On Tuesdays, we watch talks or interviews with artists and designers and discuss how to present our work clearly and with confidence. This week we’ll hear from actress Sally Wingert at the Guthrie Theater.
As you watch this interview, consider these questions: Does the artist speak clearly and with confidence? Does she use gestures and intonation to emphasize her points? Does she smile and look at the camera? Does she use professional vocabulary?
What does Wingert do well? Like many actors, especially older ones, she is very confident and yet relaxed when she is speaking. She smiles, she gestures very naturally, and she expresses herself with her face. She looks at the interviewer and she is easy to understand. She has good speed and volume, and a very comfortable posture. She also has very good vocal variety, she uses pauses well, and she avoids filler words. This is basically an example of a perfect interview. She’s engaging, passionate, and fun to listen to. She understands how to use storytelling to capture the audience’s attention with drama, humor, and interesting anecdotes.
What professional vocabulary does she use? She begins by telling us a little story in which she recently realized how comfortable, or at home, she feels on the stage. She used the phrase milieu, which means the physical or social setting in which people live or in which something happens. She’s making a little joke about how she feels totally normal sitting in the dark backstage, hiding between the curtains (drapery), and waiting to go on.
Next, she talks about the way she gets into character, whether she’s playing a funny or tragic character. She says an actor has to totally invest in that character and try to be transformative by thinking about how that character moves – which is not the same as the way she normally moves. Then, she talks about how she hears text and feels comedy in a very rhythmic way, so it comes naturally and easily to her to speak in a way that is funny. She also really enjoys people watching and eavesdropping as a way to get inspiration from others. (Eavesdropping is when you listen to other people without them knowing.)
Finally, she talks about the feeling of having a perfect moment of silence during a performance. She uses the phrase in the pocket, which means everyone is working together smoothly and perfectly. It is often used to describe the way musicians play together. She also uses the phrase down the rabbit hole, which comes from the book Alice in Wonderland, and means you really feel like you’ve entered into the story. She finds this feeling to be sublime (very good or amazing) and is very happy to be able to share these moments with everyone else in the theater.
Everyone gets better and more comfortable with public speaking as they gain more experience. However, a good language coach can give you tips and feedback to help you speed up the process. At Artglish, we can help you learn to enjoy the experience of speaking about your work instead of feeling nervous about it.
At Artglish, we help artists and designers to speak confidently about their work. We coach you to speak professionally using the best vocabulary and correct pronunciation. If you want to learn more, click here to join The Studio and try some free ways to improve your English, or check out our Lessons page to learn how Artglish can help you succeed.
I’ve chosen 5 words or phrases for you to focus on today. They are in bold. If you don’t know them, look up the meaning, synonyms, antonyms, and other forms of these words. You can find links to Merriam-Webster dictionary sites at the bottom of this page.
To see the original video, posted by the Guthrie Theater on January 5, 2018, click the link below: