What’s in a Pedagogy?

In talking with Master Teacher Andrea Caban about Knight-Thompson Speechwork and how we teach it, I’ve begun to reflect on what a pedagogy is. Erik and Phil have both written extensively on the pedagogy of Knight-Thompson Speechwork, its origins and its principles. But Andrea and I have also been talking about its other aspects, the aspects that are slipperier to write about, harder to enumerate, eagerer(?) to avoid lists and charts and diagrams. We bandied about the ideas of “hard” versus “soft” teaching principles, or maybe the “form” versus the “content” of the pedagogy. That distinction got me thinking about […]

Actors Be Damned! (or: What I Don’t Think)—What Is the Value of (Super) Narrow Transcription?

All actors should learn narrow transcription. And I mean super narrow, with multiple diacritics hanging off of every symbol like crazed Christmas ornaments. All teachers and coaches should employ similarly narrow transcription in all their prepared materials, and whenever taking or giving phonetic notes. They should not water down the detail even when preparing materials for or giving notes to actors who don’t know any phonetics. If these actors can’t handle it, well, that’s just too bad. They should have paid attention in speech class. No. I’m pretty sure some people think that’s what I believe. I don’t. I think […]

Vocal Tract Posture and Four-Year-Olds

A version of this post was previously published in The VASTA Voice. Getting the vocal tract posture of a language or an accent right is a crucial part of successful accent acquisition. Vocal tract posture (also called oral posture), is the particular patterning of muscular engagement, release, and positioning characteristic of individuals and groups of speakers. It is, if you will, the ‘home base’ for an accent, and can be thought of as the position to which the vocal tract returns when at rest, or when preparing to speak or resume speaking. Phoneticians call it articulatory basis, or basis of […]

The Name of Action

  I studied acting with the great Earle Gister some years back. He was a brilliant man, and his way of teaching and speaking about acting resonated deeply with me. It felt, at the time, like the missing piece of my equipment as an actor. After working with Earle, I still had plenty left to learn as an actor—I don’t think we ever get to the end of that particular road—but I felt somehow complete in a way I hadn’t before. In every acting job A.E. (After Earle), I knew what to do. It’s not that I was never lost […]