Over the past two weeks, I’ve spent some time with Adrienne Mackey and her witches. Yes, I may have brought a pitchfork to the first rehearsal. Yes, I’d planned to unleash a group of angry villagers on the witches. Yes, I was embarrassed when I found out that the witches weren’t real.
The witches are, in fact, a group of ten women who have been studying the Roy Hart Voice technique to access new and unexplored parts of their voices. From the beginning of rehearsal–the vocal warm ups–it was clear that these women had incredible vocal control. Adrienne Mackey, the creator of Lady M, provided her cast with visual descriptions of the sounds she wanted them to make (equating vocal tones with colors). Throughout the rehearsal the women produced an impressive range of sounds, from a multi-voiced villain to a hive of bees to skull-penetratingly nasal aliens.
After the vocal warm ups, Mackey divided her cast into two groups and gave them fifteen minutes to create a movement pattern with huge sheets of white spandex (see the Behind the Scenes segment below for clips of the final products). Both groups were impressively creative with their projects–one woman bravely wrapped herself up in spandex while her two colleagues sprinted across the stage, dragging her along.
At another rehearsal, I participated in Mackey’s vocal warm up. As someone who considers herself a Renaissance [Faire–Ed.] woman, I had trouble admitting I didn’t shine during the warm up. Nevertheless, I discovered that I could make sounds that I didn’t know were possible. A highlight was when we focused our collective humming at different points in the room–the sound truly traveled, bouncing off of walls, digging into the ground, floating to the ceiling.
The Roy Hart method was developed after Hart discovered a form of voice therapy that encouraged traumatized soldiers to recreate the sounds they made at the moments of trauma–sounds that seemed both inhuman and impossible. Hart applied this concept to the theater world, and trained his actors to access areas of their voices that were wholly unexplored, as a method of creating wider emotional ranges. The actors in Lady M use the Roy Hart technique to create a visceral language to express a broad spectrum of intense feelings. In turn, this language is applied to scenes from Macbeth, highlighting the extreme emotion in Shakespeare’s language.
In the production, Mackey links sound to movement. Even during the vocal warm ups, choreography was set to the sounds we were making; I could visualize my sounds, and hear my movements. Despite Lady M‘s dark subject matter, Mackey creates with an openness, a sense of humor, and even fun: at one point, I caught myself yelping and flailing all at once.
And so, after trying my hand at some Roy Hart exercises, after spending some time with witches, and after participating in a number of their bizarre rituals (my favorite: making buzzing noises with my lips), I’ve decided to put my pitchfork back in my coat closet, and tell the angry villagers to turn around and go home (they got even angrier, whoops).