This blog was written in response to a question submitted by Jane Moran, a member of the Logos Theatre Director's Guild.
Question: I am currently directing Cheaper By The Dozen. I have a great group of kids, but I am trying to get them to project so they can be heard. Does anyone have any suggestions about how to tell them to do that?
Answer: First I teach our definition of projection: ‘projection is not just yelling, it is the intensification of all the elements of delivery.’
What are the elements of delivery? Well three main elements are as follows:
1: your tones 2: your gestures 3: your facial expression
Once students understand that projection is much more than just yelling it helps them begin to intensify all the elements of what makes up communication. This in turn helps so much with them being understood on stage. Use more pitch, more gesture, more facial express … because if you truly want to learn to project, you must learn to intensify all the elements of delivery!
Secondly, I like to use a fun technique I leaned from my father, Dr. Nicky Chavers who taught me to direct. It’s a way for you to help them understand how to use their ‘call voice’ which is a huge part of projection.
What you do is begin to tell them that you want them to imagine there is a guy in the back of the auditorium named ‘Bob’. You explain how Bob is not so smart and Bob can’t hear very well either. Poor Bob! You then begin to describe something mildly dangerous that Bob is currently about to do - like running and hitting his head on the back wall of the auditorium. Something funny. You then explain to the student that in order to stop Bob from doing this foolish thing, they need to call to Bob using the words ‘Hey Bob!’ Explain you want them to use their ‘call voice’ and stop to stop him. The voice they would use when calling across a football field to someone. You then have the student try to yell out to Bob in the back of the auditorium ‘Hey Bob!’.
Now if they do not yell loud enough to meet your desired standard, you then can say something like ‘oh no … Bob just hit his head and is now being taken to the ER for a potential concussion.’ This usually results in the student and surrounding cast members laughing and loosening up. You then have the student try again to call to Bob and if they are louder you praise them and let them know they saved Bob that time.
Once you have introduced the character of Bob you can keep using him throughout the rehearsals to keep helping them feel the feeling of using their call voice when learning to project. You can say things like ‘don’t tell me, tell Bob in the back.’
Bob is a fun and effective reminder for them to keep throwing their voice to the back row! I hope Bob helps you get some great results!