The Skinny.

What is voice-in-head...?

The voice-in-head experiment is roughly fifteen hours of pre-recorded soundtrack instructions, a bunch of MP3 players, a bunch of headphones, and a bunch of costumes.  There you have it.  Which is about as useful as to say that traditional playwriting is ink on paper.  True, but not enlightening.  And let's be honest.  Aren't you here for enlightenment?

The voice-in-head experiment is to give each actor her own universe, conveniently packaged in MP3 format.  The soundscape on the headphones operates as an Inner Voice.  Some of the stuff is fairly didactic instruction: "Raise your right hand above your head.  Look to your left.  Stomp twice."  However, a big chunk of the information is coded in the traditional forms of creative communications.  Storytelling, nuance, mood, attitude, parody, threat and insincerity all inform, fill up, charge and daunt the actor with plenty of stuff to do.  For the motivated actor, voice-in-head is no walk in the park.

  We like to
Pretend to
Fight the Man.
Don't you
Believe us?

The voice-in-head experiment is theatre-in-a-box.  It is an investigation into new channels of delivery for improv performance.  Skipping the rehearsal phase, there's a great amount of overhead to be avoided by pumping dramaturgy and directing content directly into the actor's head in real time.  There is a new field of danger and trust opened up, wherein the actors don't know Who Dunit.

  Our secret placebo
On your ass.
Don't you?

Voice-in-head is not a new concept.
This guy has been doing it for years, and Antenna Theater has even dubbed it the science of "walkmonology".  You could record soundtrack instructions ever since cassette tapes hit the mainstream.  But today, it's a whole lot cheaper and easier to exert a whole lot more control. We assume a plus-or-minus accuracy of 3 seconds.  MP3 players don't skip or scratch, and they don't vary in speed.  So every actor can be on the same page, as it were.  But everyone is reading a different book.  The actor's, fully versed in their own world, have no idea what goes on in the hearts of the other performers onstage.  Yup.  American Theatre, since Lee Strasberg, assumes that everybody in the show is on the Same Page.™  Everybody got the Big Idea.  Now, we have a chance to go the opposite direction.  Now, we present each actor with the problem to solve: What, pray tell, is the Big Idea?

  At this late stage,
Whether or not
It's a sham
Likely is
A red herring.
Don't fall for it.

voice-in-head is the logical application of recording and playback capabilities that are at the fingertips of anybody with a halfway-decent computer.  My computer is a 1.2 gigaherz machine running Windows 98. The tech requirements are just not very high.  All it takes is some sound software (ProTools has a free version), fifteen gigs of free hard drive space, a ten-dollar microphone, and ungodly amounts of time, time, time.

The long and the short.  A technical hack doesn't make a good show.  Headphone soundtracks are a trick for condensing time into careful planning, while skipping the part where the actors get to gain confidence or clarity.  That might be clever, O clever, but clever doesn't light up a theatre.  Perhaps it would help to add, ". . . and everybody is on roller-skates, to boot!" But you got to pick your gimmicks and stick to your guns.  In this case, we have one gimmick -- theatre, but without the chance (rehearsal) to make it any good.  Is this wise?  Dunno.  There's always plenty of talk floating around about actors Taking Risks.  And plenty of talk about Being In The Moment.  Well.   The voice-in-head experiment has no safety net.  Costumed, headphoned, bemused and guided by voices -- rendered like psychological fat.  You Betcha.

As an idea,
A binary state:
Under the influence,
Or over it,
That is,
Rather arbitrary.
I suggest
A third state.




Here is K-8 Kritcher, sporting a pince-nez attitude, arch eyebrows and Brothers and Brothers and Somebody's spinal cantilever, with ennui and a carpet vest by Prada-Up-The-Wazoo®.


Tom Casceiro is holding the phone.

During the church service, Miss Loretta gives us a ring.  Tom is so kind as to take the call.


David Vanderlaan suffers a similar predicament.


Mr. Nay-Nay
ponders a No-No.

The one in the red glam-pants knows himself to be a secret agent, and a hot steamy latin lover.  It is only a supreme exertion of will that keeps him from flashing his plastic badge.  The girl in checkers is unaware.


It gets down to Brass Tacks. 

Ana and Naoko give each other what for.

Whaxody: the assumption that the Good Humor Man™ is also a casting and model agent.  All volunteers in the voice-in-head experiment are automatically entered into a drawing for fame, happiness and a new yacht.

Heat exhaustion is not so much a liability to the show, as an opportunity for new ways of expressing yourself.  Here, we see Herb getting in touch with his inner puppet.



Leon is staring into the Maw of an oven mitt.  With eyeballs.  It is good for the existential sense of self-hood to stare into the maw of things.  In this case, it is an oven mitt from Ikea®.

When in doubt, the role of heroic poseur is a failsafe tactic.


Often, the performers fall victim to a stray instinct - to explain themselves when caught in the act of complicity.  This experiment helps free participants from any nagging sensations of responsibility.

Halfway between, on the one hand, despair and terror, and on the other hand, failing to notice that one has, or ever had, a personality.

Participating in the
experiment makes performers into automatic instant Super Best Friends For Life (no take backs).

Herb exhorts his flock.  In this case, the flock included several unplanned two-year-old experimental improv artists.