Voice Work Exercise: Apartment Block
Updated: Nov 7, 2020
5 minutes whole-class set-up.
Then 10 minutes prep & playback.
An older group – aged 12+
Any time of the semester
Focus on using the voice as instrument
Lead in to simple performance work
Whole group sits in a circle, teacher included. Hand each student a copy of the 18 lines below.
Okay, we are going to go around the circle, and I want you to have a go at the same line as the person before you. Until I say to someone, NEXT. What I want to hear is how many different ways can we use our voices to perform these lines? With your voice, you create character, emotion, the mood, maybe the age of the speaker. Is the line said seriously, nervously, sarcastically? Let’s play around and see what you can come up with.
Will you be quiet down there!
Be quiet ya self, you old bag!
Excuse me, excuse me, can anybody help me?
Mum! Mum! Mum! Mu-um! Mu-um! Muuuuuuum!!!
I tell you what, the guy in number 10, he is really weird!
Soon my boyfriend’s coming over! I can’t wait to see him! He’s really cute!
At night, sometimes, when it’s real quiet, I can hear somebody crying. Not a child. A woman.
I listen. I try to hear what they’re saying next door. It’s very interesting!
Les! Les! You get back here this instant.
We can hear the couple next door, you know, arguing … it’s disgusting!
(whistles) Puss-puss-puss… din-dins…pussy-kins…dinny-dins!
Last night, I heard this rustling coming from inside the wall…freaked me right out!
This it one month I bin here. One month. No one say hello.
Some nights, when it rains, you look out, and it’s like you’re the only person in the world!
Twenty-six, twenty-seven, twenty-eight, twenty-nine, thirty….oh god!
I believe we all have these invisible threads coming out of our souls, and we’re all connected.
My partner said she’d be back hours ago. Where the hell is she?
Ugh! I hate living here so much! Can’t STAND it! Driving me insane!
You will find it can help to start with a student two or three places away from you. It gets to your turn quickly and you can offer a stark alternative to what has preceded. Encourage each person to “try it a different way” and now and then pause and celebrate an original or alternative approach.
Sarcasm or cynicism gives a line a very different meaning.
Urge them to explore volume and emphasis, pauses, repetition of words, stuttering etc. The demonstration should grow into a powerful display of how much meaning and feeling gets conveyed through voice alone. After about 5 or 6 variations, move them on to the next line. Gradually, you should be able to get 8 or 10 variations before they exhaust the possibilities.