Raife Baker teaches Voice and Speech classes for actors at the Maggie Flanigan Studio. In this video Raife explains the relationship between a dialect, an accent, and the Meisner Technique.
Why is working on dialects not just about working on an accent?
It’s a good question. I think one important thing to understand about the importance of dialects can also be understood by understanding the difference between a dialect and an accent. A dialect is not just the way words are pronounced. It’s also the actual vocabulary that you as a character use in a scene. So many factors go into determining what type of vocabulary you might use. Could be socio-economic class, could be education level, could be region of the country, could be who your parents were, or who your friends are.
All of these questions are questions that a really good actor needs to be asking themselves about their character already. The step that we try to take in a dialects class is how to bring those answers into the acting work. If you find out that your mother never had a high school education, that might have a profound impact on the words you chose to use as a character or the way you pronounce those words or the rhythm in which you speak those works.
Getting really specific about that can bring a level of depth to the character that you might not otherwise have and it would leave the impression of something being lacking from the performance.
What is one of the biggest problems you see with actors working on dialects?
One of the biggest problems I noticed frequently with actors working in a dialect is that they focus so much on perfecting the individual sound of an accent, which is all upon a character’s region of origin or country of origin. But there’s so many deeper questions to ask about a character other than where that character’s from that will affect the way that character sounds.
The actors here at Maggie Flanigan, they’re training in the Meisner technique, which is all about personalizing a role and listening and responding in the moment. In dialect class, we try to figure out ways that we can ask questions about the character that will not only lead us to an appropriate regional accent, that will give us a broad dialect for that character including vocabulary usage, syntax structure in a sense. It all comes out of questions about the character, what the character wants, who the character is. Those questions are essential to giving a well rounded, complete performance.
A lot of times, dialect work can end up sounding hollow or maybe disconnected from any sense of real need. So the work we do here is working to connect a sense of objective and pursuit of that objective with the character’s use of language or keeping them sounding like real human beings.
Learn About Voice and Speech Class for Actors
For more information about voice and speech classes for actors at the Maggie Flanigan Studio, contact the studio directly by calling 917-789-1599.