Questions From a Working Actor
Updated: May 20, 2022
Hi Erin! I am a working actor in film and TV and I have previous singing training, so I’m pretty confident in my ability to conduct singing warm-ups for myself and control my breathing. How does the Patsy Rodenburg method differ from my experience and why do you focus on Shakespeare's text? Katelynn, 24 NYC Hi Katelynn! What a great question. Let's first discuss how our method differs from your experience before moving on to why we use Shakespeare. Unlike other traditional voice and singing techniques, the Rodenburg method starts with presence. You can actually add in a lot of the Rodenburg exercises to other vocal exercises that you do. It can provide the base and support for your other vocal work if you already have a vocal background. This method can integrate all of that great work you’re doing with your low breath and connect it with speech, text, and acting. Having worked with singers, I have learned that they are often capable of producing a sound that is "beautiful," but not always tension-free. Our lower body has many accessory muscles that can get tensed up and remain unused and I’ve found that not every trained singer engages their low breath support to the fullest extent. The Rodenburg method ensures that we are engaging everything in a free way without extra tension. I’ve met some singers who use their entire instrument when they sing, but not when they speak! It’s fascinating how tensions and habits vary by individual life experience. Shakespeare’s text requires total presence from an actor. You need your entire breath, voice, and speech apparatus working for you. Unlike contemporary writing, Shakespeare demands an actor to mean what they say when they say it. An actor playing Shakespeare needs to act on the line - not before or after. This can be quite different from the demands of modern plays where there is subtext. Characters in today’s written works don’t always mean what they say, but that wasn’t true of Shakespeare’s plays (in fact, if a Shakespearean character is going to lie, they often come out and tell the audience!). Language is powerful in Shakespeare, you have to be present and be able to connect through the words. The Rodenburg technique grew out of this demand of an actor's present self. As actors who primarily work in film and tv, we may not always use our full voice and breath system if we are under the impression that the mics will pick us up regardless of your volume. That makes it too easy to slip out of our presence. The performance we strive towards is one where we are in our own personal power and presence; then we tap into our authentic energy that casting directors notice, directors admire, and audiences feel.