The very first Taos Writers Conference is coming! The weekend of March 10-12, 2017 will bring a bevy of intensives, workshops, lectures, and discussions all celebrating the written word. Local author David Pérez’s workshop, Performing Your Work: The Art of Reading Aloud, will cover a wide range of techniques and tips to help any writer improve their presentations in front of an audience. Registration is available to both conference attendees and the general public. For more information and to register, visit the Taos Writers Conference website.
Mel A. James, Live Taos Contributor spoke with David to get the scoop on what his workshop at the Taos Writers Conference is all about.
How often do you see writers who don’t have experience with reading or performing their own work?
Most if not all writers that I’ve worked with have read or performed their work aloud, even if only at a workshop or writing circle, or at a small public reading. But my classes and individual instruction can also help those who’ve never said their words out loud.
What is your own experience/background with performance?
I’ve done public speaking for close to 40 years, many of it at progressive political meetings, conferences and rallies. I’ve been acting for 20 years, and as a writer and author I’ve been performing my work for a dozen years or so. What has been especially important to learn is how to be prepared when you speak before an audience. Preparation is everything.
In the class description, you mention vocal exercises – for those who might not know, what are those and how can they help?
It’s much better to experience them in person, but these exercises include enunciating every letter of the alphabet, how to project by “bouncing” a noise off a wall, and using physicality and motion to inhabit your words, to mention just a few. When you’re doing a reading, you need to be heard and to be understood. Vocal exercises also help you identify what words you may have trouble with, the relative strength of your voice and so forth.
You also mention that you will cover relaxation techniques – why is that important?
All of us get nervous before speaking in public; it’s perfectly normal and should be embraced. That said, finding ways to focus and relax into the breath and reading your work with vigor and confidence is very important. You want your writing to work on the stage as well as on the page. In fact, a good reading can propel your work to new heights.
How can improvisational play benefit a writer?
Immeasurably! When we experiment with our writing, think outside the box, read it against type, e.g. read a serious poem with laughter, you’ll discover new meanings in what you’re writing. In acting, it’s been often said that the text is the actor’s worst enemy, meaning that you act the words and not the meaning, that you don’t explore the varied ways to play with a line, or with a connection to another character. In addition, there’s a joy in PLAYING, in being the child, in fun. It just enriches your writing in so many ways.
What does it feel like to be a part of the inaugural Taos Writers Conference?
Terrific! All praise goes to Jan Smith, the Executive Director at SOMOS for coming up with the idea and for organizing it, along with the staff and volunteers and SOMOS Board of Directors.