In college, particularly in a liberal arts program, you are required to take a wide-range of courses to help you develop into a well-rounded contributing member of the community once you've finished your degree. But in college, you can't cram for these courses to "get the A" and then brain-dump at the end of the semester. These courses meant to inform everything you do, and the course content dovetails and overlaps in many ways so that you develop an awareness of social, political, cultural, and ethical issues with the hopes that this will lead to a concern for, participation in, and improvement of our society.
You’ve likely spent the last 18+ years of your education learning in a way where you memorized what you would be quizzed on and brain-dumped it when you didn’t “need” it anymore. This banking concept of learning is archaic. You are not empty vessels to be filled with information. You are individuals who bring your experiences and opinions to the learning environment and I want us to learn from each other. My goal as an educator is to create an environment where dialogic learning and engagement through a variety of learning styles. I sincerely believe that voice and speech are subjects you need to experience in a variety of ways to learn: kinesthetically, aurally, visually, verbally, individually, in partners, in groups, etc. I want to provide many ways into the work so you can own your process.
What makes the high school to college transition difficult for many students is that this cram-then-brain-dump approach to learning only takes you so far. While this course does not contain equations and formulas, some of it may seem more left-brained oriented as you will need to understand anatomy and physiology, and learn the IPA. Yet, this class is not about you memorizing and brain dumping after the exam because
- it’s cumulative; we build upon what we know throughout the year and everything we learn is a part of a progression
- you need to own this material
You need to own this material because it informs nearly everything you do onstage, and a lot of your time off-stage as well. Everything from feeling grounded and in your body, to sensitizing yourself to vibration, to knowing what moves and why when you make specific consonant sounds — these all inform how you’re perceived, how you sound, and how present you are. I don’t want you to just memorize how many sets of ribs you have or what muscles are used in breath support, I want you to know these things because as that old saying goes “Knowledge is power” and the awareness of how these parts move can give you the insight into your own instrument so that you feel more in your body (and less in your head!)
If you’re wondering how to better approach owning your process it starts with creating a practice for yourself. I don’t just mean you should “practice” — I mean you should create a routine and practice for yourself, in the same way you would for a fitness routine like dance or yoga. The example I use is: you can’t expect to go to the gym once and be ripped. You have to go regularly, and continually check in with yourself to know when to push yourself more, or when to rest, so that you’ll improve with time. Going to the gym or to a yoga class is your physical practice of maintaining physical/mental well-being. The practice you build for yourself as an actor needs the same dedication and perseverance. This work is like the barre work you need for your voice.
The last caveat to learning in a way that is different from how you learned in high school is accepting that: often times it doesn’t boil down to a right or wrong answer, and it’s not about getting the “A”, and it’s not about being competitive. I love to see students evolve over this year. At first, they are banging their heads against this idea of “process” vs. “product” learning. They want to make sure they “get it right” and my constant refrain is:
It’s a process. It’s a process. It’s a process.
Sure enough, with time they begin to loosen their grips on trying to control their experiences and learn how to be more present.
It's embodiment we are after, because when you embody something — you own it. It’s yours. That can be incredibly empowering, and that becomes the motivation to learn: owning your process.