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Julian Wiles, Founder and Producing Artistic Director
Marybeth Clark, Associate Artistic Director

October 28, 2011

The Daily Vampire: Accents

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 10:04 am

Dracula has probably more accents than almost any other show. They range from Transylvannia (Rumanian) for Dracula, to proper English for Dr. Thomas Seward, to Dutch for Abram Van Helsing, cockney for Renfield, even Irish for Margaret Sullivan the housekeeper. Amanda Wansa, Charleston Stage’s music director (who has a great ear) has served as the dialect coach for the cacophony of accents needed in this show.

“Coaching actors on dialects is really a two part process,” said Dialect Coach Amanda Wansa. “The first is identifying the general ‘feel’ of a dialect and the second is dealing with actual sound substitutions. What most audience members don’t know is that there is a difference between ‘putting on an accent’ and speaking in a dialect on stage. For example, a real person from Germany who happens to speak English speaks with a German ‘accent’ – their take and pronunciation of the words; this is going to vary from person to person.  To teach Josh (Van Helsing) a Dutch (which is very close to German) dialect, we work on changing specific sounds in the speech (i.e. the “th” sound goes to a “D” or a “T” sound) to make him sound like he’s from that area, but still well understood onstage.”

“Each actor trained privately with me–sometimes hours at a time–on their specific dialect. We worked sentence by sentence, word by word, focusing on the language and pronunciation. Then, they were instructed to simply focus on their acting in rehearsal and I would give them notes after each night on specific sounds and nuances.”

 

From left to right: Charleston Stage Resident Actor Josh Harris as Abram Van Helsing, Resident Actor Derek T. Pickens as Dr. Thomas Seward, Michael David Wilson as Robert Renfield, and Garrett Flood as Norbert Briggs in Charleston Stage's DRACULA.

 

 

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