USD Classes

Over-View Syllabus: Voice and Speech for the Two Year Graduate Actor Training Program with Jan Gist


Learning Outcomes: 

Students will exhibit proficiency in performing vocally expressive variety while employing breath support, rich vocal resonation, and articulation precision. 



Required:                  Speak With Distinction by Skinner--text and tape.


Recommended:         Everyman’s Pronouncing Dictionary by Jones

                               A Pronouncing Dictionary of American English by Kenyon and Knott


References:              Freeing The Natural Voice by Linklater

                              Voice And The Actor by Berry

                              The Actor And The Text by Berry

                              The Right To Speak by Rodenburg

                              The Composite Art of Acting by Jerry Blunt

                              Stage Dialects by Blunt

                              More Stage Dialects by Blunt


Course Objectives: 

1.  To become aware of the physical construction/anatomy of the vocal instrument.

2.  To learn about vocal hygiene, to develop and maintain vocal health.

3.  To become aware of personal habits or perceptions that limit or promote vocal expressiveness.

4.  To learn exercises in order to develop:

         breath support,

         tone quality and placement,

         pitch range and variety,

         strength with ease.

5.  To learn the International Phonetic Alphabet (I.P.A.) in order to:

         recognize distinctions of speech formations,

         apply subtleties of articulation for expressivenes

         have a technique to write down sounds for rehearsals and the study of dialects.

6.  To practice clarity of speech, for the needs of the theatre.

7.  To become adept in “Standard” and “General” American Speech

8.  To learn the process of attaining accents and dialects for the stage.

9.  To develop personal warm-ups and disciplines.

10. To develop listening skills, off and on stage.

11. To relish the joy of speaking in many styles of language.

12. To learn and apply many language skills such as scansion, structure, etc.


Class Content:

1.  Physical/vocal exercise and drill.

2.  Lecture/discussion.

3.  Application of skills in performance of monologues, scenes, poetry, etc.

4.  Written exams to test knowledge of I.P.A., anatomy, etc.

5.  Journals and papers to explore and discuss vocal process and progress.

6.  Private, individual coaching sessions to apply class work to roles in MFA and Equity productions.


Students’ Responsibilities:

1.  To be prepared:  knowing all calls, class times, assignments, due-dates.

2.  To do homework as assigned so classes progress effectively.

3.  To wear neutral, comfortable, flexible clothing; dressed and ready at the

         beginning of all calls and classes.

4.  To bring all pertinent materials to class such as texts, mirrors, recorders, etc.

5.  To come with a healthy positive attitude that supports fellow actors and the learning environment.

6.  To take good care of body, mind, and spirit in and outside of class so the work can go forward.

7.  To give advanced warning (in case of the rare emergency of missing a class or call) to the teacher and the stage manager.

8.  To take the initiative to make up any late work, never assuming it can be forgotten.

9.  To strive to learn and develop, and to accept with tolerance (but not sloth)

         one’s own current state.

10. To be responsible for one’s own physical needs (allergies, injuries, etc.) and to adjust exercises as needed, and to inform the teacher and stage manager of the specifics on this.  



A = Excellent work and progress

B = There are some problems, but the student is addressing them constructively.

C = There are problems that are not being addressed though the assignments were completed.

D = Unacceptable.

F = Assignments were not done.


Grading Continued:

At the end of each semester, a final grade for Voice and Speech will be averaged in from all Voice and Speech class-assignments, and from application of class work in rehearsals, performances, and understudy in all shows at USD and The Old Globe.


It is the policy of this training program and this class that each student will be on time, and enthusiastically ready for every class, coaching session and rehearsal as well as every performance.  Therefore:  only 2 excused absences are allowed.  After that, every absence brings the final grade down by 1/2 (‘A’ becomes ‘A-’ etc.)  Also, after the 2nd tardy, the final grade goes down by 1/2 for every additional 2 late arrivals.


All MFA’s must maintain at least a 3.0 grade average.




It is my desire and intention to bring the quality of American Theatre to a greatness that owns and embodies its voice.  I have the conceit that by teaching and coaching specific skills, adapted to specific professional actors, I make my best contribution to that end.


The Theatre offers opportunity to all of us (performers, crew, staff, audience, playwrights, directors, designers...) to engage in the questions and expressiveness of human aliveness.  Voice and Speech are a means to bring our minds, hearts and spirits to fully enlivened life.


If we choose to engage in the sacred Dionysian rituals that include frolic and adventure, then we also should be required to be responsible to seek excellence.  We must honor the rituals by honoring our best selves, our fellow artists, and the public that is receiver, supporter, and inspiration.


Our work is meant to be fun as well as challenging.


In this spirit, I invite you to join me, the USD program, The Old Globe Theatre, and all of Theatre.



Jan Gist

Private Materials

This link is for the use of actors cast in particular shows or students attending particular classes. Each group will receive their password for their show or class directly from Jan:

Jan Gist Private Show and Classroom Materials

Welcome to Jan Gist Speaking!

To “have a voice” is to own your own power within the world, and to have the freedom and ability to express your own truth, or the truth of a character in performance.  Jan Gist has been facilitating voices for over three decades, for professional actor training, for professional theatre productions, for performers, actors, singers, public speakers, and speakers of English as a second language.
Theatres across the country engage her for their shows, to coach dialects and accents, Shakespeare text, verbal style, vocal health, theatre strength, verbal specificity and expressiveness.  During rehearsals, Jan’s work supports the playwright’s script, and the director’s vision, as she facilitates actors to embody the language with vocal freedom, intense meaning, and interactive responsiveness, helping audiences to deeply experience the story and substance of the theatrical event.  
The list of professional theatres includes: Los Angeles Music Center’s Ahmanson Theatre; The Old Globe, La Jolla Playhouse, San Diego Rep, and Mo’olelo, of San Diego; Shakespeare Theatres and Festivals of Oregon, Alabama, Utah, American Shakespeare Center (of Virginia), The Shakespeare Theatre (of D.C.); repertory companies of Indiana, Milwaukee, and Playmakers (of North Carolina); Arena Stage of D.C., and American Players Theatre (of Wisconsin). And she has contributed support to other productions from Denver Center to Queensland Theatre Company of Australia.
Workshops include approaches to Shakespeare, audition skills, teaching skills, and full vocal empowerment.  The list of workshop hosts includes:

American Shakespeare Center, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Mo’olelo Performing Arts Center. International workshops include: London’s Central School of Speech and Drama, Russia’s Moscow Art Theatre, and conferences for Voice And Speech Trainers Association all over the U.S. and in Glasgow, Scotland, and Toronto, Canada.
Jan is Head of Voice and Speech for the Old Globe/University of San Diego Graduate Theatre Department where she coaches all their productions and teaches in every semester of the two year MFA program.  Classes include foundations of vocal hygiene, breath support, full bodied resonation, expressive pitch range, theatre strength with ease, articulation clarity, text, and dialects.

working with Jan receive personally designed and adapted instruction on convincing and persuasive body language, gesture, and eye contact, as well as verbal skills for clear and powerful communication.  Speakers of other languages are taught how to be clearly understood in English, and how to take on the role of leadership with their audiences. 

To Contact Jan Gist

University of San Diego:

E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Office Phone: (619) 260-7757

The Old Globe Theatre:

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Guidance on How to Develop Your Voice & Speech 

1. Learn how you learn.

2. Translate what you're taught into what can work for you to become your own teacher.

3. Drill your skills with curiosity and imagination.

4. Bridge your skills into the vital, expressive journey as it is sculpted by the script, and envisioned by the director.

5. Embody "Stage Presence" by owning the time, owning the place, and welcoming your audience into you specifically crafted time and place.