Rachel Glass is a new instructor here at Freehold, and will be teaching Voice Over this winter. Rachel has decades of experience working on stage, in film and TV, and doing voice work. In this interview, Rachel talks about her decades-long career, how she tries to meet students where they’re at, and how one’s voice is one of the precious few things over which an actor has control.
Q: Welcome to Freehold! Can you talk a little bit about your life before coming here?
I have been in the business forever. I majored in theater and musical theater, so I was acting in college. I even had a couple of professional on-camera things that I did in middle school and high school. So I would say this is something I’ve been doing all my life.
The school I graduated from had a great theater department, so I worked with a whole bunch of actors from the Royal Shakespeare Company–like British icons. I worked a lot in Shakespeare, getting a lot of foundational experience with voice work with learning how important it is to use your voice in theater. When I graduated, I immediately just started looking for work. I have worked in New York, in Los Angeles, in Nashville, and Seattle. I moved here in 1998, and have been doing film, TV, and stage since I’ve been here. I have done major feature films. I have worked in Shakespeare companies. So I’ve done a lot.
When the pandemic started, I didn’t know what I was going to do. When everything shut down, I had to really kind of take stock in a big way about how I wanted to move forward while the theaters were closed. And so I created this comprehensive online teaching program–and I ended up promoting it and getting students, and now I’m teaching in different places. So that’s what brought me to freehold.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about your teaching philosophy?
My philosophy is that I like to meet the students where they’re at. Some students have some kind of background or understanding of certain aspects of voice work, and some students are coming at it from square one. I am a firm believer that learning skills, whether it’s acting on stage, whether it’s voiceover work, or voice acting, it is very important to be aware of your vocal instrument, because once you are aware, once you are able to identify the way you are using your voice, and have an understanding of how it all works, you are going to be able to have more control as the host body that this instrument lives in. The more control that you have, it just gives you more ability to do a wider range of different things–you can do different voices, you can have different qualities, you can just do more things. So this metaphor that I can share with you is: I liken it to swimming. If you stand somebody at the edge of a pool and push them in, if they don’t have the skills to get themselves across to the other side of the pool, they will drown. And it’s the same thing with public speaking, with acting, with auditioning, with voice performance. If you just push somebody in and say “Go!,” if they don’t understand the vocal instrument, they will drown.
Some people have what I would call rough talent, but if they don’t understand the skills, it won’t be consistent. The more that you understand the way to use your body, the more that you understand the skills required, the more consistent and graceful and effective and exciting and dynamic your performance is going to be. So that’s how I start with everybody.
I’ll also add: one of the sessions will be devoted to the different kinds of ways to use your voice and the different tools that you need in different situations–like if you’re doing video game characters, or if you’re narrating an audiobook, or if you’re narrating a film. I’m going to have them work on different ways to use their voice in different kinds of settings. I’m totally happy to answer questions about ways to get involved with the industry or just be aware of things that are happening in the industry.
Q: Can you talk a bit about how voice acting relates to other types of acting that performers will be practicing.
The two pillars that I look back for anything related to performance are the voice and the body. Those are the two pillars. Those two are key.
I would say that a lot of people, especially people starting out, know a small percentage of what their voice is capable of, about what the voice can actually do. And the more that students know about how their voice works, what they can use it for, what they can do with it, how they can control it, the better. In this business, actors have so little control in a production. You’ve got your director, your lyricist, your music director, your artistic director–there are so many people who have way more say and way more control in the shepherding of a production than actors do. So what I want to do is I want to fortify actors to be able to have more control over their situation. Your body and your voice are yours. So you can control them. I want to give actors and performers the path down which, when they walk it, they will be able to find ways to use their voice and have control.
Q: Any final thoughts?
People talk about: “this is a safe space.” I don’t want that to be a bumper sticker. What I want is for people to feel like they’ve gotten some tools in this class, and that they have a path forward. I want to be an advocate for actors. I want to be someone who is supporting them as they move forward. My goal is to have actors feel that they are being supported and that they can incorporate the things they’re learning in class, and see the growth. That’s very rewarding for me and extremely exciting for them. That’s my goal, and that’s what makes me really excited about teaching.
Rachel’s class meets Tuesdays, 6:30-9:30PM, from January 17-March 7. Register here!