Tools for iPhone-Toting Actors

By Kate Foy

When the first generation iPod came out in 2001, I immediately saw its potential as a tool for learning in Higher Ed, and especially in my field, theatre. I was one of the first, via a loaner from AUC (Apple University Consortium in Australia) to take it for a test drive and report on the results in the actor-training program which I headed at the time. I had to prise it away from students’ hands when the time came to give it back to Apple. Apart from the wonder of light-weight, portable music – something we take for granted these days, but was less common 9 years ago – the obvious application to lines-learning as well as dialect acquisition was obvious.

Now we have the iPhone and the iPod Touch with a slew of apps that grow by the hundreds on a daily basis, and, of course, there are several voice recorder apps that are useful for taking notes, lines-learning and dialect drilling. One that I have used for a while is called Recorder – plain and simple, but it does the job of recording your speech and playing it back. You can append text notes, and pause and resume, and choose from lower and higher quality sound for recording – I’d recommend always choose higher quality. There is wifi syncing built in to Recorder, so you can also upload the files to your computer for later reference. There are other recording apps, and you might want to check out the listings in the iTunes Store; just type in ‘audio recorder’ in the search pane. The iPhone 3GS has a voice recorder built in; I can only assume the sound quality will be high. There is also a video on board the 3GS – now that could be very useful for recording rehearsal notes; I’m thinking choreography for dance or fights.

Some other apps you might find useful: the complete works of Shakespeare. It’s searchable and need I say, enormously useful even if you are just hunting for a quote, or learning a sonnet a day as you commute – a good practice, as Laurence Olivier noted. I can also highly recommend Open Culture which has links through to free books, poetry and plays. You might also want to grab Love Art: National Gallery of London to feed the imagination. There is excellent commentary on some of the National’s great paintings – gorgeously rendered on the iPhone screen. Just type in Shakespeare, Open Culture and Love Art in the iPhone Apps section of the iTunes Store, and download. All free!

But, apart from any one of the many Twitter iPhone apps, perhaps one of the most important is Urban Spoon, which will find and rate coffee shops, caf├ęs and restaurants in your vicinity. Highly recommended. Urban Spoon is also free; again, just type in Urban Spoon in the search pane in the iTunes Store.

Now if only there was only an iPhone app to turn on my electric blanket as I drive home from the theatre on a winter’s night.

PS It’s not an app, but a great tool. I subscribe to the American Theatre Wing’s Working in the Theatre vodcast, and download it to my iPhone. Looks and sounds great.