Last week for class, I read Jacqueline Jones Royster's article "When the First Voice You Hear Is Not Your Own." Tonight, I went back to this article for a closer look, and I'm so glad I did. Although Royster is more concerned with voice than authenticity, the two seem to go hand in hand and she defends her range of voices as being all authentic. She does not clearly define what she means by "authentic," however. (I will come back to this by and by.) Royster takes issue with the current approaches to voice, which see it as strictly "a spoken or written phenomenon" (30). So far, so good -- this can apply to performance as well. It comes from an author's written word (or voice) and is then spoken by the actors. I agree with Royster that there is more to it than just that written and spoken word. The "more" is that slippery, seemingly indefinable thing called "authenticity."
Royster goes on to argue that we should see "voicing as a phenomenon that is constructed and expressed visually and orally, and as a phenomenon that has import also in being a thing heard, perceived, and constructed" (30). Ding! ding! ding! ding! ding! Voice is not just visual (written) and oral (spoken). It needs to be "heard, perceived, and constructed," which means someone else must be there to hear, perceive, and construct. Every voice requires an audience. By extension, every performance requires an audience. Without an audience to receive the performance, to hear it, to perceive, and to construct it, it will fall apart. It will not be authentic! I emphasized "construct" because, to me, it seems like the most important building block, the cherry on top, if you will.
Every performance has a voice. Perhaps it comes from a written text. Perhaps it is improvised. Perhaps it is even silent (dance? Lavinia in Titus Andronicus?). Even in these cases, I would argue voice still comes through whether it be in music, or perhaps the voice of another character. But it originates somewhere -- written -- and comes out of an actor or performer or musician -- oral. Check.
Enter the audience. The audience (whether a piece of writing or a piece of dramatic art) hears. They hear the lines, or the music, or the sounds. Check. They comprehend them, they "perceive" them, and they process them. Check.
But if the audience does not consent to construct, to build this world with you (whether a writer or an actor or a dancer, etc.), then I would argue there is no authentic performance. It is the last and ever so crucial step. Construction. If we do not consent to work and build together, we'll have an empty shell. Royster places a good deal of responsibility on us, not only as speakers but as listeners. I think she is absolutely right. She says, "voicing at its best is not just well-spoken but also well-heard" (40). No pressure, folks.
Royster, Jacqueline Jones. "When the First Voice You Hear is Not Your Own." College Composition and Communication 47. 1 (1996): 29-40. Jstor. 14 Nov. 2010. Web.