A few weekends ago the Mentees at Third Rail gathered in the basement of Imago Theatre to begin a weekend-long intensive exploring vocal techniques for actors. Led by certified Fitzmaurice instructor and Company Member Michael O’Connell, the group would spend the next few days loosening, relaxing and letting go of unnecessary tension in order to “free” the voice.
“All recent voice pedagogies aim to free the actor to connect to their impulses, reduce tension, and allow the body and mind to work together rather than in opposition,” explains O’Connell. “What separates Fitzmaurice from the others is the use of the Destructuring sequence to bypass the Central Nervous System and reintegrate the breath to the Autonomic Nervous System.”
Madeline Shier, a Mentee, shared her expectations of the intensive before it began: “Working with Third Rail on other workshops, I’ve come to realize how entwined the body and the voice are, and how my struggles with both stem from the same root causes. I’m excited to approach that from a perspective of voice, and hopefully learn some exercises…to help me with my breathing and alignment.”
At 6pm on a Friday evening, the Mentees gathered in Imago’s basement, amongst yoga mats, cushions and zafus, to start the intensive. Michael warmed up the chilly evening by asking the group to practice some “Fake Tai Chi” with him. Laughter trickled through the group as Michael facetiously described his time in China with a Fake Tai Chi Master. Warmed up and smiling, the Mentees then got down to business.
Over the course of Friday evening and most of Saturday, the Mentees explored Fitzmaurice’s “Destructuring Sequence.” Destructuring involves “a series of poses or movements that may induce a tremor, which, if invited, can interrupt chronic breathing patterns that hold the actor back from exciting vocal possibilities.” In the midst of doing this work, Shier described how she was “pleasantly surprised by how much [she] liked this work! Voice work [had] been frustrating for [her] in the past, but [she was] really enjoying the challenge this weekend.” Before the weekend, the mentees had each prepared a monologue from a Greek play. They explored their text using the Destructuring positions, discovering the ways in which releasing breath could help to find a vibrant truth in their speeches.
By Sunday, the group was ready to present their monologues as works-in-progress, using their favorite Destructuring positions to dive into the text. The Company and Third Rail Members alike were invited to a rare glimpse into an actors’ behind-the-scenes process. By the end, several mentees expressed how much this work had affected them not only as an actor, but in other parts of their lives as well. “The practice of putting our vulnerability to work,” offered Lisa Guerricabeitia, “is one that has endless application both personally and in performance. The technique provided clear and repeatable efforts to deepen self-awareness and marry the impulse of the body to the release of sound. It was a welcome opportunity to get out of my own way.”
Tune in for our next sneak peek into “A Day In The Life Of A Mentee”, when we’ll explore the before, during and after of a Scene Study session with Company Members Rebecca Lingafelter and Michael O’Connell.