Gwen Overland and Doug Warner wrote and directed the "Old Time Traveling Radio Show," which continues with the Next Stage Repertory Company Friday and Saturday at the Craterian Theater in Medford.
With a doctorate in theater arts and clinical psychology and a master's degree in music, Overland teaches psychology at Rogue Community College and works as an expressive voice coach. We visited at Boulevard Coffee in Ashland one afternoon.
EH: As a director, what qualities do you look for in an actor?
GO: It has to do with a balance between a professional energy and a real vulnerability. It's something that happens organically to good actors over time, and there are those few who just have it right from the start.
EH: What do you look for in a good director?
GO: Play. If the director is telling me what to do every two inches, then I can't play, and I get a feeling that they're not there to play, either. I like knowing that the director has ideas, but mostly, I just want somebody to come and play with me.
EH: You've done a lot with voice and psychology. Can you tell me a little about that?
GO: Roy Hart, a famous voice instructor, once said, "The voice is the muscle of the soul." Vocalists have (or think they have) vocal issues. A lot of it has to do with certain psychic barriers: our stories about our past, certain blocks that we may have. It's also our culture. Historically we are not known to be a vivacious and vociferous culture. As Seinfeld said, "Most people would rather be in the box than give the eulogy." We know we have more voice, but we don't know how to access it.
EH: What kind of issues would keep people from using their voice?
GO: Abuse, anything that would bring about those moments of shame in our childhood. It could be verbal abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect. Having shame around the voice is part of our cultural mythology: "Don't talk too loud. Be quiet. Your voice is too high." All those things don't bring about moments of pride that have to do with the voice. Our birthright as human beings is to find our voice and to step into it.
EH: When you work with someone who has vocal issues, how do you begin?
GO: I try to make as safe an environment as I can. I try to let the person know that I understand the depth of this vocal challenge. Then we have to turn that around, I guess that's where the real gold is.
Jean Houston, in her book "Search for the Beloved," talks about the sacred wound. It's that thing that happens to us, that could take us out, but we have found meaning or transformation in it; and it brings us back in, in a more powerful or more vibrant way, and it makes sense out of our lives. It's part of the warp and weave of a good life, a life of meaning. We look for what meaning there is for us, and how we can get all the juice out of it that we can. We're faced with these challenges because our psyche is telling us, on some level, that we're ready. Perhaps now is the time we can look at this and move forth.
The "Old Time Traveling Radio Show" plays at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 10, and 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 11, at the Craterian, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford. For tickets and information, call 541-779-3000 or visit www.craterian.org. Reach Gwendolyn Overland at Expressive Voice Dynamics, 541-951-5138, or visit expressivevoicedynamics.com.
Evalyn Hansen is a writer and director living in Ashland. She trained as an actor at the American Conservatory Theatre and is a founding member of San Francisco's Magic Theatre. Reach her at email@example.com.