Help create a Believable “Reality.”
by James R. Alburger (Acting Magazine Contributor, Voice Acting)
Find more acting articles by Alburger at www.voiceacting.com
As voice-actors, our job is to create compelling characters in interesting relationships. In order to achieve this, we must understand our character and the “reality” in which our character lives. But that’s only the beginning! Each character in a script has physical energy that underscores the words and vocal performance. We must also find that energy within ourselves and release it through our body during our performance. The starting point for all physicalization is a relaxed mind and body. Once the body and mind are settled, the appropriate tension and energy for a performance can be brought in to create the reality of the character. Here are some warm-up exercises to help you do that.
The Yawn-Sigh: This is one of my favorite exercises for relaxing the throat, jaw, face and body. Open your mouth wide and take a deep breath as you yawn. Stretch the muscles of your mouth and face on the inhale. You can also tighten your shoulders and arms.When releasing the yawn, let the air out slowly as you vocalize a low-pitch sigh. Release any tension in your face, shoulders, and arms as you exhale. Take your time with this, and you’ll probably find yourself yawn-sighing three or four times.
The Face Stretch: This exercise will loosen up your face to allow for better facial expression during your performance. Start by opening your mouth as far as possible, stretching your lips, cheeks and jaw. Next, clench your teeth tightly and scrunch up your face, cheeks, lips, eyes, and forehead as tightly as possible. You can also include your neck, shoulders, arms, hands, and as much of your body as you like. Hold this for a count of 10 – then quickly and completely release the tension in your body. Doing this a few times will create a very relaxed feeling of mind and body.
The Tongue Stretch: You might want to do this one in private, or make sure no one is watching you. If your script is full of tricky words or complex phrases, they will be easier to articulate if you tongue is relaxed. For this exercise, all you need to do is stick out your tongue and try to touch the bottom of your chin. Then stretch your tongue up to touch the tip of your nose. You get bonus points if you can actually do it.
The Neck Stretch (or Head Roll): This is an excellent warm-up for relaxing your neck. Begin by sitting straight in a chair. Pretend a string is attached to the top of your head, and allow it to lift your head away from your shoulders. With your head now slightly raised, slowly tip forward as though looking at your shoes. Keep your body straight, but allow yourself to feel the stretch along your spine, upper back, shoulders, and neck. Now slowly rotate your head to the left, allowing the right side of your neck to stretch. Continue rotating your head to the back and then to the right. If you feel any pain at any time, stop immediately – you may have an injury that needs to be checked by your doctor.
The Shake-out: This one will help relax your entire body and release inhibitions. You’ve probably seen dancers shake their arms wildly at their sides just before beginning a dance routine. The wild shaking gets their muscles warmed up and blood flowing. Stand quietly with arms at your sides. Begin by rapidly shaking your hands, and allow the shaking to gradually move up your arms to your shoulders. After only a few seconds, you’ll begin to feel invigorated. You can involve as much of your body in the physical shaking as you like. The purpose here is to release any tension in the body, relax the muscles, and get blood flowing.
Now that your body is relaxed and warmed up, you can apply the appropriate body posture, facial expression, and physical energy needed for your character. You’ll find it much easier to create a believable character when you start from a state of relaxation, than if you tried to just go right into it without preparing yourself. Just as an Olympic athlete warms up before an event, we as voice-actors, we should warm up our instrument (our body and voice) before we begin our performance.