The world suffered a significant loss today, the loss of a unique, powerful, gentle, and very recognizable voice.
I’m shocked by my own sadness at the loss of Alan Rickman. I don’t think I’ve ever felt the impact of a celebrity death so potently. I always had a little fantasy that I’d someday get to work with him and that we’d get to go to a pub for a beer after rehearsal.
It wasn’t a celebrity crush, per se, although I have had plenty of those. My friend, Mollie said it best when she posted on my Facebook wall this morning, “I saw the news when I turned on my computer this morning and thought of you before anything else. It is so hard to lose dear friends that we haven’t had the chance to meet yet.” She gets me. I loved him…the dear friend I didn’t yet have the chance to meet.
One of my favorite stories about Mr. Rickman is the one he frequently tells of an acting teacher who told him he would never get work…that his voice sounded like it was coming out of the back end of a drain pipe. In British terms, I think that means it sounds like it’s coming from the sewer. He was also told he had a spastic soft palate and terrible diction. Some of these criticisms are things that can be corrected through hard work and study, but as he has said, some just have to do with your own personal architecture and the way you are built. These unique physical characteristics give each of us our own, unique sound. These criticisms provided him with massive obstacles to overcome. Not that his voice was an obstacle exactly, but his own perception of his voice and the opinions of others that his voice was a problem. As we all know, our voices sound much different inside our own heads than they do on the outside. He has said that it is always a shock to hear his own voice. He never got used to it.
Yet, he was compelled to use his voice as a performer and he was compelled to give voice to the voiceless as a political activist and playwright.
Criticism of our voices is probably a universal experience, and more far reaching than whether or not a person chooses to perform. We can shut down our opinions; stay quiet when we want to speak up for what we believe in. Little girls are called “bossy” when they exercise the power of their voices. Little boys are called “sissy” when they choose to stand up for the marginalized.
Some of us were told that we couldn’t sing, that our voices sounded bad, or were teased that we couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. Some of us were told our voices sounded like a sewer pipe. Many of us made a choice in that moment, because we never wanted to feel that way again, that we would not speak up or sing out. In that moment, the world suffered a significant loss.
Your voice matters.
Each Thursday evening from 7-8 PM is an opportunity for you to lift your voice. We are working on simple songs in a safe space, with wine, and with others who believe that your voice, and their voices, matter!
If you would like to join us, let me know and I will give you the details.