Alone

Susan Giusto performs Alone, a poem by Edgar Allan Poe.

SMGiusto-AdventurerPhotoSusan 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 recently had a chance to visit Edgar Allen Poe’s home in New York City and was struck by the surrounding in which he was writing at that time. This was the house in which his beloved wife lost her battle with tuberculosis. The poem ‘Alone’ quietly acknowledges the struggles of loneliness and the twisted ways that one is really never alone with ones thoughts. Many times when I read Edgar Allen Poe I melt into my soul and feel how his life allowed him to capture such glorious visions in his words. Bringing his words to life was my gift to honor such a wonderful writer.”

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To the Western World

Tim Corbett performs To the Western World, a poem by Louis Simpson.

tim-corbettTim Corbett has been involved in performing, acting and voice-over work for several years.  Since 2013, he has been portraying historical characters at Boston’s Old State House for visitors from all over the world.  In these roles, he opens a window into life in the 1760’s, when Boston was a restive colonial capital of the British Empire, and the town’s inhabitants were subjects of young King George III.  He has performed in local community theatre, appearing as Howie Newsome in Theatre to Go’s production of Our Town in Melrose, MA.  Also, Tim recently performed the role of Chief Inspector in the Facing Exclusion program presented at the Paramount Theatre in Boston, MA.

Before coming to the performing arts, Tim worked with large global clients as a professional in the Information Industry.

From Tim: “I was already aware of Louis Simpson’s work when I came across To the Western World.  I was stunned by his ability to capture, in only three compact stanzas, the history-changing achievements, personal moments, and grinding hardship of the explorers and settlers who first came to America.  In performing this work, my goal was to offer the listener a chance to share that sensation.”

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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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The Road Not Taken

Valerie Smith performs The Road Not Taken, a poem by Robert Frost.

ValerieStevensValerie 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: “Robert Frost has always been a favorite of mine, particularly this poem. Sometimes the less trodden road, although more challenging, ends up being the most gratifying.”

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The Power of the Spoken Word

Valerie Smith performs The Power of the Spoken Word, a speech delivered by Helen Keller to the National Institute of Arts and Letters at New York, New York.

ValerieStevensValerie 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: “What Helen Keller wrote in 1947, still powerfully resonates in 2017. Her speech gave me chills the moment I read it. Her message that words have meaning and must be spoken with integrity is something we seldom seem to see, but still strive for in today’s world.”

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A Stone Upon the Cairn

Susan Giusto performs A Stone Upon the Cairn, a poem she wrote.

SMGiusto-AdventurerPhotoSusan 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/.

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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 William 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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