Knight-Thompson Speechwork, in brief
Knight-Thompson Speechwork is a highly effective, skills-based approach to speech and accent training for actors that places emphasis on developing the speaker’s detailed awareness of—and deep engagement with—the precise physical actions which make up speech. By combining a rigorous investigation of those actions with playful, experiential exercises, this work moves quickly and effectively past the usual interference that can make speech work difficult for many students.The primary guiding principle is curious, attentive interrogation—interrogation of what we’re doing physically when we speak; interrogation of what physical habits we may bring to the act of speaking that inhibit free and flexible expression; interrogation of what it is that makes speech intelligible or unintelligible; thoughtful investigation of what any text, moment, or medium might require from the actor in terms of skilled speech; interrogation of what, precisely, makes up what we call an ‘accent’; interrogation of what it is that allows actors to most efficiently, skillfully, and accurately adopt different accents.
Traditional methods of speech training have focused on teaching actors some variety of ‘Standard’ speech, usually (though not always) claimed to be superior to—and more ‘correct’ than—other, ‘nonstandard’ ways of speaking. Though there may be admirable rigor in the actual teaching, this approach is fundamentally limiting to the actor, as well as being linguistically and pedagogically unsound. By leading with prescription, the teacher will inevitably add to the perceptual confusion about speech that all students bring to the table. If, on the other hand, actors are first taught to really come to know their own vocal tracts, to be able to both feel and understand exactly what does what in order to produce the full range of speech sounds that exist in human languages, then they are vastly better equipped to do everything an actor needs to do, from connecting viscerally to language to acquiring and truthfully embodying other accents.
Okay, but how does it actually work? What do you do?
What about accents?