auditioning · change · growth · singing · theater

Owning Voice

Last Thursday, I began a class at Berkeley Rep School of
Theater entitled, “Voice for Performance.” A short-term class of 5 sessions,
lasting three hours each, I am getting a taste of the Linklater method (which I
hadn’t heard of ’til recently, but apparently should know), vocal warm-up exercises, and where my
own challenges are.
At the first class, we all introduced ourselves while our
sprightly, mildly Cockney professor got up in our grill. She watched how our jaw
moved, how we held our body, listened if we grated words in our throat or
didn’t support our breath, and chided the modern world epidemic of ending
declarative sentences with a lilting question at the end. Last night, she
called me out again for it. It’s not, Hi, I’m Molly?, she laughed good-naturedly;
It’s, Hi, I’m Molly. Of course you are, she said.
At the first class, she spoke a little about the messages
some of us receive that cause blocks in how we speak. Were you told to keep it
down, that your voice was too loud? Did you sit at a dinner table with loud
people, and so learned to speak out the side of your mouth? 
There is a reason no one knows I sing. There is a reason
this whole blog is called Owning Voice.
There are messages I received, and internalized, whether
someone actually said something to me or not. I learned I had to be quiet to be
safe, that a loud voice was the tool of the abominable. I have clear memories
of “voice quelling.” When I was singing a poem at my Bat Mitzvah at age 13, there is this lovely harmony at the end that really makes the whole song, and
changes it to something powerful. I got to the end of that song, and I made the
choice, in my blue velour dress with puffy sleeves, to not go for it, to not try
for the notes that would make the song whole because I wasn’t sure I could reach them, and so I sang through it with the banal repetitive melody, sad for myself for not trying, and filing that experience away in,
“I’m not good enough.”
I remember auditioning for a high school musical, practicing
upstairs in my room, and coming down to ask my parents what they thought, if
that note was too high. They told me that I better not go for it. So I
didn’t.
I remember auditioning in college for the a cappella group
on campus, Orphan Sporks, and not making it; for the college plays, and not
making it.
And this is when I stopped. I believed that I learned that I
wasn’t good enough, and to stop trying.
But, part of the reason I haven’t made the progress I could,
is because I have those beliefs that I need to be quiet, that I need to not
make noise, that I need to be something better than I am to do it, and so, I don’t sing, I don’t share from the heart of who I am, and
therefore, I get to continue feeding the story that singing isn’t for me. And
when I do actually sing, because it’s such a rarely used instrument, it’s not
as well oiled as I know it could be, and again, I get to file this passion away in the “Not
for you” category, or dismiss my voice as Not Good Enough, or tell others, Oh,
it’s not really, I’m not really, …
I’ve taken singing lessons before, sporadically; I know I have a 4 octave range, I know the voice is in there. I know I’m not delusional & I feel like magic when I own it; I also know I hide it. Like a boy on a date once said to me about my eyes, that they are beautiful, but I am shy with them. Same same.

The class I’m taking right now isn’t about singing directly;
it’s about voice, about your whole body—your ribs, your toes, your earlobes—vibrating
to create sound. To drop the internal chatter and drop into your body,
zen-like, drop into your power which is there whether you obscure it with
rancid messages or not. The class is certain to help in the practicality of
singing, but for now, it’s just about owning breath, owning voice, and owning
truth.

Hi, I’m Molly.
Of course I am. 

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