(in photo, scene from King and I, West Seneca West Sr. HS directed by Peter Wolfe)
At the end of a one hour interview by Robert Osgood with the great English actor Peter O’Toole. Osgood asked ”Peter, what is the one best bit of advice you could give to someone who wants to be an outstanding actor?” Without hesitation, he said ”I would tell them to remember that ‘the word becomes flesh’, not to put down or blaspheme the bible passage from John1 in any way, but to elaborate the fact that each word becomes ‘real’ to the audience; it is something that can be felt, has power, and actually becomes truth revealing the character the actor represents’”
I nearly applauded when hearing that since, for so long, I did not know what it was that could kill the disease, the plague, the horrendous epidemic I call “mumblitis” that is so prevalent today! Some young actors ‘rattle’ like snakes or gourds shaken by marimba bands. Other slur their words under their breath and wonder if they have ever heard the great acting of men like Clark Gable, Rex Harrison, Henry Fonda, and women like Olivia de Haviland, Joan Crawford and Patricia Neal whose every word is like a jewel?
I was told by opera director Tim Kennedy that opera singers are taught to sing without a microphone and from what I heard at the latest auditions, they could break glass with their voices alone. Where do they get that amazing power of projection? It is possible for people to speak loud and clear if they put forth the effort and realized what a great effect a good speaker has on others, especially future employers!
Have you ever tried to decipher directions by airport personnel telling you when to board a plane when you happen to be at the end of the seating area, or try to make out what the fast food employee is spouting out when going through the drive-in or wonder what the student is saying when playing a leading role and speaking faster than a speeding bullet? Doesn’t anybody teach anyone to speak correctly anymore? Words have power. They should be clean and clear, have emphasis and meaning.
I guess I was spoiled growing up in an Italian family. You always knew every word everyone said whether in English or Italian; it was loud, musical, and spoken with gusto, accompanied by gesture that would make a Hollywood actor pale in comparison.