The power of voice
As NIDA launches the new Master of Fine Arts (Voice), we speak with Head of Voice, Katerina Moraitis about her journey to become one of Australia’s and the world’s leading lecturers in this unique discipline.
How did you become an authority on Voice?
As an actor, inspired and impassioned by the power and creativity of voice and language, I recognised very early on in my career that directors in Australia were primarily concerned with the visual aspects of theatre while the voices I heard in the theatre were inarticulate and forced. Actors were unable to reveal the ‘truth’ in the text because their instrument was unable to accommodate the large emotions, physical muscularity and dexterity required of them in the great texts.
Why were actors in Australia unable to achieve graceful, easy and creative implementation of vocal use on stage? It perplexed me and ignited my passion to develop Australian voices that are universal and capable of working with a varied range of text and language. I believe that actors require an approach that integrates voice, speech and movement to deepen communication, human behaviour and creativity.
I enrolled at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London to study Voice with David Carey. The training at Central eschewed any one method of voice practice and gave young voice teachers, such as myself, the opportunity to develop their own ethos and philosophy of voice.
After refining my practice through work with leading experts and practitioners in voice and speech– Cicely Berry, Arthur Lessac, Barbara Houseman and Patsy Rodenburg, among others – I went back to Central as Course Leader of the Masters of Voice Studies and Head of the International Centre for Voice. The voice teachers that are graduates of my training are now working around the world at some of the most prestigious performing arts schools and organisations, including the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Sydney Theatre Company and Royal Shakespeare Company.
Throughout my 20 years in London, it was always my desire to return home and to train the next generation of young actors. As the great Italian actor, Tommaso Salvini replied when asked what one must do to be a great actor, ‘Voice, voice and more voice!’.
What has been the most exciting project you have worked on/experience you have had during your career to date?
My most exciting experience is, and continues to be, the value of voice and text in a social context. I’m a huge advocate of Cicely Berry’s philosophy that as teachers we have an obligation to social responsibility. My work that I’m most proud of is that with disenfranchised youth in prisons. My article Unlocking the Voice inside Rochester Young Offenders Institution: Voice Training in a Socially Excluded Community is an account of the implications of voice training on the behaviour of incarcerated youth (16–21 years) in HM Rochester Young Offenders Institution. The project developed out of a particular interest in the human need to be heard and the roles and responsibilities that theatre and voice play in wider social, political and historical contexts. It has reaffirmed my belief that voice and speech have transformative and creative powers that reveal and elevate the human spirit.
Tell us more about the new Masters of Fine Arts (Voice) course?
We have just launched the Voice course so it has been a very busy and exciting time.
This is the first of its kind in Australia to offer artists and voice practitioners the opportunity to study voice teaching and coaching for the performing arts.
Our goal is to encourage a new generation of voice teachers to embrace change and contribute to international conversations about evolving innovations and opportunities in the sector.
This is the result of years of planning so we are very pleased to see the course up and running and we are looking forward to meeting and interviewing all the applicants later this year.
Why do you love working with the voice?
Nikola Tesla stated ‘if you wish to understand the Universe, think of energy frequency and vibration’.
The production and release of the voice taps into universal frequencies that connect us. I believe it is where our creativity begins.
Voice is the process of movement from the soul to the body, from the centre to the periphery, from the internal to the external, from the emotional experience to the physical embodiment. Voice can therefore be found at the precise point where physical action and language forms meet unconscious emotion, in a practical, creative and holistic way. It illuminates the human spirit and joins us in collective consciousness. Who wouldn’t want to work with that every day?
Why did you decide to teach and work at a performing arts school?
It was during my time in London that I discovered teaching was something I truly loved. It is quite magical to see a student’s voice release, and to know that you’ve been a part of that process. It can be an extremely challenging job. When a voice is, for the first time, powerful and engaged, it can be very vulnerable, scary and fearful for the student actor. Some will resist and never really want to find that place where sensitivity and creativity are unleashed. It’s this challenge – how to bring human beings back to their authentic self through the voice, and free them from habitual patterns that impede communication – that’s exciting and valuable work. It’s a labour of love and a love of labour.