Reboot Your Repertoire

July-August 2020 Course Materials

Class #1. July 20. Foundations | Video replay
Class #2. July 22. Behavior | Video replay
Class #3. July 27. Specificity | Video replay | Your videos
Class #4. July 29. Authenticity | Video replay
Class #5. August 3. Variety | Video replay
Class #6. August 5 . Intensity| Video replay | Second self-tape
Class #7. August 10. Putting It Together | Video replay
Class #8. August 12. Finale | Video replay | Survey

Class #1. July 20. Foundations

Welcome to the SAVI Academy class “Reboot Your Repertoire!” We’ll be using this page as a place to share course materials and assignments. We recommend you bookmark this page since you’ll be coming back here often. Feel free to browse and explore the SAVI Singing Actor website, where you’ll find a lot of valuable material about the SAVI System.

The SAVI Academy Community on Facebook is the place where discussions and interactions will happen, and that probably also deserves a bookmark. There is also a comment area at the bottom of this page where you can leave comments and questions.

Your SAVI Book and SAVI Cards are on their way to you. In the meantime, here’s a PDF of Chapters 1-3 of the book, which includes some things that will come up in class tonight.

We’ll be using Loom as a tool for recording yourself. Loom is easy to use and has the advantage of making it unnecessary to store or upload large video files. Sign up for a free account at loom.com.

Exercise Videos

Try these exercises a couple times until you get the necessary coordination. Leave a comment below or in the SAVI Academy Community about how it’s going.

The exercise videos in this class were created using the music files at tracks.savisingingactor.com and a slideshow of the SAVI Cards. As you get more familiar with these materials, you’re invited to mix and match these materials on your own!

Assignments for Class #1.

  • Sign up for a Loom account.
  • Find an online video example of a musical theater performance that you think is particularly successful. Share that example on the SAVI Academy Community.
  • Work with the exercise videos above, ideally 2 or 3 10-minute sessions.
  • Finalize your choice for what song you’ll be working on. If you need help getting a recorded accompaniment, let me know. Your first self-tape of that song will be due next week.

Video replay of July 20

Class #2. July 22. Behavior

The actor’s job is to turn psychology into behavior.

Elia Kazan

An ounce of behavior is worth a pound of words.

Sanford Meisner

When you sing onstage, your job is to create behavior that communicates the dramatic event, phrase by phrase.

SAVI Axiom 1

What is behavior? That’s the topic of Chapter 7 of The SAVI Singing Actor (p. 86-110) and I encourage you to read that chapter when you have time.

Everything you create in your performance of a song can be considered “behavior:” the expressions on your face, the movements of your eyes, your gestures and body language, your phrasing, the sound of your voice, even the ways you choose to emphasize certain words. Your shrugs, sighs, glances and grimaces are like a painter’s brushstrokes or the words in a poem: they are crafted by you to give the audience important information about what’s going on and how they should feel about it.

How does behavior create meaning in these examples?

You’ll find additional examples to consider posted in the SAVI Academy Community, and you’re encouraged to add your own favorites there.

Behavior comes in many forms, including:

  • face (facial expression)
  • eyes (focus)
  • voice (timbre, tone color)
  • breath
  • non-verbal vocal sounds (groans and growls and exasperated sighs)
  • diction (deliberate enunciation and “onomatapoeia“)
  • gesture
  • stance (relationship between the singer and the camera or listener)
  • movement in space
  • interaction with objects/props

Which comes first, the outside or the inside? Does behavior begin with a thought or feeling, or is behavior something created externally? Stanislavski proposes that behavior is “psycho-physical,” both internal and external in its origin. I use the term “duplex” to describe the relationship between your inner thoughts and feelings and the outward manifestation of those thoughts and feelings in behavior, by which I mean it’s a two-way street. Your inner life affect the behavior you manifest externally, and the behavior you initial externally will stir your inner life. (See pages 90-92 in the book for more on this.)

Lip sync

Jam tomorrow, jam yesterday, but never, ever jam today.
I said, jam tomorrow, jam yesterday, but never, ever jam today.
You can wish as you want, you can want as you wish.
Still you’d better hear me say:
Jam tomorrow, jam yesterday, but never, ever jam today.

Not a shade of marmalade;
Neither jelly nor honey, for love nor money!
You can wish as you want, you can want as you wish.
Still you’d better hear me say:
Jam tomorrow, jam yesterday, but never, ever jam today.

Exercises for Class #2

D’Arcy demonstrates an energy medicine and breath warmup exercise that is a great way to begin any practice session.

This is the tune for the exercise in the following two videos. Sing “ah” or any series of vowels; or sing solfege syllables (do re mi fa sol); or sing the lyrics printed here.

Homework for Monday

  • Self-tape song (using Loom) and send me a link to your video.
  • Work with exercise videos from Classes 1 & 2: 2 sessions x 15 min. I explained the fine points of the Five Note Phrase in class, and you can get those details starting around 37:25 in the replay video below.
  • Explore lip sync, using “Jam Tomorrow” and the videos you shared on Facebook: 15 min or more.
  • (If you haven’t done so already) Upload your video content from the assignment in Class 1 to the SAVI Academy Community.
  • Look at the content uploaded there by your classmates and leave a couple comments.
  • (If you have time and interest) Read Chapter 7 of The SAVI Singing Actor

Video replay of July 22

Class #3. July 27. Specificity

Specificity and the Dramatic Event: According to Axiom One, your job when you sing is to “create behavior that communicates the dramatic event, phrase by phrase.”

  • Who are you?
  • Who are you singing to? (And what do you do when you’re alone on stage?)
  • What is your relationship to that person?
  • What do you want from them?
  • What are the circumstances under which this is taking place?
  • What is at stake?

Stanislavski proposes a set of “fundamental questions” that are similar to these, which appear in the book on p. 186. Answering them specifically is essential homework, best done thoughtfully and in writing.

Specificity and SAVI Cards. SAVI Cards are a tool designed to help you get into the habit of making specific choices. Making specific choices requires courage. The cards themselves are specific but not detailed; as you use them, you must invest them with detail and personal meaning.

Specificity and language. There are many ways that greater specificity in your use of language can pay big dividends. Those include:

  • The sounds of the words themselves, both the vowels (which convey emotion) and the consonants (which create clarity of meaning).
  • The meaning of the individual words themselves, including both their “dictionary” meaning and any particular meaning the words have because of the story and the given circumstances.
  • The way the words are used to create phrases: syntax, rhetoric and idiom.

Recommended readings in book: pp. 18-22, Chapter 13 (pp. 186-201)

Exercises for Class #3.

Homework for Class #3.

  • Look at the videos of your classmates posted (links below). Watch with the sound off, and then listen with your eyes closed. Leave a comment about a moment where the behavior the singer created communicated a clear and powerful choice to you. If you like, leave a comment about a moment where the performance could be improved by being more specific. (On Loom, your comments can be linked to a specific time in the video.)
  • Write out your answers to the “fundamental questions” for your song, using the reading as a guideline.
  • Pick a phrase from your song and apply several different SAVI Cards. Notice how the choice on the card affects the behavior you create with your voice, face and body. Now do the same thing with the next phrase. Then practice doing the two phrases in sequence, using the two cards to reinforce your specific choice in each phrase.
  • Pick a phrase from your song and write out the definitions of the important words in that phrase. What makes those words important and meaningful for you? Warm up your articulators (finishing up with “The Quick Brown Fox,” above).

Your video submissions

Kristin | Kirstyn | Devon | Davon | Aly | Jarrod | Zach

Video replay of Class #3

Class #4. July 29. Authenticity

Question: photo permission?

Discussion: the value of feedback (from “experts” as well as peers).

Recap: Looking back at Class #3.

Authenticity activity #1. Speaking the text.

Authenticity activity #2. The essential role of “give and take” in conveying authenticity. Practicing the “pinchless ouch.”

Exercises:

Check-in.

“Here I Am” is described in detail in the book on pages 35-42. It’s a great étude to practice taking advantage of the choice-making opportunities that are found in each individual phrase. After you get the hang of the music, see if you can sing it while remaining fully sentient – that is, aware of your environment, capable of thought and feeling and able to respond to and express those thoughts and feelings as you sing. Try singing the étude with SAVI Cards (changing cards when you hear the “ding” signal) or with a set of invented imaginary circumstances. The book has lots more to say about “Here I Am,” which has proven to be one of the most memorable exercises in the SAVI canon.

Homework for Class #4

  • Loom video of song-as-monolog. (At least 1 minute.)
  • Work on lip-sync version using the recording you submitted last time as your sound track.
  • At least 2 practice sessions with etudes from previous classes: Class 1, Class 2, Class 3 and “Here I Am.”

Video replay of class #4

Homework videos: Aly | Davon | Devon | Jarrod | Kristin | Kirstyn | Zach

Class #5. August 3. Variety

Check-in. Scheduling one-on-ones. How’s your practicing? Review of homework and progress.

“Here I Am.” First with a focus on beginning, middle and end of each phrase. Incorporate the “pinchless ouch” and the “floppy release.” Then incorporate cards for an initial exploration of Variety.

Today we focus on the third of the four Key Attributes of Effective Singing Acting, the “V” of SAVI, Variety. In The SAVI Singing Actor, you will find a quick overview of Variety on pp. 26-30. Chapter 6 (p. 70-85), “Working Phrase By Phrase,” introduces the concept of the “Ding,” a central concept to SAVI singing acting, and the “journey of the song.” Chapter 15 (pp. 211-223), “Max V (Maximizing Your Variety),” includes a discussion of the different types of “dings” you may encounter in a song.

Contrast creates meaning. Demonstrate with ABC song. Applesauce and shish kebab.

Exercises for Class #5.

“ABC Song” with cards. (Go to the SAVI Tracks collection on Soundcloud for medium and high keys for this exercise.)

Opposite cards with the Five-Note Phrase. Suggested pattern:

hot ∆ cold ∆ hot ∆ cold ∆ hot ∆+ HOT ∆ cold ∆+ COLD

  • “Very, very hot” and “very, very cold.”
  • “Very, very weak” and “very, very strong.”
  • Young/old
  • True/false
  • Sad/glad
  • Sharp/dull
  • Smooth/rough
  • Smart/dumb
  • Rich/poor
  • Bright/dark
  • Soft/loud

Homework from Class #5.

Make the lyric of your song into a text document, following the procedure in Chapter 12, “Work on the Song” (pp. 173-185). (Time-saving tip: you may be able to copy your lyric from someplace on the internet and paste it into your document, though some reformatting will inevitably be required.) Identify where the “dings” occur and mark them in the text of your song (option-J is the combination of keys that produces the ∆ delta symbol) as well as over your sheet music. Make it your first priority to complete this homework for Wednesday and share it with me so we can look at these together in Class #6.

Class 5 video replay

Lyric breakdown homework: Aly | Davon | Devon | Jarrod | Kirstyn | Kristin | Zach

Class #6. August 5. Intensity

Check-in. Review homework. What did you discover from monologuing the song? From viewing your classmates’ assignments? Answer questions about the most recent assignment, lyric sheets with “dings.”

Exercise: review “Very very hot.” Contrast and intensification.

Intensity is the fourth Key Attribute of effective singing acting, the “I” of SAVI. When you think about “intensity” and singing acting, what comes to mind? How does working on camera affect your ideas about intensity?

Intensity is the heightened quality that effective singing acting usually has. Creating intensity requires you to be bold and generous, to give a little more than you might otherwise feel comfortable giving. It also requires strength, skill and expanded capacity. Intensity can refer to many different aspects of a singing actor’s performance:

  • Loudness
  • Pitch and modulation
  • Tempo (speed)
  • Emotion
  • Physicality (movement and dance)
  • Use of language (both the words themselves and the quality of your diction)
  • Complexity and virtuosity

Intensity and intention are two words that have the same Latin root. How are these two concepts related for the performer?

In the introductory section on Intensity in The SAVI Singing Actor (pp. 30-34) I talk about how performers often mistake tension for intensity. Does that observation ring true for you?

Finally, I want to emphasize the importance of dynamic variety – your ability to vary your level of intensity from moment to moment in a song. Typically, a performance should have greatest intensity at the end of the song, and a song should build from beginning to end. Intensity is always a choice you can make: how loud, what emotion, how flashy, how fast. Changes in intensity, whether sudden and gradual, get the spectator’s attention and add meaning and impact to your performance.

Journey of the Song. It’s common for musical theater teachers and coaches to refer to a song as a “journey.” In what ways is a song like a journey? Can you imagine how it might be helpful to have GPS-style “turn-by-turn directions” to navigate the “journey of the song?” Check out pp. 195-199 in the book to read more on this topic. For discussion: what is the “journey” of the song you are working on?

Homework due by Monday August 10

If you’ve completed that step, then read the steps on pp. 199-200 in the section “From Analysis to Synthesis, With SAVI Cards” and follow that procedure. Experiment first with focus shifts at each “ding,” then introduce behavior choices using SAVI Cards, one card per phrase. This will be the big work for you to undertake over the weekend.

Submit second self-tape.

Class 6 video replay

Second self-tapes: Aly | Davon | Devon | Jarrod (alt version) | Kirstyn | Kristin | Zach

Class #7. August 10. Putting It Together

“Match Your Gaze To The Phrase!”

The face is considered the primary “organ of emotion,” but few of us use it to its full potential. In Chapter 5 of The SAVI Singing Actor (“Training, Conditioning, Warming Up”), you’ll find a number of recommended warm-up activities for the face and eyes on pp. 61-63. When you work in front of a video camera, your spectators have a particularly intimate view of your face and eyes, which means you need to pay particular attention to how you are using your face. As you can see from the diagram on p. 62 (reproduced below), there are over 300 muscles in the face, and these muscles work both independently and in groups.

Face and neck muscles, with numbers indicating ten “zones” of the face

When your face is partially covered by a mask (a sadly familiar sight in COVID times), this puts even more emphasis on the eyes and the upper part of the face. Do you know what “smizing” is? Do you know how to “smize?” Can you use your face to communicate even when the lower half of the face is covered by a mask?

Let’s work on a few activities that highlight the use of the face and eyes, first without singing and then while singing. Does the physical act of singing change how you use your face?

  • Facial flex (by zone)
  • “Gurning”
  • Muscles around the eyes (optional: with mask)
  • Movements of the eyes: up/down, left/right, sideways eight/infinity pattern (∞)
  • Movements of the head (while focused on camera)
  • Focus shift (“one-two,” “away and back”)
  • “Here I Am” with face and eyes close-up (singing, silent)

Crafting a Performance

Where is style?
Where is skill?
Where is forethought?
Where’s discretion of the heart?
Where’s passion in the art?
Where’s craft?

Stephen Sondheim, “Liaisons,” from A Little Night Music.

One of the most important concepts presented in The SAVI Singing Actor is that performance is a kind of authorship. Axiom 9 puts it this way:

Craft your performance carefully, the same way a song is crafted, with clarity and economy. Keep revising and improving your choices until your performance is the best you can make it. Your work needs the appearance of spontaneity, but you won’t achieve that by winging it.

From The SAVI Singing Actor, chapter 2 (“Quick-Start Guide”), p. 9

I use the word “crafting” to refer to that process where you identify the best choices for the song you’re performing and work purposefully to develop your ability to execute those choices in sequence reliably. I think “craft” is essential to the art of songwriting as well, as I explain in Chapter 6:

A song is a sequence of phrases – that is, a series of individual events made up of text, music and (in performance) behavior. It is crafted by the writer, composer and performer to create a structured progression or journey, often with a discernible design, a meaningful relationship between the whole work and its component parts, and a sense of completion at the end.

From The SAVI Singing Actor, chapter 6 (“Working Phrase by Phrase”), p. 70

Like songwriting, crafting a performance requires a deliberate and methodical approach, one for which you may not have had much time in the weeks since we started this course. In another Sondheim song I’m very fond of quoting is “Putting It Together,” we are reminded that “every minor detail is a major decision.” Give yourself the time and space needed to iterate and revise and your work will continue to grow in richness and detail.

Practice crafting by choosing six SAVI Cards (either randomly or deliberately) that you think create an interesting progression when arranged in sequence.

Homework for Class 8

  • Work with face and eyes exercises.
  • Do some “gesture shopping.”
  • Look at your classmates’ videos and leave a comment on each.
  • Flip back through the previous lessons and think about the material we’ve covered since starting this class.
  • Prepare for live performance; all songs will be presented live on Zoom on Wednesday

Video replay of class 7

Class #8. August 12. Finale

Please complete this survey by Friday August 14. Your feedback is important to us!

Class 8 video replay

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