Actors Be Damned! (or: What I Don’t Think)—What Is the Value of (Super) Narrow Transcription?

All actors should learn narrow transcription. And I mean super narrow, with multiple diacritics hanging off of every symbol like crazed Christmas ornaments. All teachers and coaches should employ similarly narrow transcription in all their prepared materials, and whenever taking or giving phonetic notes. They should not water down the detail even when preparing materials for or giving notes to actors who don’t know any phonetics. If these actors can’t handle it, well, that’s just too bad. They should have paid attention in speech class. No. I’m pretty sure some people think that’s what I believe. I don’t. I think […]

Vocal Tract Posture and Four-Year-Olds

A version of this post was previously published in The VASTA Voice. Getting the vocal tract posture of a language or an accent right is a crucial part of successful accent acquisition. Vocal tract posture (also called oral posture), is the particular patterning of muscular engagement, release, and positioning characteristic of individuals and groups of speakers. It is, if you will, the ‘home base’ for an accent, and can be thought of as the position to which the vocal tract returns when at rest, or when preparing to speak or resume speaking. Phoneticians call it articulatory basis, or basis of […]

Accent Coach Apologizes for Offending an Entire People! Read all about it!

In 2011 I was approached by an online “how-to” site to do a series of 2-5 minute “teaser” accent videos. The sort where you learn a few key features of an accent and you’re on your way. Great for the actor who has an audition in a few hours and needs a little something to point them in the right direction. The company asked me to make a list of all the accents I could do in a one-day recording session. They said, “You know, like 30 or 40.” O.      K.   Eager to please, I made as […]

The Name of Action

  I studied acting with the great Earle Gister some years back. He was a brilliant man, and his way of teaching and speaking about acting resonated deeply with me. It felt, at the time, like the missing piece of my equipment as an actor. After working with Earle, I still had plenty left to learn as an actor—I don’t think we ever get to the end of that particular road—but I felt somehow complete in a way I hadn’t before. In every acting job A.E. (After Earle), I knew what to do. It’s not that I was never lost […]

The Bird is the Word

Kim Mappleswitch writes: At The High Standards Academy of Dramatic Art (HSADA) we’re required to teach Standard Stage as a basis for learning IPA. I have asked the faculty here how they teach the /ɜ˞/ sound. On one hand – it’s that the tongue tip stays behind the lower teeth and on the other hand it’s that the tongue tip is not on the lower teeth, but rather “floats” because the body of the tongue is slightly retracted. What do you guys think? Rhoticity is a difficult topic and I’d like to have some clarity with this symbol and get […]

Complexity nourishes art

I taught my first classes of the new year this week, so I’ve been thinking a lot about Dudley. I miss him tremendously, as so many of us do. But at the same time, I feel incredibly fortunate not just to have known him and learned so much from him, but also to be in a position where I get to continue learning from him by teaching his work. Phil and I made a fascinating discovery in August, while we were teaching Experiencing Speech in Irvine. It was a small discovery, just a tiny matter of terminology, really, but an […]