Great Speakers Use Acting Skills

public speaking using acting skills

*Smart speakers know the PRIMITIVE DYNAMIC of the voice: the music your instrument can create to move an audience



Lyn Darnley Photo © RSC / Ellie KurttzSponsored Links Shakespeare Theater Tony Award-Winning Festival in OR. 

Lyn Darnley is Head of Text, Voice and Artist Development at the RSC, and initially worked in the theater as an actor and as a broadcaster and television presenter.  

Smart communicators aren’t afraid of iambic pentameter because they know the primitive dynamic of voice. 

What does that mean?  It means really good speakers realize that their voice has levels, and movement much like music.  And can affect an audience in the same way music can. 

Exceptional speakers know that the voice is an instrument that needs tuning and proper playing and constant attention.

Here is an excerpt from one of the most respected vocal coaches in the world.  There is much to learn.

“We go into rehearsals and work as part of the creative team supporting the director and actors by allowing them to explore these physical and aural dynamics of language. I think that language is becoming very cerebral and we are now separating ourselves from its primitive dynamic. Today, we tend to ask “what does that word mean?” rather than “what does that word do to us when we speak or hear it?”

The power of the spoken word is something that goes back to the Greeks and Romans in an age before technology. The most powerful thing is the spoken word. So my work is about going back and looking at the real visceral energy of language and what its prime purpose is. And that requires a fair amount of dexterity and physical technique because we’re much less engaged with language now. Speech is less engaged. We don’t speak with the same muscularity, energy or dynamic like people did before there was a visual back up for communication.

 Spoken language is primarily a vibration capable of physically impacting upon us in the same way music does.

So, Shakespeare’s language conveys much more than its literal meaning because it’s layered with sound, dynamic, explosion – language is actually very violent.

The sound and rhythm of Shakespeare’s language helps create his characters. You can physically feel it when consonants collide or when vowels are open, long, short or squeezed.

The English language is naturally full of rhythm, full of stressed and unstressed sounds. Iambic pentameter is simply an unstressed sound followed by a stressed one repeated five times. It’s very close to the natural rhythm of the English language, so it works very well. Ten beats coincides nicely with the length of a thought. But Shakespeare becomes really exciting when you break that iambic pentameter rhythm. The energy in performance comes from when you go against the iambic. You don’t need to study iambic pentameter – you just need to feel it, which will come naturally from speaking and listening to the text.

I think that the most important thing is to speak Shakespeare, not read it. This is because you need to get it into your body. The words need to affect you through the sound and through the muscular activity in the mouth. The words can’t do that on the page!”

Barbara Kite is an executive speaking coach and professional acting coach as well as a professional actress and director.


July 23, 2009 - Posted by | acting skills, fear of speaking, presentations, Public Speaking

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