Commentary and Collaborations

from the Actors’ Training Project


·         for the integration of Acting, Voice and Movement

·         at the intersection of the classical and the avant-garde     



Lissa Tyler Renaud, PhD



October 2001 Letter


Changing Values: The Who & How of Voice Training


The editor of a local publication recently posed a question to the community at large: “Have your values changed?” Although the question did not initially capture my imagination, I found that it took hold and wouldn’t budge till I’d given it serious thought. Indeed, my sense of what is worthwhile or valuable in the voice training profession has changed dramatically over more than twenty years--both in terms of Who and How.

I grew up acutely aware of the power of heightened language delivered well. Early on, I understood that people in the theatre, for example, had a responsibility to speak beautifully and expressively, and I knew that they trained hard to be able to make those sounds I loved to hear.  I also knew that audiences listened with special scrutiny to the voices in film, television and radio‹and that people in those fields also had to “practice, practice, practice” to achieve the clarity and variety that we listeners found so appealing to hear.  I came to think of these as “the speaking professions,” and both studied and taught in these special--specialized--fields.

Over the years, though, I began to recognize that same heightened sound of language in more and more general contexts. I heard the theatre’s rounded diction and rhythmic delivery in good political speeches, in religious sermons; I heard it at official school functions and over loudspeakers at sports events. In short, in any situation where people wanted to give importance to what they were saying, they used a more or less consciously “theatrical” style of speech.

Ultimately I see that people with dynamic voices seem to gravitate to the top of any field they are in. Whether I am choosing a president, a doctor, a babysitter or a car mechanic, I will always avoid someone with a tense or strange voice, and feel drawn to someone who uses his or her voice well. If people like to listen to your voice, they will come back to it--bringing money, trust, friendship. Now I believe that the quality of our voices plays a profound role in the overall quality of our lives. The Who for whom splendid speech habits are important is not only a Who on the theatrical or world stage--it is you.

There is a second major change in what I find of “value” in my profession, related to how our speech is trained. Some of my early voice training left me with the notion that the voice was a Mechanical Thing that lived inside me and which I had to learn how to use--rather like a car I had to learn to drive or a new appliance I had to plug in safely. Now I know that the voice is a living, ever-shifting Litmus Test for the health and well-being of each individual; that the voice’s health is a function of the freedom in our breathing and the harmony between our bones and muscles. Therefore, the How of educating the voice is not like training “the little man inside the radio”; it is like expanding our breathing to include our whole bodies, like learning a philosophy of the body that supports the whole voice.



© 2001 Lissa Tyler Renaud. All rights reserved. Please share this text—including copyright information—with interested private parties and for educational purposes. Please refer people who would like to be on (or off) the mailing list for this and/or future mailings. But please contact me for permission before you reproduce, translate, transmit, frame or store this in a retrieval system for public use: Thank you for your consideration. LTR/ATP




Please contact me if you would like to receive the text of my previous column in this series:

Making Actors: A Paean to the Acting Journal

March 2001

Open Correspondence with Chandradasan: Thiyyam's "Uttar-Priyadarshi"

February 2001

George Stillman House: Towards a Profession Worthy of Serious Consideration

October 2000

Among the Mangos: Thoughts in Memoriam

September 2000

Talent Under Scrutiny: The Focus Point

August 2000

Actors’ Training Project: A Recital

July 2000

Towards a Philosophy of the Breath: Selected Journal Notes

June 2000

A Life, Not a Letter: For Sir John Gielgud

May 2000

Paying Attention: The Tension in Intention

May 2000

KANDINSKY: Dramatist, Dramaturg and Demiurge of the Theatre

April 2000