Voice and the imagination – transformative learning through actor vocal training

Geraldine Cook

To Cite this Article

APA : Cook, G. (2015). Voice and the imagination – transformative learning through actor vocal training. p-e-r-f-o-r-m-a-n-c-e , 2 (1-2). http://p-e-r-f-o-r-m-a-n-c-e.org/?p=1201

Chicago : Cook, Geraldine. “Voice and the imagination – transformative learning through actor vocal training.” p-e-r-f-o-r-m-a-n-c-e 2, no. 1-2 (2015). http://p-e-r-f-o-r-m-a-n-c-e.org/?p=1201

MLA : Cook, Geraldine. “Voice and the imagination – transformative learning through actor vocal training.” p-e-r-f-o-r-m-a-n-c-e 2.1-2 (2015). http://p-e-r-f-o-r-m-a-n-c-e.org/?p=1201


This article draws upon the collaboratively designed workshop I conducted with Dr. Martina Crerar at the Paris IDEA Congress in July 2013 as part of a research project on comparative vocal pedagogies in the secondary school drama curriculum and actor vocal training in the conservatoire system. I argue for an approach to vocal education in the secondary drama school curriculum which provides transformative learning processes in relation to text and the speaking voice. Actor vocal training techniques are presented as a model for these transformative learning processes, which enable students to heighten their understanding of text and language through the voice and imagination and its application for everyday use.


Drama, theatre, education, voice pedagogy, actor vocal training, actor training.


Our backgrounds as a secondary school drama teacher, an actor and actor vocal trainer provide the experiential evidence upon which this article is based. The experience of teaching a vocal education in the secondary school system and postgraduate studies in actor vocal training substantiate Martina’s view of the lack of a developmental approach to voice education in the secondary school drama curriculum.

The secondary school drama curriculum has been advocated as a site for a pedagogy which is purposeful, dialogic, emancipatory and metaphoric, (Heathcote and Bolton 1995 and O’Neill 1995). However, Martina’s experience and my observations reveal that current practice of vocal education in the secondary school drama curriculum provides a corrective, interventionist model, which emphasizes the mechanics of voice production for performance rather than the dialogic or emancipatory pedagogy asserted by Heathcote et al.

This orientation to an outcome driven vocal pedagogy in the secondary drama curriculum has implications for artistic creativity as well as the possibility of developing bad vocal habits and in some cases, vocal damage. In contrast, actor vocal training techniques encourage participants to reflect on their experience of the world through the breath and the body and to access their auditory memory and imagination through language and voice. These processes are internalized, dialogic and emancipatory. The dialogic as Richard Sennett (2012) reminds us, refers to a term coined by Mikhail Bakhtin. A dialogic encounter with the voice enables a self-reflexive approach, whereby the creation of sensory knowledge and understanding is an ongoing process derived from physical sensations embedded in the body.

In contrast to the dialectic approach where a resolution is fixed (Sennett), the dialogic provides open-ended experiences and points of view.

This article will use some of the activities from the IDEA workshop as examples of the transformative processes of actor vocal training techniques I use in preparing the student actor to speak text.

Two learning paradigms

For the purposes of our research, we draw a dichotomy between the two pedagogical approaches to vocal education in the institutions where we teach. We assign ‘transmissional pedagogy’ to secondary school vocal education and ‘transformative pedagogy’ to actor vocal training techniques. Transformational learning is described as activities which give rise to making ‘implicit knowledge explicit by expressing the physical and emotional experiences in meaningful cognitive tasks’ (O’Toole and Dunn 2002) and learning processes which require the transformation of knowledge to fit new tasks through the creation of symbols and reflective processing (Burton 1991). Furthermore, transformational learning processes demand an experiential and authentic response by the individual learner. In contrast to transmissional learning which defines educational outcomes through institutional and curriculum predictors. Actor vocal training as a process of transformational learning provides a context whereby empathic learning can also take place through kinaesthetic experiences of cognitive tasks. Whilst the definition of actor vocal training sits within the definitions of ‘transformational learning’, I use the word ‘transformative’ to suggest that the learning which occurs through actor vocal training develops a change in perspective, thinking and feeling through the individual’s body.

In their seminal drama teaching text Dramawise, O’Toole and Haseman (1986), write that ‘the words we speak and the images which accompany them create meaning…the way the words are said, the delivery of language’. However, no attention is given to voice and the imagination through a framework for transformative learning processes in this text. A review of the literature of current curriculum drama texts reveals that the language used to describe ‘voice in drama’ is descriptive and functional with an emphasis on the importance of vocal characterization in relation to breath, resonance, articulation, pitch and modulation. This is often followed by suggestions for improvisational exercises and role play to explore vocal production, (Australian Curriculum 2013). (One exception is a text by Louise McNamara and Marygai Tourelle (1998) which provides a more developmental approach to the teaching of vocal skills based on actor vocal training techniques). In Martina’s experience, the secondary student’s vocal education is framed by an interventionist and transmissional approach i.e. ‘project’, ‘speak louder’, ‘use your articulation’, resulting in the speaker becoming disconnected from the body, imagination and text. Conversely, an emergent and transformative process suggests that the voice can change over time and within the moment of speaking whereas, something which is prescribed, is unlikely to change. Actor vocal training techniques offer an immersive and emergent experience which is physical and sensory and stimulates the imagination.

Fundamentally, the actor trainer has to start from a willingness to transform. In the sense of the craft, this means a desire to “become another” through language, body, voice and imagination. The training of the actor’s voice allows the fictional world to provide physical and emotional experiences, which are reflective and can be expressed through dramatic action. These experiences are represented and enacted in ways which, to use Nicholson’s (2000, p.4) terminology, are ‘interactive, enactive and energetic’. The collaborative experience of actor training also provides: a collective recognition of ideas; time for the participants to refine and re-define the ideas for themselves; empathic understanding; sensory experiences which others witness (a very important act in actor training – the witnessing of the work by another is what makes it human) and the use of symbolism, space, and compositional elements integrated into the moment of speaking.

Chris Cooper, one of the keynote speakers at the IDEA Congress (2013), stated: ‘drama allows us to take charge of ourselves through the imagination’ and I would add; ‘the voice brings this imagination to expression. (author’s emphasis).

Workshop Context

The techniques which formed the basis of the IDEA workshop are derived from my voice curriculum at the Victorian College of the Arts. The focus is on the relationship between the interior space (breath in the body and the spaces it inhabits) and the exterior space (the space into which the voice speaks and reveals meaning. The pedagogical approaches of actor vocal training techniques enabled the participants to explore the sensory qualities of the voice and its responses to speech and linguistic features aroused by their auditory memory and imagination through the breath. We had three major aims:

1. To create a context in which the workshop’s activities relied upon participants to work with their authentic voice (by this we mean the ability to allow a voice to emerge which was not influenced by pre-conceived notions of how to speak the poem, or constructed ideas of how the poem should be spoken).
2. Allow time for the participants to reflect in and upon action (Schon 1987) and to be responsive to the thoughts and emotions that were occurring in the moment of speaking.
3. Define the group as participant observers (O’Mara 2000; Neelands 2006), which provided a facilitated and embodied reflective practice with the material and the group.

The guided activities provided potential for transformative learning processes during the workshop and had clear boundaries with a very prescribed and logical progression through the verbal instructions. The activities were described, repeated, reiterated and acted upon in a cyclical arrangement, so that there was no confusion with notions of ‘just expressing oneself with the voice’. This reiterative cycle allowed for an embedding, dis-embedding and re-embedding of imaginative responses, creating a layering in the muscle memory of the body and voice. Consequently, utterances emerged from this iterative process which were not prescribed or constructed.

Workshop structure

We chose Kevin Gilbert’s poem, Mr. Man. As an aboriginal poet, Kevin Gilbert asks a series of questions about the land and our relationship to it. He poses a number of rhetorical questions from the indigenous Australian (Mr. Man) to the white judge. Mr. Man asks the white judge whether he really understands what it is like to belong here; to feel the spirits come through the rock and connect the aboriginal people to their ancestors. He tells the white judge that until he understands this, he will not be able to understand the importance of the indigenous people’s relationship and identity to the land.

We were aware that many of the participants would have very little understanding of the indigenous relationship to the Australian landscape. There is something both intimate and epic about this poem and we believed that it would provide an experience that was outside of their knowledge but at the same time allow for a personal connection. Thus, bringing the participants’ own identities to the poem through the voice.

I have selected critical points from the two hour workshop where the intention of a particular exercise is related to the core argument of transformative learning through actor vocal training. The critical points are entitled: Listening, Interior space, Reflexive breath, Exterior space, Breath/thought connection, Voicing, Speaking.


Aim: To be aware of the subtle changes of breath patterns in the body.

• Participants walk into the space and say their names. When all participants have spoken, we pose the questions: what are you experiencing right now? Put your hand on the parts of the body where you experience the breath moving. Where is there tension and tightness in the body? Be aware of your gaze.

Neelands (2009) describes ensemble activity as a democratic process. The first activity in most workshops is for participants to introduce themselves to the group they will be working with for a period of time. We asked the participants to introduce themselves in a performative context by entering a prescribed physical space which we had determined for them and to say their names to the rest of the group. When people are asked to speak in front of a group, their voices shape the identity of themselves in the very act of simply saying their names. Some of the workshop participants’ voices were strong and loud, others were weak and thin but very few were calm. In every instance, we could observe strong holding patterns of physical tension. Unnecessary physical tension impedes the flow of breath and the breath is at the core of actor vocal training. The placing of hands on the various parts of the body required the participants to experience the breath moving to those areas rather than the participants trying to “muscle” the movement of breathing, thus causing more tension and consequently less connection to the imagination. The group was given time to ‘listen’ for the internal movement of the breath and for air to arrive when it needed to.

A person’s relationship to their breath takes a long time to develop and although we had only around ninety minutes, we knew it was crucial to devote a sizeable proportion of the workshop to breathing and to ensure that the participants were constantly engaging with the breath throughout all the activities.

Interior space

Aim: To find a breath pattern which is unimpeded by physical tension.

Breathing habits inform speaking habits and how we speak is culturally determined, whether it is from our parents, our schools, or our peer group. In order to find an authentic response to the body’s relationship to breath, we began with the act of natural breathing. We needed the participants to be aware of their breath so that there could be an untrammeled response to the connection between voice and imagination. The relationship between breath and imagination started by asking participants to imagine the breath moving through the spine. The ebb and flow of the breath is an image often used in actor vocal training. It slows the actor down and awakens the senses in a state of readiness. Some Alexander teachers often refer to this as ‘active rest’.

The following progression of activities required the group to ‘listen’ to their breathing patterns and to become conscious of the sensory connection between the body and the brain through the breath.

• Lying semi-supine (knees pointing to ceiling and back flat on the floor, hands placed gently on the abdomen), scan the body and be aware of the parts of the body that make contact with the floor. Bring your awareness to the rise and fall of the abdomen underneath your palms. It is important not to ‘exercise’ the breath and force the upward and downward movement but to let the breath move into the palms of the hands. Imagine the breath moving through the spine from the top of the head, down the back of the skull, neck, upper and lower back, pelvis, thighs, knees, calves, ankles and moving down out of the feet and toes. Focus on the return of the breath. During the outbreath and before the next in breath there will be a slight pause. Imagine the breath is like a wave returning to the shore. This is an inevitable and inexorable action.

The language of instruction is very important at this stage because it is vital that the participant does not ‘exercise’ the breath. This will only cause other physical tensions to arise. Kristin Linklater (2006) encourages a language of instruction that gives permission or an invitation to be conscious of the activity of breathing. For example: ‘allow the breath to enter, wait for the return of the breath’ and she advocates not to use controlling language, e.g. ‘inhale and exhale’ where there is an inference that the person has to do something. The diaphragm is an involuntary muscle and by allowing the breath to return to its natural, involuntary state, the participant can experience reflexive, harmonious breathing. Similarly, Ilse Middendorf (1990) encourages a tactile response by placing hands on various parts of the body to experience the muscles responding to the breath, rather than consciously activating muscular activity.

By imagining the spaces into which the breath moves, the participants became conscious of the spaces in the body which were responding to the musculature of the breathing mechanism – the interior space. This is a vulnerable stage and we observed that some participants became fidgety and anxious.

The conscious approach to breathing described above provides the possibility of allowing the breath and emotion to connect. By focusing on the subtle internal muscular movements promoted by the breathing at this stage of the workshop, it was noticeable that in a short time the participants had allowed themselves the possibility of making this breath/emotion connection. The breathing in the room had slowed down and quietened as people started to relax and prepare themselves to work with the imagery. Creating the opportunity of letting go means that you can avoid prescribing or determining how you will speak and thus how you will communicate a story to your listener.

Reflexive Breath

Aim: To find a conscious sensory connection between the body and imagination through the breath.

‘The senses, imagination and imagery must be accessories in our breath quest if brain and body are to unite in expressiveness.’ (Linklater 2009: 102)

• Repeat your name. Only this time let the impulse to speak your name arise from the rhythm of the breath. Imagine yourself walking into the space and repeat your name. We pose the following questions. Is there a perceptible difference? Does the voice feel more authentic? Is it connected to your thoughts and imagination?

It is no coincidence that the word ‘inspiration’ has two meanings; one in the physical sense of the in breath (to inhale) and the other to fill with the urge or ability to do or feel something, create a feeling in a person (Oxon). Our respiratory system is battered by all kinds off things that happen around us. It was a hot day, the group did not know each other, the room was small and airless. Consequently it took a while for the mind and body to ‘let go’ of trying ‘to do’ something and be responsive to kinaesthetic and auditory stimuli.

During this introductory stage we were using the breath as a transformative activity. This approach is fundamental to the relationship Linklater refers to above. As actors start to ‘listen’ to the breath, they begin to experience a shift in their sense of emotional and physical being. By allowing a reflexive breath to arise, one which is unimpeded by physical and mental tension, actors can connect to a more authentic self and access their imagination. Being aware of breathing as a conscious act before it can become unconscious and unimpeded by physical holding patterns is an important stage in the relationship between a reflexive breath and the imagination.

Exterior Space

Aim: To connect the breath to external stimuli and to respond to impulse.

We forget how responsive the breath is to the changes and stimuli around us and for this we need to train the breathing muscles to respond to feelings and thoughts when under the pressure of performance. Otherwise, the body and voice are restricted and the thoughts and feelings arising from impulses in our bodies become forced and invariably inauthentic as we strive to be heard through muscular effort resulting in “pushing” from the throat. The breath requires time to be connected to the size of an idea and emotion so that the voice can be as uninhibited as possible and to repeat this connection many times during rehearsal and performance on demand.
• Sit up and with closed eyes, feel the earth around you. The sand is hot, red and soft. The sun is a ball of yellow in the sky, no clouds. The sun is searing through you. Imagine sitting in this space and to be aware of the breath. We pose the questions. How do you experience the breath now? Has anything changed inside you?
• A recording of the Melbourne Millenium Choir singing an aboriginal song called Lingmarra (2000) fills the room. Sit, be conscious of the breath and listen.
• We pose the questions. Are you able to connect to the interior breath within you as well as your imagination which is focusing on an exterior landscape?
• Carefully come to standing with eyes closed and just breathe.
• As the participants rise from the floor and walk around the room; the sound of the didgeridoo, the haunting sound of the female aboriginal voice as she calls into the void fill the room connecting the external space of the physical location of the room to the internal space of the participants’ imaginations.

An integration of body, voice and text requires a release of tension which permits the body’s impulses to respond more actively to the stimuli being created through the actor’s connection to space, action, language and text. Integrated breath work, which is guided to respond to the body’s impulse and imagination, creates the possibility for spontaneity of expression.

Breath/thought connection

Aim: To discover the revelation of meaning through the breath/thought connection.

• Read the poem and using the section you have been assigned, select words or phrases which ‘speak’ to you. Alternatively create your own words or phrases in response to the text.
• We guide them through a series of physical activities without providing a rationale or explanation:
o Mouth these words or phrases. No speaking, just make the shapes of the sounds.
o Stamp feet and wait for the return of the breath.
o Experience the body in the breath by placing palm of hand onto those spaces in the body where you can perceptibly feel the breath move in and out and the muscular activity which engages this.
o Jiggle and repeat. Don’t try and force the breath or impose a conscious breathing pattern. Repeat a couple of times until you experience the reflexivity of the breath.
o Repeat the activity of mouthing words or phrases with an active and reflexive breath.

Our breath is deeply connected to our psycho-physical state of being, (we often talk of feeling ‘breathless’ or we cannot ‘catch our breath’) as it responds to the physical need to take in more oxygen, the psycho-physical response to an emotion, and the mental response to give form to thought. This is particularly noticeable with any speaker faced with public speaking or the actor who is anxious in performance or rehearsal.

Linklater (2006) expands upon this relationship between the breath and our psycho-physical state when she refers to inspiration and expiration as words which we use literally and metaphorically. Inspiration physically involves taking in enough air to breathe as well as responding to creative and imaginative impulses; expiration not only involves ridding the body of stale air but also involves the expression of the thoughts and feelings arising from the imaginative and creative impulses. The breath aids the transformation from imagination to the outward physical and vocal expression of the character. Actors have to train themselves to conceive of the thought on the in breath and express the thought on the out breath. In order to be available to the different physical and vocal rhythms of the various characters actors have to portray, they need to be aware of the breathing patterns and the psycho-physical connection between breath and thought impulse. Finally, they have to be responsive to these demands of character transformation for performance.

‘The actor who fails to develop a responsive breathing system or who fails to use it creatively, reduces a character or performance to his/her own behavioural habits. They do not expand or transform – they diminish and play safe’. (Carey 2009).


Aim: To integrate the breath, thought and imagination with the response to auditory, physical and textural stimuli.

We guide the participants through the following activities:
• Listen to the soundtrack again and describe your image of the Australian desert landscape.
• Stamp your feet, imagine standing on the land and allow images to come through the breath – as if you are breathing in the land around you. Describe in your own words what you see.
• Connect to reflexive breath (see earlier section) and be aware of the active muscular response in those parts of the body you have touched whilst having a very clear image of the landscape and simultaneously being aware of the sound of the didgeridoo.
• Actively let the reflexive breath drop in and breathe out to a point just ahead. Discover how much breath is needed to breathe to that point, reach for it with the breath by connecting to the images you are creating.
• Breathe to a near focus, mid focus, far focus in the space and allow unvoiced fricatives to move gently over the breath. (Here we start to use vocal production i.e. focal breath placement without talking about the mechanics of it). Lingmarra is playing quietly throughout.
• Is the breath pattern changing?
• Jump to imaginary stones placed around the space, recover the breath and continue with focal breath placement to near, mid, far focus now bringing the vibration of the unvoiced fricatives to voiced fricatives on a mmmm sound.
• Keep adding this releasing of the voiced and unvoiced fricatives into space to these focal points.
• Take your assigned lines from the poem and using one word at a time, allow the imagination to speak from the breath through the shape and texture of sound of the syllables by just whispering the text.
• How much breath energy is needed to pass over the articulators? Can you experience the articulators shaping the thoughts into the syllables?
• Repeat the above adding words, lines, phrases from the poem, or any words that arise from the actions.
• Using sound and movement, perform the following activities as they speak the words from the text. (Participants do not have to remember the words in any correct order, nor do they need to use words from the text. The impulse of doing the activities and connecting the breath to the imagination may cause other words, phrases and sounds to arise. Participants from other cultures were encouraged to use their own language). Actions include: pulling an imaginary root from the earth, reaching to the sky, calling to the horizon, rain washing down over their bodies, the heat washing over them, the moisture coming out of the skin, the sweat clinging to the body.
• Walk around and jiggle and sing words, phrases and lines through the body.
• Sit back to back with a partner and experience each other’s breath and talk about the poem in this position. This is not a performance, so come back to the reflexive breath so you can really listen to your breath and your partner’s. Here we are working for an authentic voice and the realization of listening to the other’s voice with your whole body.
• Mouth, whisper and speak the lines to each other.
• Stand up and speak these lines and start to move away from each other.
• How much breath, imagination and speech energy is needed to speak these lines with truthfulness to your partner across the space without losing your connection to your breath and imagination?

This section provided the opportunity to engage in a heightened awareness and freedom with the voice. The physical activities created an integrated connection between the body’s impulses and the accumulated images that had arisen during the first stages of the activities as the text was spoken. Throughout this part of the session, we kept stressing the importance of not listening to one’s voice. This simulated the actor’s process in rehearsal. As an actor reaches with the breath into space, the connection between the interior spaces (breath and imagination) and exterior spaces (voice and space) meet in the moment of speaking and create revelation of meaning through language. This revelation can change from moment to moment as an actor strives for no particular prescribed way to speak the text. It allows for spontaneity of thought and meaning and can be retrieved for performance and on demand because the physical process has been embedded in the actor’s muscle memory.


Aim: To integrate all the previous activities into the moment of speaking in front of an audience.

• Repeat the performative arrangement from the beginning of the session. Each person enters the space and speaks their own words, which resonated from the poem or the actual words, sentences and phrases from the poem.

The final section of our workshop required the participants to repeat the name exercise but this time using the poem. Only speaking in front of an audience, when the stakes are high can an actor truly test the truthfulness of what s/he is saying. The ‘need to speak’ (Rodenburg 1996) is initiated by the impulse/breath/thought connection and when the thought is big there is a big demand on breath capacity. In this workshop, participants were provided with time to allow their breath pattern to respond to certain stimuli: the image of the desert, the sound of the didgeridoo and the connection between the interior space of their breath and imagination and the exterior space of physically speaking to each other. As demonstrated in this workshop, the ‘exercising’ of the imagination for the actor can provide them with a more available impulse/breath/thought connection.

This process guaranteed breath capacity to support the words without pushing or straining. We noticed that the participants’ voices were deeper, more resonant and purposeful when they spoke their lines to the rest of the group. We acknowledge that some of these voices would not be appropriate for performance. In the feedback session, some of the participants commented that they had ‘discovered’ a voice that they had not heard before and many confirmed that they had spoken with less tension and more truthfulness than when they first spoke the lines of the poem or said their name at the beginning of the session.

An emancipatory vocal education

A major goal in both the secondary school drama curriculum and the drama school acting curriculum is the intention to train theatre artists to reflect the complex world in which we live. Alongside a sound understanding of textual analysis, the actor must be available to express the inner landscape of their imagination. They need to be vulnerable to the thoughts and feelings that arise rather than ‘describe’ these feelings, or be subjected to some directorial imposition or preconceived idea about how a text should be physically and vocally enacted. The transformative approach of actor vocal training as described in the workshop will lead to a more authentic expression of character and text. However, to develop a more authentic voice in the individual, one which will lead to a richer more resonant voice for use everyday as well as performance, requires space, time, patience and respect. We believe that it is possible to integrate this kind of transformative vocal education early on in a child’s schooling in the same way that a music and dance education requires early and focused practice.

We apportion much time, space, patience and respect in the secondary school curriculum to doing sport for physical and emotional well-being but the voice is neglected. Why? Because by asking us to connect to the breath, we will become vulnerable and forced to develop real interaction. Our voice and identity are closely linked but the voice we use everyday has become our social and cultural ‘mask’ and the voice which emerges from the imagination remains ‘hidden’. This is not the same for all cultures but the normative voice of anglo-centric culture is still the predominant sound we hear in Australia. The voice of functional communication carries within it certain social and cultural behavioural habits. Unfortunately, the prevailing anglo-centric normative voice in Australian culture is one that is devoid of emotion and expressivity. If this ‘functional everyday voice’ is the accepted style of speaking, then the by- product of this is a voice which belies a connection to the imagination.

In advocating for a voice which is more expressive and authentic, breathing must become a core part of voice work in the drama curriculum. Drama teachers (and directors) will often talk to students and actors about ‘owning’ the text’, ‘fill the space with your voice and ideas’. But all this is meaningless if the breath is not involved. Boston (2009: 200) asserts that working with the breath will give a more ‘detailed sense of artistry’ and moreover, provide the individual with the potential to ‘become more sensitized to deeper textual interpretations’. (p. 201).


Edward Bond and Chris Cooper (2010, 2013) advocate an approach to working with dramatic text which emphasizes imagination over reason. In his phrase, ‘logic of the imagination’, Bond suggests that an imaginative logic precedes or is combined with the cognitive task of analyzing the text for ‘sense meaning’. Chris Cooper also emphasizes the need for imagination to be at the centre of dramatic activity when he states …’(it is) imagination which makes us human, not reason’.

Our workshop only provided a small insight into proposing a way of working which ‘emphasized imagination over reason’. The major principle was to encourage the possibility of developing imaginative responses to physical stimuli whilst integrating the physiological detail of the breathing techniques. Thus the technical and imaginative were integrated.

Secondary drama education usually focuses on text analysis through a cognitive approach where students ‘talk’ about their understanding of the words on the page. Many actor training methods during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries recognized the need for actors to incorporate the emotional and physical impulses which arise in rehearsal and that these impulses carry as much significance as analytical decisions made around the rehearsal room table. However, our observations of the secondary school drama curriculum reveal that little opportunity is provided for students to practise this kinaesthetic approach. The processes outlined in the Voice and Imagination workshop encouraged participants to engage in a heightened awareness and freedom in the use of their voices. This pedagogical approach has the potential to provide participants with the opportunity to reflect on the social and cultural elements that have shaped, and/or restricted their vocal identities.

Our research is focused on the investigation of transformative learning processes and emancipatory pedagogy in both our learning environments. We assert that transformative learning in voice can enhance drama and theatre pedagogy whereby, at a metaphoric and symbolic level, the student has permission to position themselves between the authoritative voice of society and their own emancipatory voice. The workshop described in this article is merely the beginning of a pedagogical approach which shifts the paradigm of vocal education in the secondary school drama curriculum to a more transformative model. We believe that voice training for the drama teacher requires an experiential, embodied pedagogy which is immersive, studio based and allows for the building of a musculature for speaking through a vocal imagination. In order to expand and develop vocal education from primary to higher education training, we advocate a closer professional relationship between actor vocal trainers and drama teachers.


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Biography of Geraldine Cook