We all know that I'm a self-professed voice geek, but an extra tier to my geekiness is my interest in Puppetry and Voice. Puppetry is a fascinating discipline, and everyone who becomes involved in it seems to become obsessed!
My first real introduction to the world of puppetry was through Whole Hog Theatre's production of Princess Mononoke, adapted from the Studio Ghibli anime film of the same name. I worked with Whole Hog as their Voice Coach, and was struck by the range of challenges faced by the puppeteers, vocally. Not only were they required to make strange, ethereal noises, but they had to support heavy and often awkwardly shaped puppets whilst doing so. The actors and puppeteers took this in their stride, of course, as actors are wont to do, however I was left to ponder the challenge from a vocal perspective. I worried about the vocal safety of the performers, due to the extreme physical effort required when puppeteering, and any strain it might put upon the voice.
So, naturally, I wrote an MFA dissertation on the subject! [Hence why I haven't written a blog post for almost a year...] If anyone would like to read it in full, then do get in touch and I'll send it to you, but I warn you: it's 15,000 words long. The gist of it is: I researched the topic by analysing literature on related disciplines such as dance and voice; I interviewed industry professionals such as Mervyn Millar; I led a workshop to test my findings; and much much more. My research focused on the question of whether voice training should be different for puppeteers than for actors. The general consensus was that no, their voice training should not be different. Actors are required to do strenuous and awkward things with their bodies, just as puppeteers are, it's just that puppeteers are likely to have to do it more often. What was clear from my research was that puppeteers are not currently receiving the same level of vocal training as actors, unless they have first trained as an actor and then transitioned into puppetry.
Herein lies the issue; one which is rather tricky to solve as one lonely voice teacher. Puppeteers need more intensive voice training! I hope, as do many in the industry, that as the discipline grows and as more training courses are set up, that voice will be a strong element on those courses, so that puppeteers can look after their voices and achieve increasingly outstanding results.
I'm not going to set up petitions and rallies in the streets, yelling "EQUAL VOCAL RIGHTS FOR PUPPETEERS!", but I look forward to continuing to work in the industry and to helping puppeteers to develop their voices safely. I don't really have a choice, anyway. They've sucked me in and now I'm obsessed, too.