Renowned voice and speech teacher Louis Colaianni has been speaking the speech for decades. In the latest interview from the State of Shakespeare, Mr. Colaianni shares his wisdom with the world.
Louis Colaianni began teaching when he was at Shakespeare and Company. Working with Kristin Linklater was a formative experience for him and he found that “what you admire, you become”. A long-time teacher and student of the Linklater method, he has since refined his teachings into a method of his own. He has taught at universities all over the country and served as the voice, speech and dialect coach at some of the largest theaters in the U.S.
In the interview, Louis guides listeners through a few simple keys to speaking Shakespeare. It’s a method that he (with co-author Cal Pritner) developed into his first book: How to Speak Shakespeare. He calls it “a primer” for neophytes and veterans alike.
To get at the heart of the work, Louis says, teachers must be wary of over-intellectualizing. For example, while the term “iambic pentameter“ may be perfectly suited for a literature classroom, “it’s a shame” to expect actors respond to it in the rehearsal studio. He prefers a more “user friendly” term: syncopation. He recommends that actors begin with a 1-2-3 approach to speaking Shakespearean verse.
- Look up even the most simple words. He is surprised to find how many actors, both young and old neglect to do this. The the simple definitions of the words themselves can inspire amazing discoveries (and thrilled this writer to no end.)
- Paraphrase the text. Louis encourages the actor to practice first translating the text into his or her own words, and to do it several different ways, including what he calls a “close paraphrase.” This helps to clarify the thought, and enriches the understanding of what is being said.
- Underline the active verbs twice and the nouns once. This reminds the speaker to “stress the verbs most and the nouns almost as much and let the other parts of speech … take care of themselves.”
These guidelines may not guarantee that you’ll strike the bull’s-eye, but they can point you toward the target. At the very least, actors who follow this process tend to speak Shakespeare intelligibly, something he says many actors fail to do. Louis Colaianni helps make “speaking Shakespeare” simple in this informative interview from the State of Shakespeare.
The State of Shakespeare is an interview series hosted by Jim Elliott and Gerritt VanderMeer. To listen and find out more about the artists and texts, visit www.stateofshakespeare.com. The monthly podcast is also available for streaming (free) on iTunes.