Creative Speech in the Main Lessons

Introducing Renate Millonig’s New NESA Course run by Sydney Rudolf Steiner College

Speech and Drama practitioner, Renate Millonig, has just recently run a fantastic, newly devised 8 hour NESA course, Creative Speech in the Main Lessons, for participants at the DE02 Foundations in Rudolf Steiner Education intensive Seminar. 

Here, we get behind the scenes with Renate and explore her background, her practice and inspirations. 

Q & A with Renate Millonig and the College Education Coordinator, Emilia Salgado 

Q: Tell us about your training…what were the highlights?

A: I trained in Sydney at the Harkness Studio over four years, luckily working closely with Mechthild Harkness. She was an extraordinary artist, so this was an obvious highlight. The training involved a year of epic poetry, a year of drama, a year of lyric poetry, then all three styles of speaking in the fourth year. Eurythmy, Greek gymnastics, performance and improvisation were staples. After training and intensive work performing over some years, I was asked to assist at the studio to teach — a big ask to follow in Mechthild’s footsteps, but it was a fabulous challenge. I travelled overseas and taught at the London School of Speech Formation, another wonderful highlight.

Q: What work did you do in China? It certainly looks fun!

A: Last October I spent 12 days teaching 100 Steiner kindergarten teachers with Daniel Stokes – an American Waldorf teacher and dramaturg who trained with me at the studio – and who also had 100 students to teach. We had 50 students per class – luckily with a translator. We worked with the sounds, the senses and creating verses for children.

 Q: You’ve got a wonderfully engaging teaching style. Our DE02 Foundation students raved about you. Why do you enjoy teaching?

Thank you, that’s wonderful! For me Steiner’s creative speech and drama brings together a deeply rich inquiry and application of an art that I have come to love. It is easy to want to share such an extraordinary research, as what is required as a speaker and actor is every part of our being human! It requires working with the whole body, our intelligence, feelings, imagination, working right into the will – and is such fun to both facilitate and perform. Ease, lightness and working with the infinite are keys for working with the speech and drama.

Q: Teachers are often time poor and pulled in all directions. How does having Creative Speech training help them in their day-to-day teaching? 

 A: It’s very important teachers have some training in order to come to love and learn from the sounds of speech – which make up all languages and literature. Steiner asks the teacher/actor/lecturer to become conscious of the sounds of speech. Developing a practice of allowing the sounds to have their own qualities and liveliness. Think about curative eurythmy involving the sounds and you will find a connection.

Speaking ‘artistically’ as Steiner encouraged is necessary to bring to the classroom as it has huge impacts on the lives of the children. Children develop expressive qualities from hearing beautiful speaking. Listening to rich and finely framed language structures facilitates subtle complexities of thought. These are just a few of the many benefits of working artistically with speech.

Q: Steiner had a lot to say about creative speech. Can you distil some of his writing into one amazing gem? I know that’s tough…

A:  He said,
“The sounds themselves are our teachers, they will be the best teachers we will ever have.”

Q: Working with the Steiner curriculum was your latest project, compiling a booklet with main lesson verse that supports teachers delivering the curriculum. Which poets did you include?

A: Pablo Neruda is a sublime Chilean poet who plays with the word, distilling sensual, visceral earthy imagery with sublime echoes. We worked with an excerpt from Neruda’s ‘Memoirs’ about the Word – which is a rollocking feast of imagery and verbs that is fabulous to speak – the sounds come alive.  We spoke Shakespeare’s ‘Speak the speech…(Hamlet) in between our exploration of Greekgymnastic exercises: running, leaping, wrestling, discus and javelin – truly a sublime, succinct piece about ‘…suiting the action to the word, the word to the action’ which is fundamental for the actor. We also included Walter de la Mare, Emily Dickinson, Christina Rosetti, Tennyson and William Blake, among others.

Q: What’s your favourite poem? Is there one?

A: Lately it has been a Neruda poem called ‘Keeping Quiet’ – it has a theme about silence and coming closer to nature and our nature. I will be starting a Masters next year which is due to research and combine Steiner’s Creative Speech and Drama with the silences of Japanese Noh theatre.  I love these lines in the poem:

 ‘if only we could just stop for one moment, and listen

fishermen in the cold sea would not harm whales,

and the man gathering salt would look at his hurt hands‘.

Thank you Renate. It has been a real pleasure having you work with our Foundation in Rudolf Steiner (DE02) students. You’ve got so much to share. 

Renate’s course, Creative Speech in the Main Lessons, can be run at any school with at least 10 participants or get in touch with the College if you’d like at attend next year’s course at Glenaeon in the Sept-Oct 2020 break. Participants receive a great booklet with verse for 5 main lessons in the Curriculum.

For bookings or to express your interest, please call the Sydney Rudolf Steiner College on (02) 9261 4001.