Theatre is an art where the human being is the medium the art is created with, and the art form is about bringing a human being to life. In order to achieve a great play, actors must learn and train in the actor’s quartet: voice, body, mind, and heart.
At Butler University, theatre students train in all these areas, but it wasn’t until the early 2000s that the University had a well-structured and effective voice class.
“I knew we weren’t offering training that was good enough in this department, and I wanted something better,” Jordan College of the Arts Theatre Chair Diane Timmerman said. “We just had one random, inconsequential Voice for the Actor class, and now we have three that are very structured, specific, and effective.”
Timmerman spent four years obtaining a Linklater Voice certification to help create and teach Butler’s new Voice for the Actor classes. The Linklater Voice methodology uses a combination of imagery, art, and science to teach students to liberate their natural voices; the hallmark of the Linklater work being maximum effect with minimal effort.
“I like to look at the work with two main purposes,” Timmerman said. “One is called vocal hygiene—developing the breathing and speaking mechanism and restoring it to the way it was originally meant to be utilized. The other side of the work, which is of utmost importance to actors, is expressivity.”
Throughout the semester, Timmerman’s students complete a variety of physiological exercises and study the anatomy of the human body to gain a better understanding and awareness of how their bodies and their breath affect one another. Timmerman even utilizes a parachute, like the ones used in elementary and middle school gym classes, to help students better visualize how the diaphragm actually works.
“Ninety percent of people’s voice issues have to do with breathing issues. So we begin with skeletal awareness, breath awareness, and exactly how the breathing process works,” Timmerman said.
Timmerman explained the outcome of these exercises and the studying of anatomy is that students develop a picture of the skeleton which means they can better release extraneous tensions that impede the breathing and speaking process.
“Breath is the foundation for everything with your voice,” Timmerman said. “Your voice can be much more when you want it to be. Certainly an actor on stage wants the voice to be more effective. They’re playing a role and they want the feelings, the thoughts, and the essence of that character manifested in their sounds.”
Timmerman further explained that the Linklater methodology is holistic work that takes time to learn and master, but that it works, which is why Timmerman pushed to earn her certification to teach it.
“Once a student goes through even one semester of Voice for the Actor class, they have developed so much awareness of their breathing and speaking mechanisms that they do far superior work on stage,” Timmerman said.
Timmerman is one of fewer than a 140 individuals worldwide certified in Linklater Voice. This means Butler students, who learned the Linklater methodology through Timmerman’s class, are a rare group of students who hold a better understanding of how their voice works and how they can use it in various situations to excel both personally and professionally.