Dramatic Interpretation Vocals

Vocals in Dramatic Interpretation are as much about characterization as they are about good speaking skills.  Not only are you expected to be an exquisite speaker, but you also have to apply those skills to various styles of voices.  There can be no sacrifices in either field, and that requires practice!  While practicing, try to keep these points in mind:

  • Projection. It does not matter how wonderful of an accent you don is, if no one can hear you it is just mumbling.  When practicing have friends or coaches sit in the back of the room to give you an idea of how loud you will need to be for them to hear.  Remember, even the tiniest of whispers need to be heard by those sitting in the back.  Also, be aware of white noise such as ventilation systems, nearby trains, or even hallway racket (hopefully, a rare occurrence).  Finally, as you overcome noise never sound vocally stretched or on the verge of yelling.  This means breathing from the diaphragm.
  • Variation. As always, the rules of variation apply--particularly because this is an acting event!  Make use of changes in dynamics (loud and soft and how you get there), tempo (fast and slow), pitch (high or low of voice), tone/inflection (the quality of your voice/the emotion or feeling behind the words), and silence.  It's boring to sound the same.  You have a sound for your character now build it with personality and emotional reaction relative to that character. 
  • Articulation. Mumbling can also come from not paying attention to consonants as you speak.  Dramatic Interpretation needs to have as near perfect diction for every character (unless it is the point to not understand them; but even then you need to know exactly how to say all lines for the joke to work).  There is nothing worse than trying to follow character interactions or monologue when you first have to focus on what words they are saying and then on what they mean. 
  • Characterization. Once you can be heard and understood by those furthest away you can focus on characterization.  All characters in a Dramatic Interpretation need to be clearly defined and DIFFERENT.  Of course it takes more than vocalization to define character, but voice is one of those defining features of character.  Go back to all of your character analysis you did when you were still approaching the script and think.  Looking at the givens of this person listed in the script, and all those inferences you can make based on the information provided, what type of person is this?  Try to think of others you can relate to this character.  Does this character remind you of a persona found in television or film?  Have you met someone like this?  Can you match this character to a group?  Once you can classify the character it will help make finding a voice easier.  For example, if I had a character that was a librarian I would rack my brain for all the librarians I have known and try to determine some linkable features of voice.  I would then get specific and ask what are some defining characteristics of my role and question how these interests/setting/socio-economic level/etc. would influence that.  If this particular librarian was an insecure person I might try to sound unsure of myself at times.  Do try to avoid stereotyping as it's generic and can anger the PC crowd. 
  • Accents. If you decide to use an accent please do some research.  Not every English person sounds snobbish and posh...or Cockney.  Try to watch a few movies featuring the geographical location you are trying to imitate.  Even better, try to listen to locals to be as honest as possible.  For example, if you want to sound English maybe absorb the various sounds the BBC has to offer.  Further, be consistent with accents.  Certain sounds will trick you, so work them until you no longer drop your accent. 
  • Dramatic Interpretation crying. Sounding emotional does affect your voice.  Being on the verge of tears causes a shaky voice that will hurt your diction.  Dramatic Interpretation does mean that you will have characters that are going through stress, but you can not allow for this to impair your performance.  Plan when you are going to have your character stumbling with speaking and counter that by not losing focus on your projection and articulation!  In life we may become inarticulate when upset, but you cannot be unintelligible in a performance (unless a line is stated again; then you can "throw" out the first with hysterics and then deliver the line clean). 
  • Vocals and POPS! As Dramatic Interpretation has multiple characters, typically, you must have your vocals down cold.  It might take a while for you to memorize what voice goes where, but practice so that as time goes on your transitions are smooth and flawless.  Cyrano de Bergerac should never sound like Baron Christian de Neuvillette after a pop.

Being aware of these vocalization issues can greatly influence your performance.  Dramatic Interpretation is based on interpretation of character and vocals are a major part of who we are as people.  Just remember two things: that all characters need to sound unique and that practice is the only way to achieve that goal.  Adhering to those two rules will cause all others to fall into place.