Welcome!

Welcome to Wren’s Audio Theater Student Showcase where you’ll enjoy films and plays for your ears performed by members of Wren’s Acting classes.

Let yourself to be transported into the world of each story and enjoy!!

wren-2229A Note from Wren:

I love acting because it is the art of behavior that teaches us who we are and why we do what we do as human beings. I encourage my students to think of themselves as “behavior detectives” searching for specific clues about what makes a character tick – fueled by curiosity that prompts questions about who this person is: What’s their background? What influences in their lives contribute to their choices and actions? What do they love, hate, fear?

When investigating and taking on these questions they can step into the character’s shoes, see the world through their eyes and they stop “performing.” The result is that their acting becomes more authentic, dynamic and memorable.

If you are interested in working with me, click here for information about upcoming classes and workshops or email me at wren@wrenross.com.

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The Art of Acting Shakespeare

Shakespeare Recording“Be not too tame neither, but let your own discretion be your tutor: suit the action to the word, the word to the action; with this special o’erstep not
the modesty of nature: for any thing so overdone is
from the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the
first and now, was and is, to hold, as ’twere, the
mirror up to nature; to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure.” – Hamlet’s advice to the players

Shakespeare is “Miracle Grow” for actors.  The richness of the language, character and stories bring your work to another level.  Saying those amazing words, and doing those utterly human actions can make you high.

But here’s the rub: Tis better to love Shakespeare, and not revere Shakespeare. There’s a tendency to “act” “Shakespearean” where one puts on an affected English accent and over gesticulates dramatically. Ugh. This old fashioned and fake depiction turns us off.  Shakespeare warns us about this very thing in his advice to the players (quote above).

If we enter the world that Shakespeare creates and let ourselves investigate the complex characters and actions as earnest “Behavior Detectives,” we may find that the journey is enormously compelling and invites us to make the language our own.  And oh, that language!! With its rhythm, syntax, sound repetitions, metaphors and symbolism, the words you speak in Shakespeare’s poetry and prose elevates you. It also offers profound and amazing clues – revealing fascinating details about your character and the scene as you search. Acting Shakespeare is a celebration of curiosity.

The basic tenet that creates engaging acting is necessary in Acting Shakespeare: Embody your character and inhabit their world.  Let moment to moment discovery be your compass.  Rather than reciting some artificial idea of what you think the scene/monologue is “supposed” to be, Shakespeare bids you to be fully present so that you may find your most organic responses. The reward is that your performance will be authentic and truly dynamic.

We had such fun working on these monologues! It was so gratifying for me to see the glint in the actors’ eyes and hear the giggles of glee as they explored the texts.  Every week we came in with a ton of questions and improvised scenes to fill out the back story of the characters: How did Macbeth and Lady Macbeth meet? What was Lear’s relationship to his daughters when they were little girls?  Did Kent have a loss in his early life that shaped him into a loyal and steadfast man?  What was the relationship between Portia and her mother?  The investigations were intriguing and often surprising.  I believe this research gave the actors history, so that the characters became real believable people.

And one other thing:  The themes we encountered in Shakespeare’s plays of 400 years ago were eerily just as relevant today: The importance of truth vs “alternative facts,” the deadly drug of ambition, and the dangers of a narcissistic and insecure person’s pursuit of power, were among the themes that surfaced in our exploration of Shakespeare’s plays.

So, with no further ado, let’s draw back the curtain and present the Art of Acting Shakespeare monologues!

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King Lear

John Haag performs Lear’s monologue “Ay, every inch a king!” from King Lear, a play by William Shakespeare.

JohnHaagPhotoJohn Haag started acting in New York in off-off Broadway and regional theaters. Shakespeare roles include: Macduff (Macbeth, Long Island Arena Theater), Orlando (As You Like It, Center for the Performing Arts, Rhinebeck, NY), Demetrius (Midsummer Night’s Dream, Gallery Players, Brooklyn, NY), Macbeth (Macbeth, Queens Shakespeare, Flushing, NY). Since moving to Massachusetts, John has done theater, industrial films, and voiceovers, and audiobook narration. He has recorded 15 titles for commercial production and over 200 titles for the National Library Service’s Talking Books program.  John started studying with Wren two years ago. You can find samples of his work on Audible.com, Audiofile Magazine, and on his website, http://johnhaag.biz/.

From John: “For me, Lear is the most modern of all of Shakespeare’s tragedies. At the end of the Shakespeare’s King Lear, there is nothing. All is lost. Unlike the other great tragedies, there is no restoration of order and hope for a better world. The world Lear inhabits is stripped of all meaning, decency, and kindness, a place where the even the bonds of human nature are severed, where Nature itself rages on Lear’s naked head, stripped of his crown. The play reminds me of Yeats’s poetic vision of the Second Coming, when “mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”

Lear’s own foolish actions are what unleash this madness. His decision to subject his daughters to a verbal test of fatherly love as a precondition not only for dividing up his kingdom but also for awarding each of his daughters a part of it.  Whatever inner demon possesses Lear to make this decision, the result is catastrophic.

The truth, which is far more terrible than Lear had ever suspected, is that Cordelia is the only one of the three who loves him purely, and therefore refuses to be subjected to the test. Lear’s response – to disinherit Cordelia and divide the kingdom between the other two – is the catalyst to his complete unraveling. The others turn on him as soon as they have what they want.

The monologue I chose to work on – “Ay, every inch a king! – occurs later in the play, when Lear is spiraling into madness. Wren advised me to read the play closely, in order to begin to unpeel the layers of complexity. I started by asking myself, “What does this man want?” On the level of plot details, he wants his daughters to respond to his every wish indulgently, to give him anything he asks without question, whether it be protestations of their love, or however many knights he demands they house with him under their roofs. But this play goes much deeper than the foolish whims of an egotistical old man.

Wren said, “Don’t decide with the mind, find out by following your need. Fill up with the need.” That direction helped to open the door for me. What Lear needs lies much deeper than housing retainers. The very fabric of human relations has been rent in Lear’s mind. The expectation of love and indulgence in his dotage from his daughters is replaced by scorn and disrespect and an arrogant dismissal of his wishes. His place at the pinnacle of medieval society, his expectation that his every command will be honored, his every order will to be obeyed as his “divine right,” all of it is utterly undone. Not only is Lear outraged; he is also mortally wounded by his daughter’s cold contempt. His plea to Regan, “I gave you all,” falls on deaf ears. His daughters’ refusal even to grant him an audience, lowers his status in his own eyes to that of a servant. And yet, in his own eyes, he is still, and always will be, the king.

So, a pattern emerges. Lear swings wildly between mocking his kingly prerogatives (‘when I do stare see how the subject quakes”) and debasing himself in the rags of a despised beggar. Wren worked with me to put these manifestations of high and low status – King-Beggar/Wise Man-Fool – into the body. As he starts to fall into madness, he proclaims, “Does any here know me? Who is it that can tell me who I am?” The Fool provides him with his answer: “Lear’s shadow.” Yet, unlike so many others in this play, he never entirely loses his sense of kingship – his basic decency, kindness, and an abiding sense of right.  He is indeed, in the depths of his suffering, ‘every inch a king.'”

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Macbeth

Roberta Januzzi preforms Lady Macbeth’s monologue from Macbeth, a play by William Shakespeare.

untitledRoberta Januzzi has been doing voiceover work for the past 3-4 years, primarily for corporate e-learning and training materials, but the work she enjoys most has been in the field of artistic, creative, inspirational and meditative recordings.

From Roberta: “Working with Wren on the Lady Macbeth monologue was one of the personal and creative hi-lights of the year for me.  My first instinct was to shy away from something like this, but Wren’s ingenious and insightful directorial style made it so much fun and put everyone at ease right away.  She skillfully guided us down an exploratory journey of human emotions and character development.  This was a rich, wonderful experience for me, an artful exercise in self-empowerment and creative expression.  I absolutely loved it.  Wren is a master.”

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Julius Caesar

Holly Miller performs Portia’s monologue from Julius Caesar, a play by William Shakespeare.

HollyMillerPhotoHolly Miller has been a voice actress for four years.  She is active in Community Theater and has a weekly radio program width Audio Journal, a service that broadcasts printed material to the blind and visually impaired.

From Holly: “Shakespeare has always been intimidating for me, so when Wren announced that she would be teaching a Shakespeare class, I was very hesitant to take it.  It was her enthusiasm about the class that convinced me to sign up. 

For me, the language was the most intimidating part of Shakespeare, and at first it was difficult to fully understand my monologue.  Wren helped me to go beneath the language and dive into the meaning and intent of the play.  It was only when I studied the character of Portia and her relationship to her husband Brutus, that I could fully appreciate the genius of Shakespeare.

This class has helped me grow tremendously as an actress.  More than anything, I learned that your character is so much more that the words written on the page, that authors of plays intentionally selected their words, and you must fully understand your character in order for those words to come to life.”

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King Lear

Andy Hupprich performs Kent’s monologue from King Lear, a play by Williams Shakespeare.

plymouth photographer | heidi hartingAndy Hupprich is a Boston area voice talent who, after a 26 year career in the newspaper business, and time spent as an EJ on an internet radio station in the late 90’s, has finally come to the realization that he has much more fun in front of a mic as opposed to behind the wheel of a truck.

From Andy: “I think most people would agree that doing Shakespeare can be an intimidating undertaking, especially when it comes to the language.  Working with Wren took a lot of the anxiety out of learning Shakespeare and she made it fun.  It’s amazing when you realize that the messages and themes in the work are still very much relevant even in this day and age. Once I was able to explore Kent’s backstory and understand what kind of person he was – selfless, loyal and full of undying devotion – it made it so much easier to understand his role in relation to King Lear. It also made it easier to understand the language and to be able to really get into the character.”

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Henry VI, Part III

Cindy Newell performs Queen Margaret’s monologue from Henry VI, Part III, a play by William Shakespeare.

CindyNewellPhotoCindy Newell is a recently retired massage and neuromuscular therapist. She has a passion for words and language that started when she was quite young. She believes that words have power and that when they are given voice, their power is amplified a thousand fold; that voice puts flesh on the bones of words, gives them full and nuanced shape, sensory richness, far-reaching depth and breadth. Cindy loves giving voice to the words, breathing life into them, helping them release their full power to move and inspire, to inform and educate, to shock and amaze. She also loves the co-creative process inherent in voice over acting.

From Cindy: “Wren’s Shakespeare Monologue Class was a unique opportunity to explore the work of the Bard from the perspective of one character; to learn that character’s back story and to slip into her world, her experiences, her motivations and emotions. It was also an opportunity to wrap the tongue around Shakespeare’s words, to taste the richness of his poetry. Wren made the whole process fun and exciting. She helped us approach the challenges of working on material from Shakespeare with a sense of eagerness. She helped us reach into our depths and pull out our best work. Wren helps us all stretch and grow in the practice of our craft.”

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A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Valerie Smith perform Helena’s monologue from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a play by William Shakespeare.

ValerieStevensValerie Smith is new to voiceover and thoroughly enjoying the journey so far. “Observing people has always fascinated me. Getting to know characters and backstories helps me to do my best to honor the characters and the intention of the writers.”

In addition to her acupuncture practice of 20 years she has taught Chinese medicine for 18 years.

From Valerie: “It had been a long time since I had read any works by Shakespeare so I randomly chose a monologue of Helena’s from Midsummer Night’s Dream thinking it was fun and light. Working with Wren I began to really understand more clearly the depth of Helena’s character and connect with the intensity of the betrayal Helena felt in her friendship with Hermia and her relationship with Demetrious.

Improvising scenes that were not in the play but answered questions we had about our character was particularly helpful to connect with the story and complex emotions of Helena.”

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Macbeth

Susan Giusto performs Act 2, Scene 1 from Macbeth, a play by William Shakespeare.

SusanGiustoPhoto

Susan Giusto started experimenting with voice acting at an early age performing and writing poems and radio plays. She has also produced sound effects and music scores for live theater. Recently Susan lends her voice to a myriad of projects from training videos and commercial spots to audio books and recently several character voices for animated short student films. She continues to keep her craft sharp by taking classes and workshops with Wren.  Susan can be contacted by thevoicegypsy@gmail.com and at https://voice123.com/profiles/susangiusto/

From Susan: “I wanted to explore the crushing and confused confidence as Macbeth debates the actions to come. The hunger, the depravity, the loneliness of the decision that beckons into the soul. What things would pivot in life due to this deed, as the rationale of mental competency seemed to slip away. I stepped into the deep dark and felt that bit of discontinuity as the words gave feeling and images a place for the voice to speak what only the mind could ponder. I felt the hairs on the back of my neck raise. I held that dagger in my mind.”

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The Art of Speaking Poetry

Wild Geese on Street“Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.” – Leonard Cohen

I recently brought my friend, voice-over legend Don Wescott, to speak to a group of students who’ve made voice over demos with me. Members of the group asked Don how he got started and how he practiced. He said he spoke great poems aloud.

It makes sense. Poems are shimmering expressions of honesty that provide vivid imagery and intimate connection with the reader/listener. They are often painfully beautiful because they are intimate, immediate, and truthful. A really insightful and potent poem provides you with that gratifying “aha” moment that makes you feel really alive. Awake.

I offered the Art of Speaking Poetry last February and again in May, because I wanted a verbal antidote to the daily toxicity of news and the corrosive assault on truth and decency.  I was heartened that so many people signed up and brought beautiful and personal pieces to explore. The workshop experience was profound and gratifying.  Each person dug into their soul and found their authentic voice. Amid laughter and tears, we recorded the pieces, and with the brilliant sound design of Kevin McLaughlin at Soundtrack Recording Studio, these gems were created.

I feel that I need more poetry now and I imagine I am not alone. The other day during a walk, I saw posted on a telephone pole, Mary Oliver’s gorgeous poem, “Wild Geese” with hand made illustrations (see photo). I stopped and took this photo and was grateful to the person who made this poem available to anyone passing by on their way to the pizza shop, the cleaners, the cafe or the tailor.

You know what would be terrific? POETRY GIFTING. Why not send meaningful poetry to someone who means a lot to you? A poem that provides a moment of clarity. A new fresh perspective. A personal connection of humanity. Something that nourishes the spirit.

Feel free to download and use any of of these pieces. Or record a piece of your own. I plan on offering the Art of Speaking Poetry a few times during the year. If you are interested click here for information about upcoming classes and workshops or email me at wren@wrenross.com.

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To an English Friend in Africa

Students from Wren’s December 2017 Art of Speaking Poetry class — Jenn Rajala, Christine Rinaldi, Holly Miller, Kathy Zerlin, and Matthew Greif — perform To an English Friend in Africa, a poem by Ben Okri.

GroupPhoto_Poetry

From Wren: “This poem, by Ben Okri, was a joyful, inspired moment of collective creativity.

Jenn Rajala brought two poems to class and couldn’t decide which to do.  After she performed a Walt Whitman piece, we entertained the idea of having her also read this poem by Okri because we all fell in love with the profoundly important, yet basic message.

However, it didn’t seem quite right to me that she would do two poems and everyone else do one, so I asked how many stanzas were in this poem. Luckily, there was the perfect amount of beautiful stanzas for everyone, so the group gathered around the microphone and each person spoke their lines with truth and heart.  It was a special moment of spontaneous bonding that we pass along to you.

“Be grateful for life as you live it.
And may a wonderful light
Always guide you on the unfolding road.”

NOTE: Though the recording mentions Unfolding Road as the title, after the class, I did further research to find this poem and it is actually entitled, “To An English Friend in Africa” from the book, An African Elegy (1992), and is longer than the version we recorded here.”

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At the Funeral of my Grandfather

Holly Miller performs At the Funeral of my Grandfather, a poem by Andrew Miller.

HollyMillerPhotoHolly Miller has been a voice actress for four years.  She is active in Community Theater and has a weekly radio program width Audio Journal, a service that broadcasts printed material to the blind and visually impaired.

From Holly: “My son, Andrew Miller, wrote the poem, “At the Funeral of my Grandfather” when he was a senior in college.  While I was privy to his motivation for writing it, I really wanted to capture his vision of the poem.  I called him for advice, but he really had none, other than he didn’t want the cadence to be too singsongy.  With that in mind, I began my session by stumbling on some of the words because I was too focused on how I was saying them.  After Wren helped me shift my focus back to the words’ meaning and the emotions embedded in them, the poem fell into place.  I am happy to say that Andy is very pleased with how the recording turned out.”

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The Journey

Kathy Zerlin performs The Journey, a poem by Mary Oliver.

KathyZerlinPhotoKathy Zerlin is a Boston area vocalist and an aspiring voiceover artist. Her New Year’s resolution is to delve deeper into her artistic pursuits, relinquishing the excuse that “life got in the way.”

From Kathy: “Poetry unleashes something. It is so open to interpretation, so the only fact that matters is what it arouses in you and how you identify with a poem. That makes it a very personal medium. In the recording booth, you feel the importance of each word and you want to honor those words by conveying the truth of the poem. You don’t want to be “off” or hiding your emotion so as not to feel vulnerable. That’s where Wren comes in! She helps personalize the poem by uncovering something inside of you. It was a cathartic experience!”

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A Sight in Camp in the Daybreak Gray and Dim

Jenn Rajala performs A Sight in Camp in the Daybreak Gray and Dim, a poem by Walt Whitman.

JennRajala

Jenn Rajala has studied voice-over with Wren Ross for 8 years, and has applied that skill-set as a reader for the blind at Audio Journal Worcester.  Her primary interests in the field of voice include audiobook & documentary narration, and she has studied as a vocalist under SueEllen Kuzma.

From Jenn: “The very first time I read this poem, it brought me to tears.  As I discussed it in the workshop with Wren, she helped me to articulate the message in it that resonates most with me – a recognition of the sanctity & divinity to be found in each life.  That clarity helped me to hold that idea in mind as I recorded the poem, and to find new meaning in words and phrases where I might not have absorbed it before.  It’s such a powerful piece of writing.”

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