This is home to the VoiceGuy Podcast, hosted by Eric Armstrong. It's also his professional blog on vocal coaching, voice teaching, dialect, accent, Shakespeare text, etc.

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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Thursday, June 16, 2005

This past Monday I was in Kitchener for the MT Space PerForum on Diversity in the Performing Arts. It was a day long event that took place at Your Kitchener Market. The day started off with a talk by Guillermo Verdecchia, and he was the highlight. He certainly embodies the Canadian experience of diversity and multiculturalism, and passionately pursues these themes in his artistic life as an actor, director and playwright. And wow, he has some great things to say. He highlighted how Canadian Theatre for Adults rarely reflects Canada's multicultural landscape, and that we have had to look to our Theatre for Young Audiences to show us the way. He challenged Canadian theatre to connect with The Others as full-citizens, and not as exotic minorities. He spoke of how he has chosen to "take charge of how I am represented" and that we must "perform and write ourselves into the centre of the drama."

Verdecchia was particularly skilled at quoting from others to support his argument. For example, he quoted Noam Chomsky when he stated that our job as artists is to "tell the truth about matters of human significance to an audience that can do something about them." "Passion without technique is like a letter without a stamp: it doesn't go anywhere." – Meyerhold.

Of particular interest to me was a story about a children's theatre tour he was involved in where an actor played a Jamaican with a strong accent. When visiting a particular school with a large number of children of Jamaican decent, each time the character walked on stage, the audience went wild. It turns out that, at that school, students were forbidden to speak their native dialect, and so this character/actor was doing something taboo, incendiary, even revolutionary. We are reminded that, when we do not see/hear ourselves reflected in the world around us we are denied our identities.

He stressed that "identity is worked out with others: we shape each other, we invent each other." This is something that we must attempt to bring into the classroom and rehearsal hall every day. I take away from the workshop a desire to increase my knowledge of non-mainstream authors to draw on for texts and examples in the classroom, and a hunger to learn more about traditions of story-telling that go beyond traditional theatre of the Western World.


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