Green Shirt Studio

Teacher Profile: Aram Monisoff

Aram Monisoff

Aram Monisoff was an accomplished singer and actor by the time he received his Bachelor’s degree from Lawrence University in Appleton, WI. But it wasn’t until he discovered Linklater voice work at grad school in the Theatre School at DePaul University that Monisoff realized how much he was holding himself back on stage by not fully embracing his voice.

Today, Monisoff teaches voice and dialects at Green Shirt Studio, Columbia College and DePaul. And this summer, Monisoff will be traveling to Scotland to study with Kristin Linklater, who developed the Linklater voice method, and become a designated Linklater teacher.

Recently, we had a chance to catch up with Monisoff to find out more about what he loves about teaching voice work and what the Linklater progression is all about.

Q: How did you get interested in acting?

Monisoff: My first love was singing, musical theater and jazz, but acting quickly followed. I fell in love with acting in high school, acting in school plays as well as starting to write scenes and one acts.

I pursued a bachelors in voice in opera performance, and while I loved the techniques I learned, I never developed a passion for opera.

Acting, on the other hand always felt like home. Pursuing theater in grad school seemed natural to me. I believe we’re always in transition and never fully done with our training, so I wanted to hone my craft at a conservatory atmosphere, which DePaul offered. It became a way to fully explore storytelling and ensemble building. It’s also where I first was fully introduced to the Linklater work and fell in love with what it could achieve.

Q: Today, you teach the Linklater progression. What interested in you in that work?

Monisoff: What interested me in the Linklater progression is its focus on finding one’s natural voice, free of habits, tension and psychological “armor.” Honestly, when I first started the work in grad school, my teacher would call me out for using my “opera voice” to hide my feelings or try to impress with the size of my sound. The work changed everything I knew about acting and finding a truthful connection to one’s voice.

Q: How can Linklater training help actors improve?

Monisoff: Linklater voice work offers a very defined set of vocal exercises intended to free your voice from tension and artifice. It is the most effective voice technique for actors because it uses a similar vocabulary as Stanislavski and Method Acting (where the work began in the early ’60s). Using a process of via negative, the Linklater voice work is about helping the actor remove obstacles in their path instead of thinking that their voice is bad or needs to be fixed.

Q: What are some ways that actors inhibit their performances with their voice?

Monisoff: There are countless ways actors block honest performances by misusing their voice. A common example is using a breathy voice or a partial voiced sound. The lack of vibrations is actually indicative of an actor not fully embodying what they mean on stage. It’s part of a larger issue in our society where we think if we use our voice halfheartedly, I can’t be called out for meaning what I say. We have to live in our truthful circumstances fully, as Kristin Linklater believes, as did Sanford Meisner.

Q: How did studying voice and Linklater specifically help you personally in your acting?

Monisoff: Linklater voice work instantly got me in touch with my breath, and therefore, with my emotional state of being. It made me live in the moment in my scenework and also helped my voice be able to express whatever I was feeling easily without strain, which is equally important on the stage or on screen.

Q: Can you describe a little bit about what one of your typical classes is like?

Monisoff: In my level 1 class (level 2 will begin later this year), we begin with freeing the body and breath, in that order. We utilize many of the exercises from the Alexander Technique but under a voice guise. We focus on alignment, breath, and put a particular focus on vibrations and how you produce them. We also go over what I call the “Bermuda Triangle” of the voice: the jaw, tongue, and the soft palette, because for many actors, this is where their voice gets tangled up.

Q: What do you enjoy about teaching?

Monisoff: What I love about teaching is helping people come to love their voice and all that it is. In many ways, it’s about getting students in touch with their imagination and their love of acting to begin with. I’d like my students to leave my class with a thorough knowledge of the progression, which will allow them to share their free and creative voice, whether that be at an audition or a board meeting.

Find out more about Aram Monisoff’s next Linklater voice class, starting at Green Shirt Studio starts this spring.