I saw an amazing piece of theater tonight, and it got me thinking about voices.
“Voice” can mean several things. For example:
- It can be a grammatical term (active versus passive voice)
- It can be a framework for how we want to be perceived (the “voice of authority” or the “voice of reason”)
- It can be a change in pronunciation (like using a different accent)
Tonights play dealt primarily with the last one, at least at first. The two actors, one man playing a director/writer and one woman playing an actress auditioning for a play, would change their pronunciation to indicate when they’d shifted from their “every day” characters and into the characters they were reading as part of a play within a play. Confused? Thanks to this voice shift onstage, it was pretty easy to follow.
That is, until these shifts became less clear, were dropped altogether, or (most interestingly), the dominate indicator of “voice” changed from being a matter of pronunciation to a change of framework. The various roles being portrayed onstage were no longer clear and THAT’S when the message of the piece really shone.
I’m curious if that trend holds true in real life. Which “voices” are more dominant if more than one type of voice is in play? I’m guessing that like all things sociolinguistic, the answer is: it depends and probably continually shifts. And that makes it fascinating, at least to language nerds like me!