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thing of which you will be aware will be some
characteristic attitude of the man you want
to describe, some little habit or mannerism
which has remained in your memory as a sign-
manual of that man. That is where the pft
of observation comes in ; it is not so much a



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18 Training for the Stage

question of observing everything as of select-
ing from what you observe the things that
matter. In other words, observation in itself
is nothing. One must discriminate and judge.
Accurately noted and tested observation is
the whole secret of correct interpretation.

It has often been said that art is a matter
of selection; this is perfectly true, and it is
with a view to making our selection vividly
individual that we must cultivate the habit
of seeing everything. So many people say
to me:

"I don't want to hear what other people
think, in case I only echo what they say."

This seems to me a short-sighted policy.
No wise person will express an opinion on a
subject that he does not understand, and you
cannot gain a true understanding of any sub-
ject unless you have looked at it from many
points of view. To hear the opinions of
others cannot hamper, but may probably do
good, and no one of real individuality need
fear undue influence. The danger for him
is that he may narrow down into self-opinion-
ated obstinacy. No one can afford to ignore
other people, least of all the actor, whose



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The Incidents of Daily Life 19

work it is to bring the character of others
into sympathetic being.

My advice to every actor would be that he
should try to get at the inner reasons of the
opinions and characteristics of all about him;
never content himself with an obvious inter-
pretation and, above all, never condemn.
You can only learn if you put yourself in the
place of the person you are studying, and
feel, for the moment, all that secret lonpng
to be understood and not to be blamed, not
to have to blame yourself, which is buried in
the heart of every human being, but wWch is
only voiced at those sacred moments when
fate has broken down all barriers, and
brought us face to face with our bare soul.
We all make excuses for ourselves, for if we
did not we could not bear the scathing light
of self-condemnation. Let the actor studying
humanity start by seeing these excuses and
accepting them. Let him feel when dissect-
ing others as if he were himself being dis-
sected, and he will find at the bottom of
every heart the spark that is trying to fly
upwards; the touch of human nature which
is the soul of art, because it is the call of our



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20 TrcdfUuff for the Stage

common brotherhood. When he has taught
himself to look at others from this point of
view, he will quickly learn to summarize the
salient traits of any character he wishes to
present in such a way that his performance
will have so much impressionistic truth that
it will carry with it conviction. Even when
tjie balance of the play demands that he shall
bring out the ugliest qualities of the char-
acter he is playing, yet he can present them
in such a way that their very force will make
us feel the truth of the old saying that "evil
is merely the converse of good" and we shall
know that it is environment which is to blame,
and that humanity itself is not discredited
by this representation of a human being.

The small, the trifling, the weak; there are
two ways of looking at all these things, the
way that debases and the way that makes
clear the inner meaning. To be shown an
ignoble view of life — this life which we hu-
man beings share — is depressing to us all,
and to some natures it Is even dangerous
There Is nothing so immoral as to take a low
view of humanity, and when the stage lends
itself to such an outlook the result is morbid.



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The Incidents of Daily Life 21

Even when it is an actor's task to play a
character of a poor type, he can represent
the foibles of that character in such a way
that they will at least deserve the epithet —
human. This he can best learn to do if he
studies the real human beings round about
him; casts aside the temptaticm to judge by
appearances and gets right down to the core
of things. If his judgment of real life is
good, his judgment as an actor will be good,
and his work will be of the type which helps
to ennoble the stage and to make of it that
which it preeminently should be — an edu-
cation.



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CHAPTER III

THE VOICE AND ITS POTENTIALITIES

Singers speak of the "forward tone." It
is the goal of their desire to possess the "for-
ward tone," and they bend all their energies
to acquire it. Many and various are the
methods recommended to this end, and mul-
titudinous are the ways in which they attempt
to describe what the "forward tone" really
means, I think the simplest way is to re-
mind the student that when you want to
throw your voice to an exceptional distance,
you use a speaking trumpet. When you want
to make your own voice carry to a distance
T^thout eflFort, the obvious method is to use
your mouth as a speaking trumpet by a little
manipulation of the lips. In the last chapter
I referred to the way in which certain lower
animals move the comers of the lips when
talking in their various animal tongues.
When they want to produce an offensive noise
or a noise signifying annoyance, they stretch
22



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The Voice 28

the lips back; but when friendly or aflFection-
ate, when pleading with or cajoling their
friends, they keep the corners of the lips well
forward, and so produce what is known as
the "forward tone." In other words, they
are using the mouth in the form of a trumpet;
and if the human being wishes to have a
round, beautiful tone, he must also use his
mouth in the form of a trumpet, so far as he
can without making grimaces. It is the cor-
ners of the lips that matter. Do not stretch
them back; get movement of the mouth by
acquiring power over the muscles that control
the center of each lip, so that they lift easily
from over the front teeth without stretching
away from the eye-teeth. Besides, this po-
sition makes the mouth look so much pret-
tier, and when the smile comes it is the more
striking because it is not continually sug-
gested by the habit of keeping the lips with
the corners drawn widely apart in a grinning
position. If the lips are lifted in the center
at the right times, and so kept well away
from the teeth, the tone will be pure and the
articulation clear. Nothing smothers j^rrticu-
lation like a lip pressed down upon the teeth.



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24 Training for the Stage

This muscular control can easily be acquired
by any one who will watch himself in the glass
for a few moments night and morning.

Another necessary rule in acquiring a pure,
round tone is to keep the tongue well hol-
lowed in the mouth; the tip and sides are
raised to the teeth very, very lightly, but the
center o^f the tongue should be hollowed
downwards, so that the back of the throat
can be clearly seen when the mouth is a little
open. If the student stands before a glass
and simply wills his tongue to lie down in this
position for a few moments night and morn-
ing, he will soon find that he acquires control
over the muscles of the tongue, and that it
takes this position of its own accord. By
this means a clear passage is allowed for the
sound; but when, as is too often the case, the
tongue is arched up like the back of an ^ngry
cat, it is acting as a sponge and the tone has
to pass through it, which g^ves it that thick
sound we know as "woolly." It also helps
to bar the passage through the mouth and
drives the tone up through the nose, es-
pecially if the soft palate is at all relaxed.

Whether you are training as a singer or



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The Voice 26

an actor, your voice will never last unless you
use it as carefully and rightly in everyday life
as you do when singing or acting. Many
people who have ugly-speaking voices find
that they have a good singing tone, and these
people who have ugly speaking voices find
throats. They don't realize that as they can
get a beautiful tone when singing, it is ob-
vious they can equally easily get a beautiful
tone when speaking; that their ugly speaking
voice is simply owing to false usage, and that
this continual false usage must strain the
throat and bring in its train those evils which
always follow careless voice production.
Therefore, to these people I say emphat-
ically: Start your work of improvement on
the voice that you use every day. Don't
run away with the idea that for professional
use you can acquire a different organ. It is
the same organ differently used, and will
never last unless it is rightly used both pro-
fessionally and daily.

The higher notes of the speaking or sing-
ing voice are got by a tightening of the vocal
chords in much the same way that the high
notes of a violin are got by the tightening of



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26 Trciving for the Stage

the violin string, and a continual use of these
high notes makes a continual strain upon the
vocal chords and muscles regulating them.
Not only these muscles but that other set of
muscles which lifts the larynx of the throat
are kept in use exhaustingly by the constant
reiteration of high sound; and it is, there-
fore, obvious that to speak on a lower note is
infinitely more restful.

Many people have a nervous habit of tight-
ening up the muscles of the throat and even
those at the back of the neck when speaking,
especially if they talk rapidly and excitedly.
This nervous tension gives an edge to the
voice, which affects the nerves still more, and
so the evil increases and increases until the
shrill and raucous tone is an irritation to
themselves and to all about them.

Avoid undue strain of any sort. Speak
restfuUy at all times unless the exigencies of
the part you are playing demand otherwise.

The compass of the voice is one of its
greatest beauties, and the compass of the
speaking voice can be greatly increased by the
use of a very simple exercise. Go to the
piano, strike the middle E flat; speak a short



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The Voice 27

sentence on the tone corresponding to that
note, then strike the semi-tone below and re-
peat the same sentence, then the semi-tone be-
low again, and so on. Try this up and down
on each semi-tone for a few moments every
day until you have acquired the power of
speaking easily on your highest as well as on
your lowest tones. But be very sure that the
speech is easy; don't let there be any strain-
ing; just talk naturally and simply, and listen
to your own voice as you talk. Train your
own ear to be a sure judge of your own
utterance.

Louis Calvert, in his very interesting book,
Problems of an Actor, lays great stress upon
the importance of the consonants, and says
in eflfect: take care of the consonants, and the
vowels will take care of themselves. Now
I do not agree with this at all. I even go the
length of thinking that one of the reasons
why modern actors are indistinct is that too
much attention is paid to the consonants and
too little to the vowels. Consonants are im-
portant, it is true, but most people sound
their consonants correctly, whereas compara-
tively few use pure vowel sounds, though it



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28 Training for the Stage

is upon the vowels that we depend for the
music and the suggestion of our speech.
What is the meaning of the word "vowel" ?
Vocal. Consonants are like gates shutting
off our tone, but on the vowels we can dwell
for a long or a short time as pleaseth us.
This gives us the power of varying the pace
at which we speak, and on this variety we
depend for our most valuable dramatic ef-
fects. Monotony of any sort is deadly, and
monotony of pace is the worst fault a speaker
can commit. It reduces all he says to a jog-
trot level. Besides, our vowels are so beau-
tiful; our "o" especially, so characteristic of
our race, rings out like a deep-toned bell. I
cannot think of any other language with just
its full, round sound. Its pure pronuncia-
tion, even here in England, is a sign-manual
of breeding.

Surely vowels arc worthy of a little
trouble. Get into the habit of speaking every
vowel with its due attention in every-day life,
and you will soon find that people will com-
pliment you on the carrying quality of your
voice. If the vowels are jumped over and the
consonants given undue prominence, the voice



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The Voice 29

always sounds hard. It fails to carry, more-
over, because its traveling power depends on
the vowel — that is on the vocal part of the
words. You cannot sustain tone on any con-
sonant without seeming affected or melodra-
matic. You depend for the even volume of
the voice almost entirely on a pure and well
delivered vowel.

Have you ever noticed how quick a dog is
to learn the value of a vowel sound?
Change a consonant, and it will not matter
to him; change a vowel, and he will fail to
understand you — a very significant proof of
the importance of vowel sounds.

Evenness of volume is essential for good
stage work. A speaker who lets down his
little words so that they almost drop out of
hearing conveys a jerky effect. Think of the
tone of an organ, how it differs from that of
a piano in its sustaining quality, and learn to
sustain your tone so that every word you
speak is clearly heard, and not merely the
two or three opening words of a sentence.

Of course, one does not want to be af-
fected, but if my injunction to speak in daily
life with the same care that you would upon



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80 Training for the Stage

the stage be heeded, there will be no affecta-
tion in clear speech. People who speak care-
lessly in every-day life and assume a careful
utterance only for professional use always
seem affected, because they are making a
conscious effort the whole time they are on
the stage. When articulation is habitually
clear and the voice well used, correct speech
becomes so characteristic of the speaker that
it adds greatly to his personality.

The best way of acquiring pure vowel
sounds is to start by speaking those vowels
on which it is easiest to get the forward tone.
These are *V' (oo), the English **o" and the
foreign **o,'* which approximates to our *'or."
Speak these, then dwell on the sound, pro^
longing it into a singing tone. Having done
this, say "ah" and try to get this in the same
"forward" way. In other words, try to
speak it with as little change as possible in
the position of the lips and mouth from the
position used in saying "or." Prolong the
"ah" into a singing tone. Go carefully over
these four sounds, sometimes singing, some-
times speaking them. Then take the other



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The Voice 81

pronunciations of "a*' as in "an" and "rain."
Treat these in the same manner. Then take
"er" and the long "ee," then the short "e,"
This last will be difficult to get, but you can
manage it if you put the "oo" sound in front.
For instance, take the word "wet" and dwell
a trifle on the "w," which is practically "oo."
That "oo" sound may be used to help with all
the vowels, as it is the most "forward" of
any. When you have grasped the idea, viz.,
that every vowel has got to be spoken in the
"forward tone," or in other words, with as
little lapse as possible from the position of
the mouth, tongue and lips which is used to
pronounce the really "forward" vowels "oo,"
"o" and "or," a little practice will soon make
perfect Change from singing to speaking
when practicing, and if you have a difficulty
"mth any sound, say "or" and start all over
again until you can get it.

With regard to the consonants, there are
certain dramatic moments when they are very
important, chiefly when an effect of tension
is required. Much may be done by the way
in which the initial consonant is pronounced.



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82 Traimng for the Stage

A slight pause in front of the word, and
then a push of the consonant will give drama
to the word —

He is — ^Deadl

But nothing but melodrama will result from
an over-stressing of the final consonant —

He is dead^^I

The letter that starts the word may strike
the key of the whole word, but the letter
which finishes it should finish with the word.
Indeed for ordinary usage it might be better
if we English people bore in mind the rules of
euphony instinctive among the French and
Italians, and permitted that glide and liaison
in certain cases which ^ve such a musical
charm to the Latin tongues.

Consonants really present little difficulty
provided one can acquire the knack of giving
the final consonant of a word sufficient im-
portance without clicking it off too sharply in
such a way that there seems to be a final "er"
at the end of the word. I have heard over-
careful speakers talk of "a greater deal" in-



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The Voice 88

stead of *'a great deal" In their aimety to
give the "t" in "great" its value. To my
mind that is a case where the foreign sense of
euphony would have prescribed a liaison.
Nothing is more irritating than to hear a final
consonant delivered with a click which prac-
tically amounts to an extra syllable.

But it is not enough merely to speak
clearly. The voice must express mood, feel-
ing, passion; and those qualities demand a
variety of tone.

To acquire this variety without becoming
stereotyped is a difficult matter. Words
learnt by heart and constantly repeated are
apt to become stale and stiff to the beginner,
and I find that for practice it is better to let
my pupils use any words which come spon-
taneously to their minds. Take each emotion
in turn; let us say, for example, that you start
with Fear. You imagine to yourself that you
hear some noise for which you cannot ac-
count, and gradually you realize that the
sound implies a danger which is coming closer
and closer. To express this you say any
words that come into your head, as for in-
stance :



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84 Trcdning for the Stage

"What's that? Was it thunder? No—
It's not thunder I What can it be ? I never
heard a noise like that — ^what can it be?
The floor is shaking I Was that a house
falling down? The ground is rocking under
my feet I It is an earthquake I Oh, my
Godir

Do not use the same words always or the
same idea ; vary it and vary also the intensity
of the emotion. Remember that an extreme
emotion is easier in a way to treat dramat-
ically than a commonplace one, which re-
quires delicacy and subtlety of expression to
pick it out from a dead level of dullness.

Take another emotion, say Love:

"My dear, I love you. I don't know how
to tell you; it is beyond words. When I
hear your footsteps, when I feel the touch of
your hand, it means so much to me that my
heart beats. I worship you !"

In this way practice tone after tone, until
by the mere use of tone, independently of
facial expression, movement or stage setting,
you can convey any feeling that you please.

A tone which it is most useful to acquire is
that clear whisper which the French call



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The Voice 85

^'haleine sans voix^' (breath without voice),
which means, of course, pure articulation
without tone. This is the type of speech
which deaf people hear with the greatest
ease. We all think we can whisper, but not
without a great deal of practice can we whis-
per loudly. Yet this knack, once acquired,
is extremely useful on the stage. It would
be impossible to play the murder scenes from
Macbeth effectively without it.

Another of the emotions which should al-
ways be included in practice is Excitement;
either the excitement of joy, or the excitement
of suspense ; because it can only be conveyed
by rapid utterance. One often hears actors
on the stage let down the big climax of a
scene by slackening their pace just when it
ought to quicken. Nothing excites an audi-
ence so much as quick speech, but it is an art
to speak quickly and clearly, and it can only
be done if the vowel sounds are pure and
distinct. If you try to stress the consonants
alone when spealdng quickly, you will tie your
tongue in knots ; but if the vowel sounds, how-
ever short, have their full value of articula-
tion, you can speak as quickly as you like and



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86 Training for the Stage

know that what you say will be heard. The
ordinary method of spealdng quickly is to
jump the little words together in such a way
that it seems as though most of them were
swallowed, as they do not sound at all. This
is fatal; one must keep an even level of loud-
ness, making the big words ring out beyond
this again.

It is just as difficult to speak slowly ts to
speak quickly, and the most necessary thing
of all is to make the audience hear what you
say. As they will have most difficulty in
doing this while your voice is strange to
them, it is well to speak the opening lines of
your part loudly, slowly and carefully. Later,
when the listeners have got used to your
voice, you can afiford to hurry.

If only actors would learn to speak their
final words on a drcumflex inflection I Even
when the last word is a two-syllabled one
they speak both these syllables on a full
stop—

This dear dear

England.

when surely it is obvious that the first of the



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The Voice 87

two should be on a higher note, and only the
very last drop down to an end —



Eng
dear
This dear



Ian



The whole secret of dear utterance lies in
this little matter, and many a dull voice would
become alive if only this one detail were care-
fully heeded.

Another frequent fault among English
speakers is diat we emphasize too many
words* Although we often drop out our
little words (articles, prepositions, conjunc-
tions and even pronouns) , we hit every noun,
verb, adjective or adverb with an emphasis
which does not really ring out, but produces
a barrel-organny effect of grind, grind, grind.
T)iis is one reason why English actors are
slow in speech and never acquire the pace of
the foreign stage. Shut your eyes and
imagine a Frenchman spealdng. There will
be a rush of words and then the key word of
the whole sentence will ring out like a pistol



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88 Training for the Stage

shot. Shut your eyes and ima^ne an Italian
speaking, and you will be struck at once by
the difference of pace in his pronunciation of
the vowel sounds of words, even in one sen-
tence ; how quickly his liquid tongue slips over
some, and how caressingly he dwells on
others. It is this marked difference in the
length of the vowel sounds which gives the
peculiar music of Italian speech. An Italian,
with his innate sense of drama, uses this even
in every-day life. Both the Frenchman and
the Italian have such a sense of the impor-
tance of the key word in every sentence that
they make it stand out. So emphatic is it
that even if one does not gather the sense of
the other words, it carries the meaning of the
whole seateftce home. But we plod labori-
ously through our sentences. No one word
stands out with the same vigor that a for-
eigner uses, yet our repeated emphases de-
feat their own object by familiarizing the ear
with the continually recurring effect of em-
phasis which is yet not strong enough really
to seize our attention. We all know that
English speech is more laborious than French
or Italian, and this is partly why. It is a



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The Voice 89

pity, as in some ways our stage stands, to
my mind, in front of any other, especially in
the matter of careful detail. Yet that is
sometimes the root of the eviL We are apt
to overload our work with conscious effort,
and in that way to obscure or miss that quick
impression which drives home the one vital
and important truth.

If Englishmen made a greater study of
emotional changes of tone these faults in
their speech would die away. We think too
much of the words and too little of their
meaning; yet it is only the meaning that mat-
ters and the words are merely its servants.
That meaning can be expressed by emotional
tone alone, without articulate words, if the
actor has suflGicient voice control. The cinema
is teaching our actors a great deal. It is
showing them the power of the eye, and how
facial expression can stand alone, without the
help of words. What I want to make clear
at the moment is that, just as the cinema has


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