Knight-Thompson Speechwork is a detailed study of the physical actions of speech.  All of the actions, all of the articulators, all of the variations.  After a detailed practical exploration of the relevant anatomy and articulatory actions, the fruits of this exploration are then conceptualized into the framework of phonetic analysis to deepen and codify the understanding.  By studying all the individual physical actions that constitute creating and articulating speech, and then marrying them to a familiarity and facility with the entire International Phonetic Alphabet, we develop skills applicable to any style of speech needed (anywhere on the formality spectrum, any accent, character voices, etc.).

Often, speech for the theater is taught solely through a prescriptive model, a target accent or level of formality that is acknowledged as “correct” or “good”.   KT Speechwork does not endorse “correct” or “good” speech, instead it asks “good for what?” “correct in what environment?”  The only principle for a “standard” of speech that practitioners endorse is intelligibility.   That, and that alone, must be adhered to at all times.  While I believe there is a place for prescriptive teaching/modeling of speech, that approach, when used solely, does not give the student performer the fullest understanding and experience of speaking as a wholethat is to say the whole range of human speech that an actor may need to portray.  By having a firsthand, visceral experience of these actions, the student is introduced to a wide world of possibilities – every aspect of speech they may ever need, not simply one, limited, prescriptive model.

I also endorse this work because of its detailed and holistic approach to accent work, which focuses on placement and vocal tract posture as a unifying element that ties together the phonetic shifts and substitutions.   I think of it as a primer coat of white paint – without it, the actor is often stuck in their own vocal habits with a few substitutions glommed on top.   By being able to fully articulate and adapt their vocal tract posture and physical execution, the student will have access to and facility with any accent.

I have adopted this method because it gives the actor the most ownership over their speech skills, the most tools in their tool bag, and the widest base of knowledge (and vocabulary) for creating the speech of the characters they must create and inhabit.  It is empowering as opposed to limiting.  Forgive the stale metaphor, but it teaches the actor to fish – and for anything that lives in the ocean of human speech!

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