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VOICE ACTING
How To Create And Generate Different
Levels Of Emotion Quickly And Naturally

By Monique Sacay-Bagwell
Voice Actor & Professor of Media and Communications

As Maya Angelou said, "People forget what you said... but they won't forget how you made them feel."

If we deliver copy without making an emotional connection to it, the message will not have the intended impact on our listener or audience.

In voice over, we sometimes have quick turnaround times and need to be able to connect instantly with an underlying emotion of the copy, or we may need to move rapidly between emotional states when recording multiple characters as in audiobooks.

Voice over is not devoid of emotions no matter the genre.

EMOTION: QUICKLY AND NATURALLY

As an actress, I think it is important to continue exercising your creativity so you can respond instinctively and honestly in your work. As a director, teacher and coach, I like having a variety of techniques to pull from when working with actors, and discovered a method that allows me to create and generate different levels of emotion quickly and naturally.

I first learned about the Emotional Body® Method in the mid-90's at a Theatre Conference in San Francisco where Susanna Bloch, one of the original developers of this technique, first introduced it to the acting community. It explores the evidence-based Emotional Effector Patterns (EEP) found in six basic emotions.

Each of the EEP emotions have their own unique breath, facial expression and posture. When a person somatically connects with these patterns they can naturally trigger these emotions.

And I have used this technique in many situations from theatre to voice over. 

WAS EMOTIONALLY HUNG OVER

I came from a Stanislavski Acting background, where you would delve deeply into the psyche of your character and your own experiences to make emotional connections. So much so, that I would often be emotionally hung over weeks, even months after a show closed, especially if the role was an intense drama.

As you can imagine, this was exhausting and could affect a person's mental well-being.

What attracted me to the Emotional Body technique is how I could organically trigger emotional reactions just by connecting with the scientifically supported effector patterns.

Plus, the technique includes and encourages a process of stepping out of the emotional states to avoid Emotional Hangover.  It has become a valuable performance tool in my character and audiobook work.

FOR EXAMPLE ...

Laura Bond (pictured) founder of the Emotional Body Method, explains that it "Provides an efficient and effective method of emotion regulation and shifting emotional states quickly at will." 

Performers are often playing roles where their characters must react to intense emotional situations in an instant.

One example that comes to mind where using the Emotional Body Method EEP technique helped me in voice over, was when I had to perform multiple characters in an highly charged scene in an audiobook. It was a scene between two lovers who were trying to heal as a couple after the female was recovering from a viscous rape attack. 

During this scene, the male character was trying to remain calm and caring, while the female character was going through a major breakdown of emotions. I had to move quickly between emotional states of varying levels of intensity of fear to anger to sadness for the female, and then tenderness to fear to sadness for the male, with moments of neutrality as the narrator.

Because of my work with EEP, I was able to connect with each of these emotions - using breath, posture and facial expressions quickly, thereby performing them with the emotional athleticism needed for this scene.  

FOR CORPORATE COPY, TOO

Another example comes from when I was teaching the Emotional Body Method EEP technique workshop at the VOAtlanta conference.

I was coaching a voice over actress on how to use the method in her Corporate copy.  The copy required her to sound confident and strong. However, her read was weak and fearful, even though her posture was tall and she was smiling. 

During her second round of reading, I closely observed that her facial expression had the subtle signs of the EEP pattern of fear with her eyes wide, and also the EEP pattern of sadness with her pinched brow.

She was displaying what is termed as an "entanglement," where you think you are communicating one emotion, but your facial expression is communicating another.

To combat this, I coached her into an EEP pattern of tenderness, which helped soften her eyes, slow down breathing, relax tension in her brow, and offer a slight, warm smile.

Her tone immediately shifted to the confident and self-assured person the copy was calling for.

Interestingly, the voice over actress later shared an additional discovery after doing this technique. She said that she is often not taken seriously at her workplace, and that she now realizes that her facial expressions were likely to be the reason.  

EASY TO LEARN

Bond points out that since the Emotional Body Method EEP focuses on a "small number of basic emotional patterns" it makes it easy to learn and remember within a "reasonable time."  

When learning EEP, students explore the facial expression, breath, and postural attitudes of the six basic emotions that have been scientifically and universally explored. Once voice actors have developed a strong connection with each, they can begin to recognize emotional entanglements within themselves, and eventually learn how to work with levels, and blend or mix emotions. 

In addition, all EEP work starts with learning the 'neutral' breath pattern, which Bond explains helps provide "restorative and calming practices" that enable the performer to "step in and out of demanding roles" - and thus avoid the emotional hangovers that have plagued our entertainment industry.  

Due to the sensitive nature of this work, it is highly recommended to learn from a qualified and vetted instructor. They are better equipped to guide a person through the six EEP emotional patterns. 

And once you learn the EEP technique, you will begin to find many ways it can be applied outside of performance, including becoming more mindful and emotionally aware.

Note: Laura Bond, founder of the Emotional Body Method, teaches the method online via Zoom. The next class - held every other Sunday - begins July 10, 2022. For details, visit www.EmotionalBody.co.
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ABOUT MONIQUE
Monique Sacay-Bagwell is a Full Professor of Media and Communications at Lander University in Greenwood, SC, where she has been teaching speech and performance studies for over 30 years. When she isn't behind the podium, she is actively involved in the performing arts as an actress, stage director and voice over artist. She has won numerous awards and recognitions for her work as an actress, director, and educator. Her degrees include: A.S. in Speech and Theatre, Kingsborough Community Theatre; B.F.A. in Performance, Brooklyn College; M.F.A. in Performance, The Ohio State University. Her specializations are in Performance training, Directing, Speech, Voice Over Acting and General American English. She is also an Associate Instructor for the Emotional Body Method, where she teaches the Emotional Effector Patterns (EEP). Her voice over work includes audiobook narration heard on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes; telephony, corporate narration, eLearning, and podcasting.

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ABOUT LAURA BOND
Laura Bond is a Full Professor of Drama and Interdisciplinary Studies at UNC Asheville, teaching acting and emotional expression. She specializes in somatic education and its relationship to evidence-based emotional effector patterns (EEP). After 20 years of practice-research collaborating with Feldenkrais® practitioners and research psychologist Susana Bloch, an original EEP researcher, she founded the Emotional Body® Method. Bond develops specialty lessons to assist individuals in expanding expressive capabilities and somatic resiliency. She is the author of TEAM For Actors: A Holistic Approach to Embodied Acting and The Emotional Body: A Method for Physical Self Regulation.


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