Thursday, 20 April 2017

Giving Students a Voice in the Theatre

Students add depth to their voice work with movement during a recent Grade 7/8 Drama
Major class in the theatre.

Our new performance theatre isn't just for large-scale productions - it provides an authentic environment for classes and workshops, too.


Down in Greenwood’s theatre, Grade 8 student Gabe has finished his performance and is ready for feedback.

“He’s crying,” says a woman’s voice offstage. “He’s just so panicked.”

Gabe takes this in and nods. “Okay,” he says. “So do I keep the old one as well?”

“If you want to layer [your performance], you can add it on top,” the voice responds.

The reply comes from Melissa Altro, an accomplished voice artist with over 20 years’ experience in TV and film. (You might know her as Muffy Crosswire from TV’s Arthur.) She knows a thing or two about using her voice to create character, and on April 12 she shared that expertise with our Grade 7 and 8 Drama Majors.

An Authentic Learning Experience


Experienced voice actor Melissa Altro's visit was part of the "Sound and Foley" unit
for Grade 7 and 8 Drama Major classes.

Melissa explained to students that one of the most important elements in voice work is putting your whole body into the character. It’s not enough to just read the lines; your facial expressions and actions are what add depth to the performance. To reinforce this message, it’s important that students work in an authentic environment - which is where the new theatre comes in. Students took advantage of the excellent acoustics as they worked with Melissa to create different voices, and the theatre’s state-of-the-art lighting added an extra level of professionalism.

Melissa’s visit was part of the “Sound and Foley” unit in both the Grade 7 and 8 Drama Major classes. For Grade 7 students, this experience came at the beginning of their unit and was used to introduce the different elements of voice, including pitch, articulation and tone. For Grade 8 students, their work with Melissa consolidated their understanding at the end of the unit. Both groups learned how to use their voices to bring a wide range of characters to life. This skill will support the completion of their culminating activities a little later in the year.

Melissa’s specific feedback - and the willingness of our students to take it on board - was a big part of what made her visit so impactful. Check out the video below to see how Gabe ultimately incorporated her feedback to add more depth to one of his characters.


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