Advice on Auditioning With a Dialect
Every so often you will have the chance to take on an accent when performing. Because dialects range from region to region, it’s important to practice what you intend to speak. Our advice on auditioning with a dialect will go a long way then next time your role calls for an accent. Read below for helpful dialect tips and set yourself up for success.
Play the action, not the accent.
Don’t let the dialect own the scene. Pay attention to the character’s social class, age, upbringing, objective, and obstacle. I have worked with actors who are so focused on the accent that they are not even listening to the reader. If you are not that skilled, perhaps a hint of the dialect is the way to go. Keep it simple and do what you are trained to do. Let your skill as an actor help you land the job, not a contrived accent.
Listen to the casting director’s instructions.
If you are adept with the dialect, by all means, go for it. However, there are times when the casting director does not want you to use a dialect at all in the audition. Can you imagine listening to botched accents all day long? Always check with your agent or manager. When all else fails, don’t be afraid to ask the casting director before you begin.
Work with a coach.
Whether you work with an acting coach or speech and dialect coach, getting help from someone trained in this area can make all the difference in your audition. Dialects are not only about pronunciation but also about cadence, phrasing, inflection, and pitch. Sometimes in comedy, the words are not funny until the dialect is in place. Be careful of over-coaching, however. When in doubt re-read tip number one!
Don’t wing it.
Dialects are part of the basic training of every good actor. Just like your monologues and songs, have your dialects in your repertoire ready to go at any moment. Take the time well before opportunity knocks to learn a few of the more popular dialects such as Standard British, Cockney, Irish, Australian, Southern, and Brooklyn. Practice on trains, planes, and automobiles. Just think how much fun you can have while working on your craft.
Other good resources.
There are many books and CDs available to help you learn dialects on your own. Some authors to research are Edda Sharpe, Jan Haydn Rowles, Robert Blumenfeld, Paul Meier, and Jerry Blunt. Other great resources are VASTA (Voice and Speech Trainers Association) and IDEA Dialects (International Dialects of English Archive) where you can find a real person speaking with the dialect or accent you are looking for.