Photo: Tony Gavin
Ahead of Filmbase’s upcoming Screen Studio Academy: Actors Intensive Lab (20th October – 26th November), actor, singer and voice coach Maria Tecce shares 5 tips every actor should follow to improve their voice work.
Your whole body is your voice.
So many of us focus on the throat when we think about the voice. But your whole body is involved in producing sound and has potential for resonance and vibration. Like any athlete, the muscles we use to make sound need to be worked and strengthened. When we’re rehearsing, we’re using our voices regularly so it’s building up strength, but ideally, doing some kind of warm up before you do any kind of voice work is a good idea.
Never push your voice.
Not only are you likely to do damage but it’s exhausting. And it’s also exhausting for the audience to listen to. We work in many different types of spaces, some with better acoustics than others, so when you get into a new space, have a test run with some text to see how it feels and where you have to place your voice to fill the space. Instead of ‘projecting’ or pushing your voice, think of sending your thought out with more intention and clarity. If your voice is released and in good nick and your breath is coming from a grounded, centred place, you won’t need to push.
Tension vs. Relaxation
The voice involves more muscles than just the vocal folds in the throat. All muscles have the potential to carry tension, especially around the throat, shoulders, and jaw areas, so be aware of where you’re carrying tension and give it some love. Tension is your voice’s worst enemy; relaxation is its best friend. When we are more relaxed, we can focus with more clarity, be more present in the moment and able to respond.
Breath is key.
Breath is the key for a strong, supported voice. It’s the imprint for vibration and sound. Getting that breath coming from a deep, grounded place gives you more power and choice when you’re performing. Whether you’re working on stage or in front of a camera, breathing helps centre you in body, voice, and thought. It’s also a great tool to deal with nerves. God forbid you dry on stage or forget your lines, but if you do, breathe. Your body will remember when your mind doesn’t. Breath is the support for everything in your vocal arsenal.
Everybody has their own routine, ritual, or regime for warming up; there are as many warm ups as there are performers. Some people do very little; some people need an hour. But whatever you do, do something. Warming up isn’t just about preparing your body and voice to be ready to respond, it’s also waking up your thought. Clear thought = clear text. The voice is one of the most flexible, powerful, elegant tools for communication we have. It can start a war. It can say ‘I love you’. It’s a powerhouse for emotion, passion, authenticity, texture, and colour. And it’s all at your fingertips. Use it well
Screen Studio Academy: Actors Intensive Lab
20th October – 26th November, Tuesdays & Thursdays
€380 Members / €420 Non-Members
The Screen Studio Academy Actors’ Intensive Lab is a highly practical course for performers. Participants will learn techniques to successfully engage with audiences as well as explore personal comic presence.
Are you looking to develop your acting skills? Voice and comedy performance are vital to becoming a versatile and successful actor and knowing how to utilise performance to create dynamic characters is a staple in any actor’s toolbox. This programme is designed to challenge students who are committed to polishing their abilities to a professional level.
“Acting is not about being someone different. It’s finding the similarity in what is apparently different then finding myself in there.” – Meryl Streep
This six-week programme will focus on vocal work, sketches and dynamic exercises. Clear precise speech and articulation skills will be developed to improve material delivery.
During the course, students will be immersed in the world of professional performance. Not only does the training run for two evenings per week (Tuesdays and Thursdays), but actors will be expected to set aside time for assignments and developing project work. Participants will also work alongside the Screen Studio Directors and Writers Academy courses at Filmbase to collaborate on developing projects through performance and workshop participation.
Performers new to acting are welcome and encouraged to take part in the course. However, they should be willing and eager to push themselves and be committed throughout the duration.
“The voice is the window to the soul” – Daniel Day-Lewis
The course will cover voice work and comedy acting for film and television. The workshop topics include:
• Introduction and basic structure of the voice.
• A focus on defining unique speech.
• Mechanics of the voice physiology and breath (breathe in – suspension – exhalation – recovery).
• Increased awareness of the back of the body, scapula and skull base and the relevant relation to posture.
• Introduction to the practice of developing and strengthening the voice from the opening of the main resonances.
• Examining the physicality of phonation.
• An in-depth exploration of crafting jokes as the building blocks of comedy.
• Learning the elements of comedy work and applying those to the text.
• Building comedy on text.
• Dealing with nerves and utilising them during audition technique.
• Creating accents and implementing them naturally.
• Performance coaching where regarding ideas and development.
Tutor: Maria Tecce
Maria Tecce is an actor, singer, and voice coach from Boston now based in Dublin. Maria has 15 years experience with the media and offers a special module to executives and public personalities in media interview techniques, microphone techniques, and best practices when appearing on radio, television, and presenting on stage.
The last few years have been Maria’s busiest; she has been performing and writing with Irish music-comedy act The Nualas. She also premiered her new show Strapless at Edinburgh Fringe Festival and Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival, performed with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, and launched her third album Viva.
Maria recently donned the acting mantel as the saucy courtesan ‘Emelie’ at Dublin’s Gate Theatre in their critically acclaimed production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses, played Irish singing legend Jack L.’s leading lady in the cult short film I Hate Musicals, performed as the iconic ‘Alida Slade’ in Hugh Leonard’s Roman Fever, and as murdered wife ‘Isabella’ in the BBC television series Inspector George Gently with Martin Shaw. She has also worked in film and television with the likes of Jim Sheridan, Angela Landsbury, Patsy Kensit, Mia Farrow and Keith Carradine. “Singer Maria Tecce steals the show.” The Times.
Tutor Michelle Read
Michelle began her performance and writing career as a comic on the London circuit in the late eighties, performing regularly at many of the original clubs including The Comedy Store and the infamous Tunnel Club. On moving to Dublin she became a regular at the Comedy Cellar performing stand-up and sketch comedy and featuring in many Irish TV shows including Cursai Elaine, Couched, The Basement, Rant, Gerry Ryan Tonight, You Can’t Be Serious, Nighthawks and Saturday Live for UTV.
She is a founder member and regular player with the Dublin Comedy Improv since 1991 and has played with the team on two successful radio series for RTÉ, at the Edinburgh Festival, at the Catlaughs Festival, Kilkenny and all over Ireland. Michelle is also a playwright and theatre-maker and she regularly facilitates workshops in improvisation, devising and playwriting.
Guest Tutor: Sharon Mannion
Sharon Mannion is an Actor/Comedian and Writer based in Dublin. Her TV credits include Trojan Donkey (Channel 4), Moone Boy (Sky 1), Republic of Telly (RTÉ) and Don’t Tell the Bride – Narrator (RTÉ). She is a member of sketch group Ghost Train Willy and improv groups The Craic Pack, Dublin Comedy Improv and The Cardinals. She drinks a lot of tea and used to work in a chicken factory.
- 20th October – 26th November, Tuesdays & Thursdays
- 7.00pm – 10.00pm
- Weekend/evening work may be required for collaborative projects (dates tbc)
- Participants should set aside two to three hours per week outside of class time for assignments
- €380 Members / €420 Non-Members
- €150 Deposit
- Filmbase, Temple Bar, Curved street
Follow on courses:
Participants will be offered priority booking for Screen Studio Actors’ Academy Advanced Courses from January 2016 in Comedy Acting, Soap and Television Acting and Acting for Transmedia projects.