My fellow Debs have all written wonderful posts about voice this week. “Voice” in the authorial sense—that certain something that permeates a writer’s literary works. The cachet attached to the words. The white on the snow, the melody in the birdsong, the stink on the skunk … okay, you get the drift. Everyone seems to agree that it’s difficult to define “voice,” but that it’s easy to recognize it.
So I won’t be going there.
Well, except to reiterate that it’s something that develops with practice. The more you write, the more defined—recognizable—your unique voice will become. (So get cracking!)
Today, however, I’m going to take the topic literally rather than literarily, and tell you about a time my voice failed me. Big-time.
It was early in my post-college theater days. My day job was teaching at a private Catholic high school. (No, I’m not Catholic. But that’s not really relevant, so never mind.) But my evenings were spent indulging in my lust for the stage.
This particular acting job was at Melodrama Theater. (Those of you who’ve read my bio know that’s where I met the theater god I wound up marrying. Speaking of lust … but, again, not really relevant.) My roommate (she was a teacher, too) and I decided to audition because the director of the show was a guy we went to high school, so we figured we had an in. (What? Blackmail is an “in.”)
We were cast as showgirls Flora and Fauna in a sparkling little gem of a play called Shoot-Out at Hole-in-the-Wall. (Yes, it was every bit as cerebral as that makes it sound. Oh, and I was Flora. In case you were wondering.) We had one big song and dance number: “If You Wanna Catch a Fish You Gotta Wiggle Your Bait.”
Neither of us being especially adept in the carry-a-tune department, my roommate/fellow-showgirl and I rehearsed. And rehearsed…and rehearsed. And then we rehearsed some more, after, of course, teaching (i.e., talking) all day. So, just in time for opening night, we both got (wait for it…) laryngitis.
I don’t mean the “Gee, I’m kind of hoarse” laryngitis. I mean the nothing but a squeak comes out when you try to talk kind of laryngitis. And the only thing the doctor could do for us was tell us to rest our voices.
We—the director, the rest of the cast, Fauna and I—thought we were so screwed.
But then my hero, the theater god, came to the rescue. (And we weren’t even dating at this point!) He had the brilliant idea that the director could sit on the piano off to the side of the stage and read our lines for us as we moved our lips. The piano player accompanying him with the old-timey, melodramatic music added to the atmosphere.
Yes, it looked like a badly dubbed Japanese movie … and it was freaking hilarious. (Especially the musical number.) The audience ate it up—they loved it! Thought we were doing it that way on purpose.
Would our solution have worked with a serious play? No, of course not. But it fit quite nicely with the over-the-top funny voice of the melodrama. Which just proves you can get away with anything, as long as your “voice” works.
Hmm … I’m thinking that applies to writing, too.
Tell me, have you ever lost your voice (literally or literarily—take your pick!) at an awkward time?