Mustaches, OR, No post today, Next post Thursday

Today is my son Noah’s 10th b-day. So I won’t be posting on voice or speech today. Next blog post should be on Thursday.

I have grown a (very dorky) mustache for Noah this year. I hate how it looks, but that is what he wanted… I grew it by growing a beard and then shaving it all off yesterday, except for the ‘stache.

Why mention it on my blog? Well, for the past 9 years I have insisted that students entering the acting conservatory not have a beard or mustache to begin. The theory goes that facial hair causes people to move their lips and facial muscles less than normal and so it is about increasing their self-awareness. It also forces people to “conform” to our rules which,it could be argued, could be perceived as either good or bad. Similarly we require people to remove jewelry from piercings especially of the lips and tongue.

Having grown a beard for Noah for the past three years, I am still convinced that I am inclined to move my facial muscles and lips more in an unselfconscious way without it. Having two kids on the Autism spectrum, I have learned a lot about sensory integration issues, and one thing that strikes me, now that I have only a mustache and not a beard, is how much of a distraction the sensory information coming from the sweat and the itchiness and the mere sensation of having hair on my lip is. In fact, I am more self-aware than I am without it, but I have to say it is in a bad way, not a good way.

I guess I am beginning to feel ambivalent about the policy… I believe that most of the young men who show up in the acting conservatory with facial hair have it in order to look less boyish and more masculine. They need to embrace who they really are, and no facial hair will fix it. Others are merely doing it for fashion sake and I have no qualms about stopping that. Maybe I need to change the reason behind it, and keep the policy.

Looks like I wrote a blog post after all!


Eric Armstrong is the voiceguy. Eric is a dialect, voice, speech and text coach based in Toronto, Canada, where he normally teaches full-time at York University’s Dept. of Theatre. Eric has been teaching voice for the actor full-time since 1994, and has taught in Canada and the US, at the University of Windsor, Brandeis University, Roosevelt University, Canada's National Voice Intensive and York University. He has worked for nationally and internationally recognized companies such as Crow’s Theatre, Volcano, SoulPepper, & Canadian Stage in Toronto, and The Court Theatre and Steppenwolf in Chicago. Eric holds a BFA from Concordia University (Montreal) in Theatre Performance, and an MFA from York University (Toronto) in Acting. His mentors were David Smukler (York, Canada’s National Voice Intensive) and Andrew Wade (Royal Shakespeare Company). He has also studied at the Drama Studio, London, and Il Stage Internazzionale di Commedia dell’Arte in Reggio Emilia, Italy. He’s a long time member of the Voice and Speech Trainers Association, where he has served on the board, as a conference planner, photo editor for the Voice and Speech Review, Founding Director of Technology and Internet Services, and has written numerous peer-reviewed articles, essays and reviews for the VASTA Newsletter, the VASTA Voice, and The Voice and Speech Review.

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