DATE: 6/11/2008 08:20:00 AM
I've been working with phenomenal voiceover coach Nancy Wolfson since January. I'm very close to cutting a new demo with her - it will be done at the end of this month. And last night was a very, very difficult session.
Nancy is awesome - very direct, very blunt, very honest. And sometimes the truth can hurt. Last night she called me on my people-pleasing, don't-want-to-do-it-wrong, want-everyone-to-likemeloveme voiceover work. I'm sick of it myself, and she demanded better. I got through the session and she gave me a great, very fun technique for breaking the mindset that jabbers, "Don't be rude. Be pretty. Be nice. Be perfect. Don't upset anyone. Don't make waves. Disappear. Don't stand out." It's a very loud voice, but it quiets quickly with one shift in thinking. Still, embracing the place in my voice that is real and authentic and not worried with pretty/pleasing/perfection is pretty uncomfortable.
When I hooked up with my husband after the session with Nancy was over, I told him that it wasn't my voice that needed work so much as my soul. I don't think that I will be able to approach the level of mastery and opportunity I want if I'm so concerned with not rocking the boat - with putting everyone else's feelings above my own. Nancy is calling me on my voiceover work, but what she's revealing to me is that I have to grow and evolve as a person in order for my voice to grow and evolve. I can't be so concerned with nice and pretty. I have to be confident. I have to be strong. To care about my opinion of me and not worry about what anyone else thinks of me. I have to begin to operate instinctually and emotionally and stop over-thinking everything.
My sweet husband told me to practice with him, and I enjoyed a giggling half hour of saying things that to me seemed terribly mean, but for him read simply as honest and assertive. Then he told me I had to stop it.
I probably sound like a terrible doormat, and I'm not. I can be pretty mouthy and tough, actually. Ask my parents. No, don't - just take my word for it. I easily stand up for people I love when I think they've been wronged. I rail against injustice. I can debate and stand my ground. But this evolution that is required in my soul needs to open a new place, a different place in me.
It's got to come from a place that doesn't strive to be grounded, but is grounded. It's the place where I am relaxed, because I've done my work and I can trust that it will pay off. It's the place of faith and deep breathing and space, not rushed, overworked, overtired, over-stressed yearning.
I've been passionate about studying voice since I was studying as an actor at Cornish College of the Arts. From the first day in Deena Burke's freshman voice class, the connection between the physical voice and the emotion and heart - the soul revealed, exposed by the voice - fascinated me, but it also immediately and deeply challenged comfort and complacency.
While working through four years of intensive voice and speech courses, I achieved tremendous physical release, stripped away countless, habitual guarding tactics that were obvious in my voice work, and expressed long buried grief and heart scars through evocative voice exercise. I was blessed to train at Cornish under teachers like Deena, who gave me a safe environment to integrate my mind, body, voice, heart, and soul and become a strong and independent theater artist.
Now I'm essentially on my own as an artist. I'm almost done with these months of study with Nancy. I'm not in school, I'm not surrounded all day every day by a team of top teachers who nurture me every step of the way, who push me to grow and evolve and toughen up. I'm lucky to have a fantastic business parter, Stephen McLaughlin, who is my audiobooks director and with whom I co-produce, and who challenges my heart and mind, but most of the time I'm on my own as I pursue my work as a voice actor.
So it's my choice and my responsibility to be disciplined in my study of the voice. It's up to me to be as demanding as my teachers were, to identify how far out of my comfort zone I'm willing to go to grow as a voice actor. I'm just as floored today as I was in my college years at how the voice reveals one's very essence and soul. If you're going to be great, there is no hiding, no safety, no idiosyncratic desperate attempts to be guarded that can show up in your voice.
That is freaking scary.
It's far scarier now than it was when I was a student. When I was a student, I was free to study and explore and experiment and make mistakes. I worked with total devotion and commitment, but my rent wasn't riding on my studies. I didn't make a living as an actor, I was just studying and training for some nebulous future.
Well, the future has arrived. I have made one of the scariest choices I could have ever made - I rely on my skill and talent to put food on my table. To pay my rent. To feed my cats, who eat...a lot. I have to make some uncomfortable changes in the way I operate in the world. Now is my time to be fierce with myself and compassionate, too. To acknowledge that my comfortable likemeloveme style has gotten me this far, but it doesn't get to lead the rest of the journey.
I know I'm ready.
Labels: Cornish College of the Arts, Deena Burke, Nancy Wolfson, voiceover
DATE: June 11, 2008 at 10:13 AM
Nice work, Gilbert. You're a brave one.
AUTHOR: Nancy Wolfson
DATE: June 11, 2008 at 9:22 PM
The pursuit of creativity and true growth requires this strange leap into DISCOMFORT. If you feel a little uncomfortable (or very much so) then it's an encouraging sign you've ventured into new territory. It isn't easy, and in fact can feel something close to masochistic. But ya won't hurt yourself. And as Fat Albert once said, "If you're not careful, ya just might learn something."
I applaud your emotional bravery.
AUTHOR: Bob Souer
DATE: June 12, 2008 at 12:07 PM
This is a really excellent post. Thank you for pushing yourself to be so open about the things with which you wrestle.
It's inspiring to read.
(And I truly love Nancy Wolfson!)
DATE: June 26, 2008 at 12:11 PM
There is such a struggle between those two opposites, isn't there? I mean, there's always been this push for as long as I've been studying theater to make theater more accessible at all costs. However pursuing that train of thought leads to dumbed-down, lowest common denominator shows. On the opposite side of the spectrum, if you insist on making art personal, and refuse to care about the community, you end up acting for no one and you risk becoming self-indulgent.
It's something I don't really understand the balance of. Or at least don't notice it until I run close to one of those situations, when I revise and start off the other way.
Balance is the hardest thing. I'd love to hear more about this. Hopefully I could learn something.