Monday, May 03, 2010

ON ACTING: Anger; and a Squeaky Voice

I was working the other night with an actress who was having vocal problems: specifically a "squeakiness" of tone, as well as lack of volume, or tonal projection. She was not alone in this dilemma. Many of my students--especially women--have a problem with vocal tension, or unnaturally high-pitched-ness. I must admit, I find the sound of their voices off-putting, as I do with many shrill (mostly female...the male newscasters are just annoyingly loud) political commentators on Fox-News, CNN and MSNBC.

What causes it...or more specifically, how to get rid of it.

I gave the young lady in class an angry scene. She said she had difficulty with anger; especially admitting it ("copping to it", was the phrase we used) in public. She played the scene with her usual "squeakiness" of voice...until one moment in the scene when, truly aroused, she gave full vent to anger...and the squeakiness disappeared; and a full, weighty sound came easily out of her throat.

Comfortableness with anger--and the subsequent full open sound emanating from an open throat and a un-tensed chest (and therefore the possibility of full lung capacity)--are directly related.

I believe people with squeaky voices are holding something back, generally anger. Not that they don't feel anger; they do, but when they speak, they "squeak", exhibiting their uncomfortableness with it. They back off of confrontation. They don't like conflict. They are reluctant to reveal their anger in public. They (the women) often say they feel like a "bitch" when exhibiting anger. I tell them they are wrong. Most women feel like bitches when exhibiting anger because men, as a tactic when facing women's often justifiable wrath, have told them that they are bitches when in truth the women are merely being strong...even when the woman's anger is perfectly justified by the circumstances.

My work with this particular actress is to get her comfortable with anger, the full power of her personality, in public, whenever she feels so moved, without embarrassment or apology. She must embrace justifiable conflict, stand forcible up to opposition. Her anger is hers. She need not back off, both literally and figuratively, tensing her chest and vocal cavity--squelching her anger--when feeling like directing her anger at someone. Let it out.

My experience with the squeaky voices in hundreds of actors--her and others--is thata repressed vocal tone will invariably become a richer, fuller, more weighty and more pleasant to hear one when their anger is an acceptable part, in and out of public, of their human personality.


Blogger Geraldine said...

That's an interesting point. I think you're right when you say that is has links in how the person is feeling, because I've worked with the same actors for a few years, and I've definitely see some actresses starting to have a squeaky voice after not having one, and vice-versa.
I also wonder if there is a link with where the person is from. I'm from France and there, you'll find many women speaking too low and having raspy voices than speaking really high. So it might be cultural too.


7:54 AM  
Blogger Cliff Osmond said...

Thank you Geraldine for your comment. Perhaps the cultural components than differentiates French womens' low raspy voices from Americans is that (1) French women are more comfortable with their sexuality and anger, and (2) French women drink and smoke more :). We used to call it a whiskey voice. My mother had one, for the reason cited above. Although come to think of it, her maiden name was Esmiole. Her father was French. It perhaps is all in the genes.

12:06 PM  
Blogger Ziyah said...

I don't believe culture has anything to do w/it. We are more alike than we are different, period!

Coping methods are universal, human behavior is universal...

4:20 PM  
Blogger Ziyah said...

Having squeaked a few times in my life (much to my own surprise).I realize now or I should say I learned in my acting class that it was a form of "blocking" my true emotions. So I later recalled the times I could remember "squeaking" ... and it was when I felt weak and overpowered by another.

4:28 PM  

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