Theatre voice as metaphor: the advocacy of a praxis based on the centrality of voice to performance

by Mills, E.

Abstract (Summary)
This study proposes a view of theatre voice as central to performance. It proposes a shift in paradigm through the foregrounding of the function of theatre voice as one of the creative strands of the theatre matrix. The function of theatre voice becomes a theatrical function. Theatre is created in the voice and, therefore, any act of theatre should include conscious questions about the meanings that are, or can be evoked through the voice in theatre. A second thrust to this study is that theatre voice practice should be included in, and theatre voice practitioners should actively engage in, broader debates about theatre. Introduction: The idea that the voice in performance is the enactment of conscious theatrical choices is set up through the notion of the theatrical use of the voice. The introduction outlines the kinds of performance contexts in which a theatrical use of the voice takes shape. This includes an assessment of the degree to which the specific South African context of the writer is useful to questions about a theatrical use of the voice. The concepts which are central to such a view of theatre voice are expanded. These are: the theatrical agency of the actor, theatre voice, the theatrical use of the voice and praxis. Selected examples from local and other productions are offered to illustrate a range of interpretive possibilities open to the voice when considered, in the first instance, as performance.

Chapter one: The actor’s relationship with voice is explored through the notion of actor agency. Historically, actors were theatrically empowered by a closer involvement with playwriting, staging, apprenticeship forms of actor training and theatre management. It is argued that the emergence of the director as a new theatrical agent has diminished this actor agency. On the other hand, the introduction of a realist acting methodology has given the actor autonomy of craft, empowering the actor in unprecedented ways. The theatrical agency of actors, directors and theatre voice practitioners is explored as influencing the status and the perception of theatre voice within theatre. The proposal of the centrality of voice to performance is dependent on the agency of actors, directors and theatre voice practitioners.

Chapter two: It is argued that an Aristotelian Poetics of Voice has, under the influence of realism, developed into a “Poetics of the Self”. The paradigmatic shift proposed through a view of the voice as central to theatre, is explored through a post realist, intertextuality of voice. This includes a re-consideration of the contemporary theatre voice notion of the “natural” voice.

Chapter three: Cicely Berry’s work, with particular reference to The Actor and his Text (1987), is analysed in terms of realism and the theatrical use of the voice. A second focus in the analysis of Berry’s work supports the argument that voice practitioners theorise positions for theatre voice even though their texts are practical and technically orientated. Berry’s work is singled out here because the contemporary practice of the Central School tradition is the generic tradition of South African English theatre voice practice.

Chapter four: Strategies and constructs are proposed in support of the centrality of voice to the theatre. Ways of realising a theatrical use of the voice are also suggested. This is based on a shift in the way in which practitioners think about theatre voice. In the first instance, it is suggested that practitioners move beyond positions of polarity and actively embrace that which is contradictory in theatre and theatre voice practice. Secondly, a traditional hermeneutic understanding of the interpretation of voice is challenged. Thirdly, the use of metaphor which is pertinent to actors, directors and voice practitioners is explored as a means to vocal action. Concrete examples of the creative use of the voice, are provided through the sonic texts of Performance Writing. By way of conclusion, some ideas are offered about the issue of empowering the actor in a theatrical use of the voice.

This study is intended to contribute to a theoretical and practical debate which will promote the argument for the centrality of voice to performance.

Bibliographical Information:


School:Rhodes University

School Location:South Africa

Source Type:Master's Thesis



Date of Publication:01/01/2000

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