My background, and training (college and studio) is in voice and acting. The voice of the character has always been a vital component in creating a well developed, believable performance. Similarly, in life, one’s voice is a most important tool for creating a lasting impression of confidence and competence that captures attention and respect.
My teaching method begins with detective work. In the first session, I study how the learner best assimilates information. Then I bring the dialect to them from multiple perspectives; visual, auditory, kinesthetic. Together we navigate the pathway that works best for each person.
When someone finds that his/her own accent begins limiting opportunities, I bring them variations of Standard American English as new tools to add to their toolbox. I don’t use the phrases ‘getting rid of an accent’ or ‘accent reduction’. This can imply that someone’s place of birth or heritage is sub-par. Dialects are wonderful and part of what makes us unique. Our voice is as individual as our fingerprint. Actors know this and use accents to create distinctive characters. So, we learn a new dialect (SAE) to be more cast-able, more hire-able and more flexible. It does take commitment and regular use to perfect, but it does not take away heritage or birthright. Psychologically, this eases the pressure for the learner and makes the serious work of learning new ways of speaking much more fun.
Speaking of fun, I do all I can to keep a sense of it in our work. Voice study is much more pedantic and therefore often less creative than acting classes, which might be why actors avoid this study like they do the 9-5 world. So, over the years, I have developed fun, creative exercises and I bring my sense of humor always. Let’s face it, this is hard work. Why not find ways to enjoy it?
For film, I always begin from scratch. Whether I have coached the dialect before or not, I erase the etch-a-sketch and research (always with real voices) all over again. Why? Because so often bad habits sneak in. I hear it in film and tv work so often. Many times when an accent is just not quite right, it’s because of one vowel sound or inflection that has eased back in.
In summary, we find your groove, work hard and have a great time. Dialect study doesn’t have to be dry or academic. You can have fun and exponentially increase your casting options. And if there is anything worse than a bad accent on stage, it’s a bad accent on film or tv….because it’s forever. Being realistic, American acting training, even in university, spends precious little time on this very important element in creating a strong and believable character. So, get a coach and learn effective skills to help you be the best artist you can be. A good coach can help you be remembered for the character you have created, not for a less than believable dialect.