Alan Rickman: It’s not all about his voice, by Edge Studio

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With the recent passing of the actor Alan Rickman, much has been made of his voice. Which is more than the vocal department at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art said he would make of it. Many years later, he told an interviewer that his voice had been “heavily criticized.” In fact, Rickman described one teacher as saying, “Alan, you sound as if your voice is coming out of the back end of a drain pipe.” So it would be tempting to make this article about pursuing your dream, never giving up, and not heeding the opinion of even a prestigious drama school.

But would that be wise?

Yes, and no.

No, in that if three people tell you you’re drunk, you should at least consider switching to soda, and if qualified professionals suggest you should consider a different line of work, maybe you should at least reconsider your game plan.

But we note that Rickman did not say his teachers discouraged him from acting. And his voice has been described more lately as seeming like a cello.

So there’s the “yes.” In fact, many a “yes.” Rickman’s acting career provides a wealth of examples to inspire the growing voiceover artist.

To begin with, Rickman started relatively late for an actor. Although he had been interested in acting as a youth, professionally he first tried his hand at graphic design, figuring it would provide a more dependable income. It didn’t, so in his mid-twenties, he got himself accepted by the Royal Academy. Then he spent a dozen years on the boards and British TV repertory.

It was soon apparent that Rickman had more going for him than his voice. It wasn’t just the voice, it was how he used it. That’s another valuable lesson to heed.

For example, in Rickman’s first movie role (in “Die Hard”), he not only ranged through that German-who-learned-English-in-England accent, it was his idea to connivingly switch to American. Rickman also offered (or maybe “insisted on” would be more accurate) certain creative views as to his character’s actions, revealing his judgment and ability as a director. (He went on to direct and teach, including here in New York City at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.) Throughout his career, from the first days in repertory, through to the end, he showed range and versatility in both drama and comedy.

And, as many have noted by now, Alan Rickman showed how he could use that voice. (Including off-camera; he voiced the depressed robot in “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” and the Blue Caterpillar in “Alice through the Looking Glass,” an animated film not yet released.)

Many obits have mentioned that in 2008, a scholarly study found that Alan Rickman had the “perfect male voice.” Well, yes and no to that, too.

The study was commissioned by Post Office®, the British government-owned entity providing retail mail, financial, telephony and other services. Why on earth were they investigating the perfect voice?

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Your best is yet to come, by Kristine Oller

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Your best is yet to come.

How you viscerally respond when you read that statement depends on the stories you’ve been telling yourself lately.

Have you been telling yourself that you’re too old?   That your window of opportunity is rapidly closing?  That you’ve already peaked?  That it’s too late?  That the odds are against you?  That you are trapped within your own life?  That you can’t learn any new tricks?

How you viscerally respond to that statement also depends on how you are currently defining that word – “best.”

What is the vision you have for what is possible for yourself?  Did that vision come from inside you, or has it been shaped by someone else’s orthodoxy, standards, traditions, or desires which you have accepted as your own?

If you are willing to change your stories and definitions, you can literally change your life. 

And that is true no matter how old you are.

But don’t take my word for it, meet a few of my idols – all of whom led early lives that provided little indication that they would make such significant shifts:

MS. FITZGERALD

British author Penelope Fitzgerald published her first book at age 59.

At age 63 she won the prestigious Booker Prize for her third book, Offshore (which I loved – I just finished it for my book club this month).  “In 20 years she published nine novels, three biographies and many essays and reviews.  She changed publishers four times when she began publishing and she never had an agent. By the end of her life she had been shortlisted for [the Booker prize] several more times, won a number of other British prizes… and became famous at 80 with the publication of The Blue Flower”which won the U.S. National Book Critics Circle Award. “Yet she always had a quiet reputation. She was a novelist with a passionate following of careful readers, not a big name.” She died in 2000 at age 83.

Sourced and quoted from Hermione Lee’s 2013 preface to Offshore.

MS. JOOSTEN

With no agent, no manager, no credits, no contacts, and no spouse, Kathryn Joosten packed up her truck and moved to Hollywood at the age of 56 (after dipping her toe into community theater at age 42). In 23 years, she amassed 118 film and television credits and won two Emmy Awards (for her role on Desperate Housewives). She received her third Emmy nomination posthumously after she died in 2012 at age 79.

Sourced from IMDB.

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