Today I took on the voice of a woman stabilizing her mental illness. She spoke through me about her marriage, her life, and her hospitalization. Her voice was very emotional, and so was mine, on her behalf. I then spoke in the words and the soothing voice of the sweet and comforting attorney, who was patient and kind.
I also spoke as a man who is remorseful about making the very dangerous decision to get behind the wheel of a car while drunk. He was so relieved that no one was hurt, and truly stunned by the magnitude of what could have happened and the potential consequences still ahead. I then spoke as his probation officer, and my voice was encouraging about the hope of long term – lifetime – sobriety and all the blessings that brings.
I spoke in the voice of a scared young man who has drug dealers driving past his three-generation family home, because they want to remind him not to talk. I then spoke in the voice of his attorney, who put a lot of sympathy into his “yeah, I know,” but then went back to a matter-of-fact, “let’s get this case taken care of” voice, which I followed as well. Later on, it was the prosecutor, then the voice of the judge. A family member, a loved one. A crime victim. A witness. One by one, a whole world of voices representing a huge swath of human experience passes through my mouth, into listening ears.
Taking all these roles on, speaking in so many voices, is such an intimate experience. Being able to convey a person’s longing, regrets, and fears. Being able to provide them with vital information, comfort, and encouragement. And sometimes a timely scolding, or a hard but necessary truth. Following people along the whole rainbow of emotions through their words. Creating connections, making it possible for two people to have a shared experience across the chasm of a language barrier.
What an incredible honor to be able to take on other people’s voices, experiences and words for that fleeting moment. They roll off my tongue to reach their destined listeners, and yet I find they also resonate in my heart long after the words have been spoken.