Farewell Kristin Linklater

With Kristin at the Kristin Linklater Voice Centre in Orkney, 2019

Last week, the voice community farewelled a leader in our field: my teacher, mentor and much-admired colleague, Kristin Linklater. Kristin passed away on 5 June, age 84, at her home in Orkney, having left a profound impact on voice teaching and actor training across the world.

I first came across Kristin’s work when I was teaching speech and drama while at uni. I took a Linklater Voice workshop locally, which led me to train at Shakespeare & Company in Massachusetts, and that led to an opportunity to study with Kristin at Columbia University in New York. It was a master-and-apprentice style of training: I observed Kristin’s every class with the MFA Acting students, followed her around with notebook and pen, and wrote down everything she said.

Kristin was unimpressed by my youth – at 24, I was younger than most of the MFA Acting students – and she wanted me to defer any teacher-training until I was older. I challenged her with the fact she’d started teaching actors at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) when she was 22, and that I wanted her methodology and practice to be the foundation of my teaching from the start. I was accepted into the teacher-training program and was fortunate to spend a formative period of my life learning from her, first in New York and then in Orkney, Scotland.

Training with Kristin was rigorous, intense and utterly brilliant. She was wholeheartedly committed to ‘freeing the natural voice’. She helped the actor-training world recognise that no one’s voice had to be manipulated or manufactured to fill a theatre audibly or convey a character believably – but rather, that we are all born with enormous expressive capacity, and we only need the tools to reconnect to our inherent vocal power.

Receiving my Designated Linklater Teacher certificate in Orkney, 2014

The vision for Viva Voice was dreamt up during my time with Kristin in New York, and her methodology is at the core of the studio.

I dreamt of creating a space for young people to nurture their voices, build their confidence and grow into admirable speakers, communicators and performers.

The studio’s ethos is built on celebrating the natural voices and accents of our students, and helping each student recognise the strength and power of their voice – whether it be for performance, presentation or every day communication.

Kristin heard lots about Viva over time and admired the work that was being instilled in young people from such an early age. I was fortunate to be back in Orkney with Kristin last year and hand-delivered some of our special bookmarks to her (she was just one of a number of Orcadians to receive the bookmarks – Viva happens to have a number of loyal followers in Orkney!).

One day during our teacher-training workshop in Orkney, Kristin said to my cohort of soon-to-be Designated Linklater Teachers, “I cannot teach you everything I know.”

Now I realise the response I didn’t have at the time – I cannot articulate everything she taught me.

This week I’m immensely proud of Viva Voice and the incredible students we work with, all of whom are part of Kristin Linklater’s legacy.

Read more: “Kristin Linklater, Who Made Actors Their Vocal Best, Dies at 84”, The New York Times