Whitehorse-based theatre company Open Pit is on a mission. In addition to creating new performance works and fostering collaboration between local creators, Open Pit co-artistic producers Geneviève Doyon and Jessica Hickman endeavour to offer at least one workshop a year on different theatrical disciplines.
“It is very important to Open Pit to offer professional training in the Yukon that will, over time, foster high calibre performances by local artists,” Hickman says.
This year, Open Pit is targeting voice training by offering workshops on Oct. 19 through 26. The theatre company has flown vocal coach Cindy Block in from Toronto to lead the them.
“Having spent some time down south, I realized that vocal training is a very common practice for any aspiring performer, and yet in the North no one is offering this type of training,” Hickman says from her home base in Victoria. “Yes, there are vocal workshops for singers, but I have yet to see a vocal workshop that is geared toward public speakers, teachers, dancers, comedians, actors, and anyone who is interested.”
Hickman experienced this inclusive approach to vocal instruction firsthand in 2011 at Canada’s National Voice Intensive (CNVI) in Vancouver.
“I heard about the five-week vocal intensive from past Yukon participants who inspired me to attend,” she says. “Of the 10 vocal instructors that I trained with, Cindy Block was my absolute favourite. I had never done vocal work before, and yet Cindy made me feel utterly relaxed throughout the process.”
Experience has taught Cindy Block, a theatre artist, much about teaching. In addition to a busy performance, research and presentation career, Block has been teaching voice privately for 15 years, as well as at York University, George Brown Theatre School, Humber College Comedy School, The Centre for Indigenous Theatre, and CNVI.
“What I learn from teaching is humility – over and over again. The human being is vast,” says Block. “What inspires me about voice is how difficult it is and how universal it is. It has always been my biggest challenge as a performer – both physically and emotionally.”
Block learned to use her own difficulties with voice work as a point of pedagogical inspiration.
“When I began teaching, I quite unconsciously approached it from the point of my own challenges,” says Block, “I had to speak from my own knowledge, and [my teaching] grew from there into a specialization.”
While Block has specialized her teaching approach, her upcoming vocal workshops in Whitehorse are open to folks from all walks of life seeking to improve their vocal aptitude.
“I’ve taught dancers, actors, comedians, clergy, journalists, and teachers, and no matter who, the challenge is the same: how do I speak fully from myself and have the courage to put my voice into the world? I endeavor to work toward confidence by offering technique and principles that we can practice and rely on.”
The overarching focus for the workshops on all five days will be on giving participants tension-releasing body and breath-based exercises, however, there are three distinct workshops being offered. The workshops on Saturday, Oct. 19, Sunday, Oct. 20 and Saturday, Oct. 26 will be voice intensive; Wednesday, Oct. 23 will be a movement and text workshop; and Thursday, Oct. 24 will be a monologue workshop.
Workshops will take place upstairs at the Alpine Bakery and at the Yukon Arts Centre. Fees range from $50 to $180. For complete details about the workshops and to register, go to the Open Pit website at: www.openp.it.