So, I have to work on an accent for a role.  And it's an accent I've never tried before.  Funny thing is, that it's for a role I didn't even audition for.  Haven't you always heard "Go ahead and audition for roles that you know you aren't 'right' for, because you never know, they might just offer you something else." ?

Well, that's sort of what happened here...only in reverse.

I had auditioned for a role as an American woman that I thought I was "perfect" for and I got offered a role of a woman from another country, that I have never been to, who has a thick accent, that I haven't heard face-to-face in years.  So, now I need to have an accent that I can pull out of my back pocket.  Just like that...snap.  How do they know I can do this?  I told them I was an ACTOR.

And I thought about all of this, and what it means I need to do, and I was like, "Oh yeah...this is gonna be fun!"

I was taught by my coach, Aaron Speiser, that I should take my characters out for test runs, just to see if I could pull it off.  So, I've been to Vegas (old Vegas, as in the Golden Gate Hotel and Casino, not the sexy, swanky Vegas) as a Female Escort/Call Girl and I've been to Peanuts, a now defunct lesbian club in West Hollywood, as a butch lesbian.  You see, those two characters made me step out of my comfort zone more than most of the other characters I've worked on, so I really had to make an effort to see if I could do it...especially in public.  I always had a friend to come along in case things got a little crazy, but it never did.  I'm not suggesting you do this, in fact, I'm telling you DO NOT DO THIS (FYI, in case you do decide to do it anyway and find yourself in jail or worse, it's NOT my fault nor Aaron's).  

And with that said, I'm taking my character and my brand new accent out next week to see if I can pull it off.  I've got quite a few accents (common ones: a couple of British, a couple of Southern, a couple of New Yorkers), but they came to me just by playing around.  I've never had to actually learn a new accent, so this is going to be quite an adventure.  

You see because I'm thorough, I don't just want to be able to say my lines with an accent.  I want to be able to actually talk with the accent.  I want to take complete ownership of it and have it be one of those things you just whip out at cocktail parties for no apparent reason.  

So, in doing my homework, I found a pretty amazing site to help me with accents that you, too, may find useful one of these days.  It's called AccentHelp and they have quite a lot of accents that you as actors may need to use.  I've gone through the program for the accent I need, and I absolutely love it.  I'm fooling myself and my kids with my new accent, not sure if I'm going to fool anyone else right now, but we'll soon see.   I'm also waiting on a copy of Accents: A Manual for Actors by Robert Blumenfeld, which I've read is an really useful book for actors working on developing a repetoire of accents.

Of course, by far, the best thing to have at your disposal is someone who really speaks the language, and if that's not readily available, find a coach who can help you.  But if neither of these are available to you, grab a recorder, dig in and be your own worse critic.  You can't improve unless you can step outside yourself and objectively figure out where your weak points are.

For those of you who have no believable accents right now, pick one and work on it.  Pick a logical one.  And there are only two logical reasons for picking an accent to work on without having a role require it of you 1) you look like you could speak that language anyway, or 2) it's an easy one for you to perfect.

In addition, in my research, I found this actress who I find downright fascinating: Amy Walker.  On her site, she breaks down how to learn an accent, so I'm also incorporating some of the things she mentions into my training.  And she also has this one video entitled "21accents" which is completely riveting.  She bounces from accent to accent without skipping a beat.  She created this video so that she could send it out to casting directors in order to let them know she could do any accent, and it's incredibly effective.  Pay attention to how free her instrument is.  She simply flows, and it's beautiful.

And as impressive as accents are, it's all but impossible to nail a character just based upon a person's speech.  Speech patterns and dialects can bring your character to life, but you actually have to LIVE that life, moment to moment, for any of it to seem real.  So, for those of you who want to stay on top of your craft, here are some workshops/classes that are coming up soon that I didn't manage to get into the last email about upcoming classes.  Please save these.  I generally send out only 2-3 emails a year about upcoming classes, so it would behoove you to hold on to the contact information of the coaches conducting classes/workshops.  This is so that you can contact them at your convenience, in case you are unable to attend any of these classes now.

CLASSES/WORKSHOPS

Some of these are new to the area, so I'm giving you a bit of background now.  Remember, do your research, talk to the instructors and see if there is a "fit."  Here they are, in the order in which I received them:

Dr. Rebecca Hale - Dr. Hale is teaching an Acting for the Camera Workshop on Saturday, February 19 at the Actor's Theatre of New Orleans.  There are three sessions: Session I is for children; Session II is for beginning teens and adults; Session III is an Advanced Class.  Dr. Hale's talent have appeared in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant," and "Treme," among others.  Actors can email her at haletalent@gmail.com or check her website at www.haletalentagency.com for info.

Tom Todoroff - Director/Producer/Acting Coach, Tom Todoroff has been teaching for over thirty years in L.A., New York, and worldwide.  Tom has acted with, directed, or coached: Peter O'Toole, Harrison Ford, Tommy Lee Jones, Liam Neeson, Christina Ricci, Gwyneth Paltrow, Blythe Danner, Claire Danes, Samuel L. Jackson, and Tony Goldwyn to name a few. His Two-Day Intensive Workshop for actors & directors takes place February 19th & 20th. Visit www.tomtodoroff.com and contact 310-980-4504 or nolastudio@tomtodoroff.com for details!

Matthew Dickens – Two-Day Acting Intensive

Saturday, March 12 and Sunday, March 13, 10:00AM – 7:00PM (with a one hour break)

Lose Your ‘Self’ - Character Study - Scene Study - The Business of Acting

Matthew studied acting in Washington, DC and has worked professionally in the industry for years. Credits include Writer/Producer/Director The War Zone 3D, Writer Beyonce (Vegas), Director Untitled Ledisi Project (Documentary), Choreographer The Aviator. He appeared in DreamgirlsRent andSledge, The Untold Story, on television in A Different World and on Broadway in Miss SaigonSunset BoulevardSmokey Joe’s CaféDreamgirls and Carrie.  Bring your own scene/monologue or instructor can provide after consultation (several days prior to class). Email Pic/Res and short essay about your experience, no matter what level. Intensive limited to 10 actors. Email admin@thewarzone3d.com.


Break a leg, folks.