Ventriloquism is the art of speaking without moving the mouth giving the illusion that the voice comes from another place. Also referred to as "voice throwing" and "vent," ventriloquism is popular in stage shows where performers manipulate a dummy to create the illusion that the puppet is talking. Ventriloquists must learn how to control their voice, their mouth and their dummy, however since no formal schools are in existence, most "vent" performers must develop these skills on their own.
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"Most of us learnt from books and/or videos," explains ventriloquist Steve Hurst, webmaster for Ventriloquist Central. Introductory educational materials usually focus on ventriloquism basics including the ability to replace certain sounds with similar sounds that don't require lip movement. Pennsylvania talent agency, Burgher's Entertainment, says that ventriloquists can master this talent by using the "d" sound to replace "b, "f" and "v" become a "th" and "m" is uttered as the letter "n." Budding ventriloquists sometimes also receive training and support from more experienced mentors.
Although hundreds of websites specialise in ventriloquism education and puppetry, several offer free ventriloquism courses. Puppets by Axtell offers free training through its Axtell Learning Center website. Website visitors can learn ventriloquism basics, puppet handling, and how to market a ventriloquism show. A plethora of home study courses and ventriloquism kits for purchase are also readily available. The oldest and most famous program is the Maher Home Study Course, however many other popular training methods exist, including Lee Cornell's "Ventriloquism 101 DVD" and "Video Ventriloquism" with Pete Michaels.
Vent Haven ConVENTion
The Vent Haven ConVENTion is an annual gathering that attracts more than 400 amateur and professional ventriloquists from around the globe. The convention's website encourages novice and experienced ventriloquists to attend, saying that "perhaps the best place to learn is with other ventriloquists." Guests can hone their skills by participating in a six-minute open mic session where they are videotaped and receive constructive criticism from three judges. The convention includes Junior Vent University, a special ventriloquism program designed for children ages 16 and younger. Junior Vent University attendees learn voice throwing basics, scriptwriting, dummy character development and stage skills.
Ventriloquism students typically need only a few items to get started. These include training materials, a dummy, a dummy carrying case and any props used to enhance their act. Although professional performers may spend thousands of dollars on elaborate puppets and stage equipment, amateurs can easily find supplies for every skill level and budget. Instructional booklets, CDs and DVDs range in price from £3 to £87 (as of March 2011) while a wide selection of dummies available to the general public cost anywhere from £13 to £260.
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