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  • Finding Common GroundLessac Training across Cultures
  • Erica Tobolski (bio) and Deborah Kinghorn (bio)

Teaching in a culture and country other than your own requires a contradictory mix of planning and improvisation. Mastery of the subject matter is essential, but perhaps more important is sensitivity to and knowledge of the culture of the student, and an ability to problem solve, making adjustments in order to accommodate the student's cultural context and learning environment. In order to shed light on this process, we examine our individual experiences with voice training through Lessac Kinesensics in Malaysian and Croatian university classrooms. Our findings are part of a long-range research project steered by the Lessac Training and Research Institute.

One of the primary research areas of the Lessac Institute is determining the efficacy of the use of Lessac Kinesensics (LK) as theatre voice pedagogy in various first languages (L1). The Lessac Institute hypothesizes that LK can effectively be used along with theatre voice training approaches in various Lis as well as in acquisition of a second language (L2) within theatre voice training. In the case of English as a Second Language (ESL) learning, or even accent acquisition, the disconnect or conflict between the student's internalized first culture and the implicit cultural patterns of the second language creates a gap between physical impulse and the act of speech that results in lack of authenticity in behavior and in vocal expression. Lessac expert trainers Tobolski and Kinghorn have undertaken steps to show how Kinesensic body and voice training can create a psychosomatic connection that will link the actor to impulse and to her original culture, allowing her to feel "at home" when communicating in the L2.

Lessac Kinesensic Training is a holistic approach to actor training that seeks to engage the student in the development of her authentic voice. Lessac training relies on "finding new ways of stimulating the senses, much the way a child is naturally inclined to develop. Through psychosomatic learning, we teach ourselves to feel and perceive internal, physical [End Page 93] experience and learn experientially that the sensory or feeling process is the currency through which we communicate with ourselves."1 This learning is predicated on finding "familiar events" that "are actions performed with ease thanks to talent or skill, and are, thus, likely pleasurable, graceful, and efficient. They are a healthy use of the body."2 These familiar events provide the bases for "organic instruction," the conscious use of the familiar event (which has been generated by the body's natural impulse) as a fundamental teaching tool. Organic instruction is "the body teaching you instead of you attempting to exert control over your body."3

In our economically driven global society, "English is perceived as the world's lingua franca."4 In order to compete and succeed, the perception is that one must learn English, often at the expense of one's first language. Because culture and language are inextricably linked, to lose one's language may cause one to lose connection with one's identity. As Leveridge states: "The relationship between language and culture is deeply rooted. Language is used to maintain and convey culture and cultural ties. Different ideas stem from differing language use within one's culture and the whole intertwining of these relationships start [sic] at one's birth."5

How, then, does language acquisition affect actors for whom English is a second language (L2), and who are exhorted to learn to speak English because it will help them get work? In South Africa, for example, where plays are frequently performed in English so that everyone in that multilingual society can understand them, an actor without English will lose many opportunities to work. But if an actor is expected to be, above all, honest in the portrayal of character, how is truthfulness achieved when the language of execution is not the actor's first language, the language that informs her culture and her identity?

Learning to speak English by mimicking American or British broadcasts may be effective for general conversation, but for the purposes of the actor, for whom words form the vital path to imagination, remembrance, emotion, physical response, and action, mimicry...


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pp. 93-107
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