Friday, September 2, 2022

A Reading Exercise - Art & Story by Sandra Russell

Original Art by (c) Sandra Russell 

A Reading Exercise

by Sandra Russell

As a 'player' in community theater for the past dozen or so years, I appreciate how some people are so capable of 'cold reading' lines from a play and are able to give character and meaning to unknown text. Some are able to supply extra nuance in tone, timing, pausing; to convey so much more story, to what is on the written page.

The English actress Zoe Wannamaker is especially worthy of study , because she is so good at nearly 'throwing away' a line, but by saying it this way, it informs the character and personality of this character so much more than if she delivered it in a more pronounced important manner. I saw her play a really tough, sort of street woman and be convincing as a criminal type, cheap desperate and self-protective. And she was really good at that character that you love to hate in an episode of "Prime Suspect" starring Helen Mirren. My favorite character she performs is called Ariade Oliver. She is a fiction writer, an accomplice for Hurcule Poirot in crime solving and to argue fictional detecting versus real murder solving. The Character Ariade, like Poirot, are inventions by writer Agatha Christie; and thought to be a characterization of herself as the writer of Poirot. If that is true? It seems the author is trying to tell her readers about her personal life, and her methods in yet another voice.

I mention all of this for the idea that as readers, we tend to read in our own voices, don't we? We also write about ourselves in letters from a first-person stance; so it might be interesting practice for us if we can, to have someone else read what we wrote in their voice to see how the intention differs? When you write a letter to a loved one, don't you imagine those words in their reading voice? Don't you alter what you write to an eight year old from a thirty-eight year old? I think it helps to remember we all process these phrases in a variety of ways.

Reading a play rather than a short story can remind you of this. We read a variety of characters to see how we might broaden our own ways of approaching the written word. And if we are able, to find old forgotten diary entries or letters we wrote and try reading them again as if they were about another person...see how the "voice" might change? Another reading exercise that some enjoy is passing poems around a table, with other people reading what someone else has written. It can be eye-opening, in the best way, and help everyone with their own expressions. This is best if everyone has a copy of the poems being read and can silently read along, just through that process they will hear a conflict between their head and the reader's voice. It's interesting. 



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