such as these are all capable of being absorbed into current acting techniques. There is nothing intrinsically wrong, or inappropriate, or harmful about the techniques – Sense memory, affective memory, Method, Practical Aesthetics, Meissner, Stanislavsky, Eric Morris, Viewpoints, Suzuki, Michael Chekhov, Viola Spolin, Meyerhold, Keith Johnstone, Lecoq, Gaulier to name but a few – it doesn’t matter what they are called, essentially they are all designed for one purposes: to allow the actor to skillfully reveal her humanity in the context of performance. However, the way they are taught is hugely influential in the effect upon the psyche, the emotional and intellectual well-being of the actor. At this stage (of my general ignorance of the specificities) I propose that if they are taught with the concepts of physical and cultural awareness built in, and if the students are trained to recognise the state of readiness, as well as the degree of heightened awareness that they are generating in themselves, that we would have a much healthier industry generally.

PS:

This approach to training has the added bonus in that the actors are able – safely and skilfully – to sustain a decent level of intensity throughout the interruptions that occur when rehearsing highly emotional scenes, without having to traumatise themselves. Certainly without directors feeling the need (or the authority) to traumatise them, to achieve the required level of intensity.

A Recent Testimonial

It is always a pleasure to work with someone who has decided to commit themselves to exploring their vocal life. In this case, a client who suffered panic attacks at the very thought of public speaking. Having completed his training sessions with me, he has given me permission to publish his very generous testimonial:

“When I first went to Flloyd I was not hopeful. After years of panic attacks during an attempt at public speaking I was at that stage in life where a shrugging acceptance of limitations seemed to be the only way forward. But with an unavoidable public speaking commitment looming like a cliff-edge I had to try something.

“I committed to what Flloyd instructed, but with little expectation, except that I would know I had tried my best.

“Strangely, after a couple of sessions and the daily ritual of Flloyd’s vocal exercises, I noticed changes. Instead of the thin, pleading middle-tone my voice actually had some substance to it. Still I was wary of confidence rearing it’s ugly head.

“As the sessions continued my voice became stronger still. Although the fear of public speaking was still there my brain had other things to consider e.g. Flloyd’s instructions.

“I found I could get through public speaking without freezing and without life and death panic. Incredibly I have found my voice, or rather found a confidence to be in voice. All thanks to Flloyd!

“Patient, encouraging and a highly effective teacher with great experience and knowledge. I can’t recommend her enough.

“Many, many thanks Flloyd.

Gerry Rorke