Dramatic Interpretation: Finding Your Voice

Have you ever heard someone with the exact voice as another?  Excluding impersonators with near-perfect imitation (not quite "exact" either!), the answer is no.  No, you have not.  That is because a defining feature of an individual is their voice; all voices are unique!  In Dramatic Interpretation the same concept applies.  It is your task to interpret a script full of distinct characters.  In order to do so, every last persona must have a specific voice to speak.  How is this done?  Simple.

    Analyze your script! To find a voice to define a character you first need to understand them.  Look back to your notes.  Reflect on all the notes you jotted down and all the given/inferred information found in the script.  Is there anything in there that would indicate a speaking style?  For instance, where does the story take place?  What accent does that region use?  Where is your character from; what accent do they use?  What socio-economic level is the character stationed?  What type of profession does the character work--a lawyer and comedian would have different approaches to speaking.  Does the author or another character describe their speaking style?  Are there any personality traits that inspire vocalization, like a stressed character speaking almost manic?  Dramatic Interpretation requires you look at all angles of a character, and through doing that you will begin to think of who this character reminds you of which is a launching point for vocals.

    Experiment. Once you gather ideas from looking over and analyzing your script you should have some fun.  Play around with possible voice ideas.  Any idea that crosses into your mind try.  A voice you do not attempt could be a missed opportunity.  Work with accents, pitch, rhythm, etc.  Anything you can do with your own voice this character can do.  Just with their individual sound.  Remember, your vocals are only as limiting as your imagination and playfulness.  

    Record yourself. Know how when you speak into a microphone or hear a recording of yourself your first response is "I sound like that?!"  Well, don't you want to know how this new character's voice will sound to the masses?  Before you unveil it?  If you do wonder, it might be useful to record yourself with either a tape-recorder or a camera.  This way you can hear exactly what everyone in your Dramatic Interpretation round will hear.  If anything sounds odd you can adjust in private and no one will know of your vocal experiments.

    Test it out. Take your new voices and use them on friends and family.  Even if your blocking is not done, take your script and read people your piece with character voices.  Ask for honesty and get feedback on what people thought.  You might not enjoy the criticism, but getting advice prior to going into a round's battle is worth the constructive criticism.

    Re-group and polish. Between getting notes from your coaches, team members, judges, friends, etc you might be offered a suggestion that sounds brilliant.  Do not be afraid to play around with you voice and the advice.  Dramatic Interpretations are meant to evolve.  Adjust and practice!
    Tears and sobbing...be warned to not throw your character's voice away by sobbing.  Because of this event's serious nature, crying might occur.  If you decide to shed a tear do so but be aware your character's voice must remain pristine.  This applies to other non-crying characters sharing the scene.

    PRACTICE!!! Practice is a given.  You are working with numerous voices; all with distinct vocal patterns and dramatic situations that influence voice.  Know your vocalizations cold to avoid dropping your voices mid-performance. 

These seven steps could be your way to clean character voices.  Dramatic Interpretation is challenging for all the aspects of performance you must analyze for multiple characters, but if you do your job thoroughly and with dedication your characters will pop--figuratively and literally.