Vocal Action

Vocal Action

According to Stanislavski’s System of Physical Action, vocal action has a crucial role to play. Just as gestures and movement are understood as actions, speaking is also a form of action. An actor with poor speech will not only be difficult to follow but will also spoil his or her chances of furthering their acting career.

Stanislavski said, “Speech is music. Dialogue in a play is a melody, an opera, or a symphony. Diction onstage is no less difficult an art than singing and demands preparation and technique at virtuoso level”.

Vocal Action, Punctuation, Pause, Stress, Voice And SpeechIt is equally important to understand vocal work as both vocal and physical work are two sides of the same coin when creating a performance that is effective and interesting. A good sounding voice in conversational speech is not very easy to come by. Even the good ones will lack strength and range. According to Stanislavski, a range of five notes isn’t enough to express the ‘life of the human spirit’. So, in conclusion, it can be said that, even a good sounding natural voice will need to be trained not just for singing but for speaking too. Movement and dialogue on stage and in real life are two very different things. For a better understanding of vocal action, it is divided into:

• Punctuation
• Pause
• Stress

Punctuation serves both a practical and an expressive function. In its practical avatar punctuation marks divide a thought (in a sentence) into comprehensible and coherent units indicating speech rests and pauses. In its expressive role, punctuation marks illustrate phrasing, breathing, and fluctuation of speech. Punctuation gives shape to vocal action. A comma is an indication for the actor to breathe, a dash will mean something said as an afterthought, and a question mark is indicative of a rise in pitch. Punctuation is about inflections in speech that allow the actor to render his or her lines in an effective way.

Punctuation is associated with the mouth and pause is associated with the ear. A pause in speech is understood as that break which helps the person listening better his understanding of what is being said. Stanislavski put forth two types of pauses for consideration –

Logical pause
The logical pause is used to divide thoughts and sentences into sections that are easily understood so that, the person listening is able to follow the spoken ideas. These are generally straight and have direct relation to the continuing thought.

Psychological pause
The psychological pause is a reflection of whatever is going on in the actor’s mind at that moment. It represents the thoughts behind the words, and “brings the ideas to life.” Psychological pauses communicates to the audience that which words cannot. It generally conveys which is hidden between lines or the subtext.

Stanislavski said, “The logical pause serves the head, the psychological pause the heart.”

In the context of vocal action, the use of stress has varying degrees. When you lay stress on a word, you are highlighting it vocally. Stress is used to draw attention to an important word between pauses. The actor must not overdo stressing too many words or else the meaning of his lines will be lost. It is only the key word in a sentence that needs to be stressed upon. Other significant word or words need less stress. Using stress properly to bring into focus the spoken word gives a logical perspective to the actor’s performance.

There are other ways as well to highlight a word. Stress along with tempo, rhythm, pauses, and inflections can highlight words in many ways.

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