A significant part of an actor’s craft is creating and presenting characters with substantial credibility in order to stimulate a belief in the character from the point of view of an audience member (McGaw 1975; McGaw et al. 2011). To do this the actor relies on and utilizes his body, voice, imagination, experiences and so forth, for the creation of such characters (Zarrilli 1995; Benedetti 1998:5; Zarrilli 2002). This makes body and voice training within any actor training program pivotal.
As an entry-level voice teacher in the tertiary situation I was confronted with a complex profile of the group of students to be taught. This profile influences or even determines the outcomes of the teaching opportunity. Gender differences were one of the most eminent markers of this complexity. For this project I decided to research the male voice as it possibly requires specific approaches to assist with the attainment of vocal ability.
This study is concerned with the unique precepts of the male student actor in order to gain greater understanding of both the male physiological and anatomical construct, as well as the socio-cultural concept of ‘maleness’ as it refers to voice. Voice, in a cultural and societal paradigm, is subject to and as such influenced or shaped by social identity (Karpf 2006: 121). The actor’s socio-cultural paradigm potentially limits the vocal function and expression of the male voice in performance. This study draws on prior research when documenting unique and substantial structural differences typical of the male voice. It asks the question: What are the attributes that feed into the male student actor’s voice that have to be taken into account by the theatre voice teacher when viewed through anatomical, physiological and socio-cultural lenses?
In order to answer the investigative question chapter two of this study consults scholarly materials concerning the various anatomical and physiological attributes of voice production (that is, its functional aspects) with specific reference to the male voice. It is argued that this can be seen as a description of voice production as object. Chapter three concerns itself with the impact of various socio-cultural influences on the voice with specific reference to the male voice. In this sense, the potentially subjective and image-defining concerns of the male voice that might impinge on vocal explorations are considered. Chapter four provides example explorations that may be used in a theatre voice class to indicate how the knowledge gained in chapters two and three will influence the facilitation of these explorations. It argues that it is an in-depth knowledge of voice, where voice materialises simultaneously both as object and as subject, that prepares the entry-level voice teacher to facilitate the development of the male student actor’s voice in a holistic manner.
This dissertation concludes that, within the theatre voice training class, it is imperative that the voice teacher acknowledges and respects the sex-gender conflation of the male student actor and encourages him to explore and build a ‘voice’ that is capable of optimal expression in lieu its functional capabilities.