Embodying Voice in Training and Performance
: A Process-Oriented Approach

  • Ilona Krawczyk

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis describes a practice-as-research (PaR) study on the psychophysical process of embodying voice in performance, understood as any vocal act, including speech, singing, vocalization and the like, where voice is a means of expression. The research developed a process-oriented approach to voicework to address some of the issues a performer may encounter during the process of embodying voice on stage, mainly related to unintentional expressions, so-called mistakes, and disruption of flow. As such, this study examines how the process-oriented psychology (processwork) of Arnold and Amy Mindell, sound art and new music can contribute to post-Grotowskian and psychophysical training and performance.

The research methodology draws upon practice-as-research with reference to cognitive turn in performing arts. I structured the study on the basis of a feedback loop, where practical exploration both feeds into and is fed by theoretical and qualitative research. To articulate the performers’ experience of embodying voice in words, in this thesis I use phenomenological descriptions, complement them with phenomenotechnical explanations of the applied techniques, and autoethnographic analysis of the Grotowski lineage of theatre.

Through the inquiry, I critically analysed and revised training and performance objectives and the organizational and conceptual structures under which voicework is conducted in the Polish lineage of post-Grotowskian theatre. I challenged the concept of “opening an actor”; the practice of favouring highly altered, “free from resistance” states on stage; and training performers' voices according to the premise of right or wrong sounds while sourcing from performer’s everyday life experience. The study revealed limitations and potentially long-lasting repercussions of such practices on a performer’s well-being.

In this thesis, I present an original notion of dreamvoice that escapes the duality of validation between right/wrong. I argue for new ethics and aesthetics of voicework and acting in the realm of theatre informed by post-Grotowskian practice. I aim to provide a performer with tools empowering them to navigate their psychophysical process of embodying voice on stage in a more sustainable and self-directive way based on the mechanisms of what I define as a perceptionexpression loop of voice. As such, the thesis presents an approach to training focused on metaskills and an original form of a performance-sound installation where the performers can maintain a lucid relationship with the vocal material, creatively utilise unintentional expressions in the performance dramaturgy and apply performance states that range from casual to heightened.
Date of Award2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorBen Spatz (Main Supervisor)

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