There are many skills a person must learn to become an actor. Performing for the camera calls for intimacy and understated gestures and sound. Film actors sometimes barely speak above a whisper as certain microphones can pick up everything they say. Acting in a theater is entirely different. Although stages usually have mics, actors often do not, especially in amateur productions. Learning to clearly project one's voice to fill a theater is a crucial skill.
Bean Bag Game
The Bean Bag Game is a simple vocal projection exercise for children and beginning actors. It helps the actor to visualize how far he needs to project his voice by providing him with a specific "target" at which to aim the sound. In a large room, place one bean bag on the floor at 10 feet from the actors, another at 30 feet and another at 40 feet. Instruct the actors to deliver simple lines directly to each bag, beginning with the closest and moving to the farthest. Help them learn to speak louder to be sure to reach the furthest bag.
Partner Lines helps an actor learn to project her lines clearly to be understood by an audience. Instruct the actors to stand in two lines facing each other. Hand each actor a slip of paper with lines marked "A" and "B." The As say a line to the Bs, such as "Give me some ice." The Bs then read their very similar line, such as "Give me some mice." Each actor must speak clearly and loudly enough for her partner to hear the line, while all of the partners are speaking at once. Have the actors take one large step apart from each other following each line.
Shakespearean Insults is a vocal projection game that is both educational and fun to do as a warm up before a show. Using the Elizabethan verse of William Shakespeare, actors loudly project some of the best insults ever penned by the bard, attempting to fill the theater with their voices. Sit in the back of the house in the last row and instruct each actor to say an insult such as "Fie, fie you counterfeit, you puppet, you!" Encourage the actors to scour the works of Shakespeare to bring in insults of their own.
A useful tool in teaching voice projection not only to actors but to anyone involved in public speaking is to share the tricks that speakers employed before modern microphones and sound equipment. Abraham Lincoln's famous "Gettysburg Address" is one of history's most famous speeches. Lincoln used projection and enunciation from atop a hill to clearly deliver the speech. Have each actor stand on stage and deliver the first phrases of the address, focusing on sounding out the long vowels and each phrase loudly and clearly.
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