Vocal professor to develop ‘athletic’ voices in students

Shipwrecked! - An Entertainment #2, directed by Scott Stackhouse, courtesy of Seaside REP, photo by Nikki Hedrick
Shipwrecked! – An Entertainment #1, directed by Scott Stackhouse (courtesy of Seaside REP)

Who says you can’t go home again?  Scott Stackhouse has returned to one of the first stops on his theatrical journey.  But where he once roamed the halls as an undergraduate student, Stackhouse now bears the title of Assistant Professor of Theatre in Voice and Acting for the Professional Actor Training Program at UMKC Theatre.  And after years of paying his dues by adjunct teaching at colleges and universities across the city, he finds himself in a place that will allow him to focus on strengthening the graduate program and to prepare MFA actors for professional vocal careers. 

After receiving his MFA in acting from the University of CaliforniaLos Angeles in 1999, Stackhouse returned to Kansas City and worked at a number of schools in the area before landing a full-time position at the University of MissouriKansas City.  He worked primarily with undergraduates, but also began running 6-week blocks of breath work for the MFA actors, in the Linklater technique he’d studied at UCLA.  This work led to Stackhouse working as vocal coach for university productions, which led to more work with the graduate department on dialects and vocal training.  Following the departure of Erika Bailey to Harvard University, UMKC Theatre conducted a national search and Stackhouse was chosen to fill the graduate position permanently.

“It’s bittersweet,” Stackhouse says of saying goodbye to his undergraduate duties.  “So much of my time was spent helping students balance theatre work with their other studies, and there was something exciting and rewarding in that.”  He is looking forward to the change in perspective: Now, my focus is on the graduate student whose life IS the theatre.  It is more demanding for them; they just “go” all day.  How do they get through the day?  How can I help that process?”

Stackhouse has three focuses in the immediate future for the program.  The first is the overall health and well-being of the students.  “I want them to take the best-possible care of themselves, physically and emotionally.  Resting their voices, using them correctly.”  His second focus is to emphasize the need for what he calls “athletic” voices.  “Contemporary work sometimes leads to disengaged or partially-attentive voices.  Our work needs to be crisp, not on its heels.”  The third focus is one that other programs, and even students themselves, often overlook: voice-over work.  “Our third-year actors have always left with a professional demo reel.  Last year, I started in-depth animation voice-over work with the second-year actors.  The goal is to develop these techniques over the course of their time with us, and to tailor the work according to the abilities of the individual student.  This is a great way to use what we teach in the classroom to get professional work after graduation.” 

Stackhouse is also excited to shape his own style of teaching voice.  “So much of what we do as professors is based on how others have taught it to us.  What will my version of vocal training be? How can I make it unique and original to me?”  Now that he is no longer dividing his time between graduate voice work and undergraduate directing and acting work, he’ll have the opportunity to give the program his own special stamp.  However that special stamp manifests itself, Stackhouse will certainly strengthen the foundation of the graduate program and guide its graduates into a successful future.

by Collin Vorbeck