Voice makes right pitch for a great show
DEBBIE Phyland, as a speech pathologist, has been able to mix a love of performance and the science of language. Phyland, contracted to work with the Melbourne Theatre Company for the past six years, helps actors and singers use their voice in the right way, minimising the chances of damaging their vocal chords.
While the worst cases in such a job could involve voice rehabilitation after surgery, Phyland says in her work at the MTC she is commonly called on to advise whether someone with a cold or flu is fit to perform.
A majority of problems are from overuse, and Phyland says the most commonly suggested remedy is complete voice rest for a day. Preventative action at the MTC has paid
leading off — no shows have been cancelled because of voice problems in her time there, Phyland says.
‘‘ It can be quite costly and also extremely devastating for the performer and the company,’’ she says. Phyland recalls one musical where a performer had a vocal chord haemorrhage mid-way through a song.
Some of Phyland’s credits include being contracted by Disney to work with performers on TheLionKing musical and being involved in the Victorian Transport Accident Commission’s advertisement for curtain airbags, which featured an actor simulating the speech of someone with a head injury.
But Phyland, whom many entertainers call a friend, also works at the multidisciplinary Melbourne Voice Analysis Centre, runs a
‘‘ private practice and lectures part-time at La Trobe University. ‘‘ The best thing is, it provides variety. My husband works out what I’mdoing according to what I’mwearing!’’
Phyland, 20 years a speech pathologist, spent the first half of her working life in acute medical hospitals. It was while on maternity leave that she started seriously developing her idea for a private practice.
Phyland is also a classically trained singer, and has done a masters degree researching the voice problems of singers. She says she enjoys the challenges of her work, but one of the most satisfying aspects is being able to help people: ‘‘ I think that if you are communicating well you are much more likely to have a good quality of life,’’ she says. Vivienne Reiner