Cold Reading in Accent
What should you do if you are in an audition and the casting entities suddenly ask you to read the scene again — only this time using a dialect other than your own?
In general, you should ask if you can have a few minutes to prepare. I say ‘in general’ because if you haven’t previously mastered the dialect that you are being asked to perform in, a few minutes of preparation will not be enough time to make a favorable impression on those who are hoping to cast you. In fact, it could hurt your chances considerably. If you find that you aren’t intimately familiar with the dialect you are suddenly being asked to perform in, you’ll need to make a (slightly nervewracking) decision:
1) You can either tell the truth about your lack of skill in this area and risk hearing “OK, thank you, we have seen what we need” — And then when you don’t get the role, (because statistically speaking you probably won’t) you may end up forever wondering if you could have landed that role if you’d have been able to nail the dialect.
2) You can just go for it, (do sub-par work) and run the risk that the casting entities may write you off for future auditions because they get the impression that either you don’t possess a basic understanding of your own skill level or that you have ‘a really bad ear.’
If on the other hand you are suddenly being asked to perform in a dialect that you have previously mastered and integrated, I suggest that you ask the casting entities if you may have a few minutes to prepare. They are very likely to say yes.
When they do, here’s what I suggest you do:
1) Find a quiet spot where you won’t disturb anyone if you are talking to yourself.
2) Set a timer for 1/2 the time they’ve allotted you to prepare.
3) Using a smart phone and some headphones, listen to audio samples of the dialect, specifically whatever sample you have used in the past to ‘tune in’ to the dialect. This of course will take a bit of foresight on your part. You’re going to have to take the time to pre-load your smartphone with samples from every dialect that you have mastered, and you’re going to have to remember to bring your smartphone and headphones to every audition without exception.
4) Practice applying the dialect to the text. Slowly. Deliberately. (You may find it useful to keep a written list of the basic rules of the dialect somewhere in your smart phone to help with this step.)
5) (Breathe and center yourself.)
6) Practice some more. If you have a voice recorder on your phone, record yourself speaking the lines and listen to them, making adjustments as necessary.
7) When your timer goes off, reset it for half of the time you have left and record yourself again, this time acting the script as fully as you will do for the audition.
8) Listen to this recording, and make adjustments as necessary.
9) When the second timer goes off, take a relaxing breath, center yourself and return to the audition area, ready to work.
Break a leg!
A version of this article by Pamela Vanderway was originally posted on Dialect411.com. The steps described here are part of The Vanderway Technique.