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A completely different approach

The Linklater Voice method teaches students to liberate their natural voices

IU Southeast Professor Dru Pilmer helps Andy Perry with his spinal alignment.

Dru Pilmer began teaching in 1994 and four years later arrived at IU Southeast after she was certified in Linklater Voice -- a method she loves.

Pilmer is one of fewer than 140 designated Linklater Voice teachers in the world. She teaches a class every other semester and offers private lessons. She also teaches at an adult acting studio she just started with some colleagues and conducts teaching workshops at universities and other venues.

"Teaching Linklater is something that I became just fascinated with," Pilmer said. "I am endlessly fascinated with the connection of the moment when someone is allowing the breath down into their belly -- which means to the bottom of their lungs -- for the first time in years."

Pilmer talks about Linklater Voice instruction and why she decided to teach this approach.

Q: What differentiates a Linklater Voice instructor from a typical instructor?
A: Well, what is typical varies according to the approach or technique taught and teacher training, so in this field, I'm not sure there is a typical. I can tell you that most Linklater Voice teachers have been, or are, working actors. Most of us also teach actors, as this vocal approach was originally developed by Kristen Linklater from Iris Warren's work at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts. Many of us, like myself, also teach business people, TV personalities, politicians and those simply interested in having a more effective speaking voice.

All Linklater teachers teach the Linklater progression of exercises that were designed to liberate the natural voice. What I mean by natural is the voice unique to you that expresses all the subtle nuances of your thoughts and feelings through a two- to four-octave pitch range. One could simply develop a beautiful voice for beauty's sake, and some voice techniques teach that. But the person behind that sort of voice is rarely revealed, and listeners end up being interested in the voice, rather than being interested in the person and what they are saying. You see, communication is more than the words we speak or beautiful sounds. The vibrations of the voice literally carry information. Think about how a baby without vocabulary transmits information with the sounds in the vibrations of their voice. We lose the ability to do so as we are socialized, as we create defenses to deal with the world around us. So, habitual physical tension sets in over time that inhibits or distorts our breath and voice. This is what the Linklater Voice work does so brilliantly. It's designed with these physical/psychological challenges in mind. Now, this is oversimplified, but the first part of the work is designed to "re-teach" natural breathing and to undo the years of voice inhibiting habitual tension, while exploring vocal range free. The second part develops the resonators and breath capacity. Last is articulation. Throughout is the development of expression.

As to what else sets us apart, I can tell you that to become a Linklater Voice teacher, one must undergo years of rigorous training. First, as an actor, I spent years working on my own voice -- how long that part takes is different for everyone. My journey took several years because I was training in between jobs, and also, I just had some especially deep-seated and stubborn habits to change. My initial actor voice training work took place during graduate school where I first worked with Kristin Linklater. That was followed by more work with Kristin when I attended two month-long intensive actor training workshops with Shakespeare & Company in Massachusetts. And of course, I always worked on my own, applying what I'd learned on the job. Then, when I decided to become a Linklater Voice teacher, I spent hours and hours over another course of years, in between jobs, following and training with master teachers. I did that in Chicago, New York City, Louisville, Kentucky, and Massachusetts. The final step for me was a month-long designation class with Kristin in Massachusetts.

Q: Why did you decide to become a Linklater Voice instructor?
A: In her book Freeing the Natural Voice, Kristin Linklater says, "to free the voice is to free the person." I found that to be absolutely true. I was profoundly changed by this work, by expanding my vocal resonance and expression. I accessed parts of my range that I didn't even know I had. I received more acting jobs offers as well. By opening up my physical voice, by changing the habits that were inhibiting my voice, I was able to open up as a person, to begin speaking my mind and heart -- in other words, in finding the greater range of my speaking voice, I also found my metaphorical voice in this world. So, my imagination took off on a great journey of possibilities. What would happen if everyone freed their voice and were themselves freed by that process? What if people could breathe and speak instead of acting out with inappropriate, dysfunctional and/or violent acts? You see, this is what I believe happens when people have lost the ability to communicate fully, to connect words to their thoughts and feelings. When I expressed this revelatory vision of mine during a workshop, Dennis Krausnick -- who is a Linklater teacher and director of training at Shakespeare & Company -- wisely counseled me to focus that vision. He said that I might not be able to change the world -- it's awfully big -- but what I certainly could accomplish was to facilitate change in my own neighborhood of the world. So that's what I decided to do.

Q: What is the advantage to learning the Linklater method?
A: First of all, Linklater students breathe, which has an immediate effect on the voice and the person. One might ask, doesn't everyone breathe? There's an incredibly high percentage of the population that has what is called interrupted breathing patterns created by stress and tension. So, no, everyone doesn't breathe the way their bodies are designed to. Well trained Linklater students have voices that can fill a room easily via resonance, rather than muscling the voice, which tends to flatten the voice out. They have voices that don't wear out over extended periods of exertion. Those who are Linklater-trained have more vocal variety -- they possess voices that reveal rather than conceal. They tend to be able to captivate attention because they are trained to allow their voice vibrations to pick up and carry all the subtle nuances of their thoughts and feelings, which stimulates response in the listener. Linklater students have a higher capability of being present in the moment. I also notice they are better listeners too.