Thursday, October 11, 2012

Letters from Alvina Krause: Voice (April 1974 and April 1978)

Krause's righteous fury at any failing on the part of the school never faltered.

Recent NU graduates had gone to Bloomsburg to study.
For their names I have substituted letters of the alphabet.

Letter (April 1974)
[...A discussion of more students who had written asking to join the Bloomsburg group --DD....]

In heaven's name, do something about the voice problem at NU. You say you have an instructor -- what is she doing, for heaven's sake? RL is the motivation for this outburst. Here is a capable girl, I think a talented one. She is a graduate of what should be a leading school of theatre. She is trying to do Shakespeare, in fact she has played in Shakespeare at NU -- studied Shakespeare. And she has a little flat, restricted vocal mechanism that forces her into tensions that defeat any talent she may have. A graduate of theatre school! And no voice training. Raise hell! This is outrageous! Before I can teach her acting, I must train voice and body. After four years in Speech School! I think she has ability, but why must I teach voice, diction and body movement to a graduate of Speech School before I can teach characterization and all the other elements of acting. As you see, I am profoundly disturbed and angry --
Better master the elements yourself and prepare to teach them in each class -- Breath control, rib carriage, front direction of tones, open throat, "tip of the tongue, the lips, the teeth" ("articulation") --
the balanced body (hips tucked under, weight forward, the supple spine, reach for the stars" etc etc --
Better give five minutes to exercise in each class -- If N and P [the potential new students discussed at the beginning of the letter -- DD] have no training in voice and body tell them to get busy before they come here.
Poor R! Trying to do Juliet with a little, flat, high pitched voice!
Somebody should be shot!



From the beginning, Krause urged her Bloomsburg students to find venues for public performance in Bloomsburg. ("Theatre doesn't happen in my rec room").

Letter (April 1978)
You must do something, something drastic if necessary. Here are twelve graduates of the School of SPEECH and Theatre. They are highly intelligent, hard working serious students. Only one in the group -- K and his undergraduate work was not at NU -- only one has the knowledge and trained equipment to use effectively his instrument of communication: the voice. A hotel dining room throws them into panic, they resort to vocal strain. Graduates of Speech! These people have spent how much $20,000? for an "education in Speech and Theatre and had no opportunity to learn the basics of communication. Their poor little, squeaky inflexible no-range voices: is this what NU stands for? "Follies Moliere" was a success due to the vitality, the infectious spirit of these Moliere actors -- but it was produced with great strain -- mental and physical -- as they came to hard realization of their vocal inadequacies. Now they are planning a summer season and must compress a year's course in Voice into two weeks! When are you going to insist that training in voice is essential to training in Acting? And that training must be given by a specialist? would music school give a course of that importance to an incompetent grad student like F?!! McBurney got rid of the Voice work [James H. McBurney, Dean of the School of Speech 1942-1972 and Krause's primary antagonist -- DD]. I took over the burden by sending acting students to Music School for Voice training and I took over the application of that training to Speech. But, thank God! I had had good, solid basic training in Voice and Diction. You have not had that training. Therefore, you must have a Voice specialist in Theatre and Interpretation. How dare you send out actors -- and teachers! into the professional world without such training? A lot of good it will be to have a fine new theatre at NU if actors must shriek and screech to fill it. What's more some day some one might just be smart enough to sue NU for a strained larynx due to no training for his craft of acting. Your own work in directing a production will suffer under this handicap.
Can't you get your students to demand this training? Not by a grad student!
All this has been boiling inside me for years as I have had to work with NU graduates. Now it is off my chest, -- at least to you. Are you a professional school or no? If you are: actors must have flexible voices of great range and quality or -- no degree in theatre!
Thank you for your good wishes on "Follies". They really brought off a good production, the audience loved them -- but the last week was Hell! But I love these students!
Be a leader!

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