I thought I’d take a moment to respond to two recent comments/questions.
One is from Charlene who said she is jealous that I have a Trader Joe’s nearby…well Charlene, it is only temporary. Believe me, soon enough I will be over an hour away from the nearest Trader Joe’s. Maybe its an hour and a half ~ that sounds more realistic. And husband and I have been known to drive there on a whim because we miss TJ so much. Contrast that to a 3 minute car ride or 10 minute walk from this apartment. I have been spoiled, I assure you. We used to live here and took Trader Joe’s for granted. I no longer do so. Take heart, I will soon be joining all of you who wish you had one nearby. In July, happy as I will be to be home, I will be suffering from TJ withdrawal.
The other is from Dana, who asks just what play I am working on and what it is I do? (A question I have heard before from fellow bloggers.)
Let’s see if I can explain. For many years I was a college professor in two professional actor training programs, first in Boston University’s BFA program, then in University of San Diego/Old Globe Theater’s MFA program. Both of these programs are fairly exclusive and students have to audition to be accepted. When I started at BU, I taught Speech and Dialects. By Speech, I mean a speech for actors with rich, open vowel sounds and strong consonants so that they can perform in anything from classical theater to modern theater. I also taught Dialects. Both of these courses were taught vocally and phonetically. I also coached many, many productions, involving voice work and lots of different dialects. While at BU, I started to coach professionally at various theaters in the area and loved it.
After 5 years at BU, I came to the realization that I wanted to combine teaching graduate level actors and professional coaching. Enter USD/Old Globe, where I coached all the Globe’s productions, taught Voice/Speech and Dialects to the students and also coached the MFA productions. I was there for 8 years and coached over 80 productions. Eventually, we moved back East, and since then I have been freelancing professionally. I’ve worked on Broadway, off-Broadway, and with various touring companies.
When I coach a dialect, I research it, listen to lots of different people speaking in the dialect and to the many variations of the dialect, figure out all the vowel and consonant changes phonetically, listen to its musical quality and inflection and then teach it to the actors involved. It involves lots of drilling and painstaking work. It also requires a combination of firmness, empathy and compassion. Sometimes I am just a listening ear, helping the actor deal with all the pressures of a role. Every actor is different and I have to adjust my style to each one. I’m currently working on Alabama Southern for a production called Cornelia.
When I coach Shakespeare, as I am also doing now, I work with the actors on their voices, on the text, on the poetry and meter, and on the correct pronounciation and meaning of all the words. These plays are done in an outdoor theater, so voices need to be strong and full. The plays this year are Coriolanus and Twelfth Night.
I’m also working on Cyrano de Bergerac – so besides all the above, I had to research all the French words and make a CD with all the correct pronounciations.
Once the plays start to have run-throughs and then move onstage, I watch and take notes on what I hear or don’t hear and then pass them along to each actor, ever hopeful that each note will be corrected.
These plays are all rehearsing at the same time and will be performed in Repertory this summer. The actors in the company are each in at least 2 and sometimes 3 of the productions and they switch back and forth from show to show. The last opening night is in July and I will head back home the next day. The company will continue performing until the end of September.
I love what I do and, for the most part, have a great time doing it. The majority of actors and directors I have worked with are wonderful, creative people.
Hope this explains what I do, at least a bit!