If you’ve already seen the show (or read anything on our website or looked at the show’s poster…), you’ll know that it’s set in Baldwin, Long Island. However, none of our actors hail from anywhere close to Long Island.
Charlie is from Kansas City. Jorge is from Colombia via Seattle. Ali is from Minneapolis.
To help our actors through the process, we turned to our friend Charise Greene. An accomplished actor, teacher, and dialect coach, Charise has most recently worked with Golden Globe nominees Dominic West and Ruth Wilson in Showtime’s The Affair. I sat down with Charise recently to chat with her about the role of a dialect coach and how she approaches a new dialect.
What does a voice and dialect coach do?
My job is to primarily help the actor execute her/his choices in the most powerful, clear and healthy way. It is also my responsibility to support the director’s and writer’s vision for the world of the play/film/tv show, which can involve everything from instructing dialect/accent to coaching placement, pitch, rhythm, and speed.
How did you prepare to coach the Baldwin dialect?
Preparation for any project begins with reading the script to get a sense of place, time, style, and tone. Then comes a conversation with either the director or actor who hires me (usually directors hire me for stage and actors request me for film/tv) to assess the artist’s vision. In this case my meeting was with Aaron [Rossini]. Then I went to Baldwin! I spent a day chatting with locals, recording our conversations, and observing the way their particular dialect impacts physicality. I followed up with research online, then created a sound change sheet, and scored the play. A great deal of my work happens before the first rehearsal.
What’s your favorite dialect to perform and/or teach?
What a fun question! I love doing Russian. I find it lives in my body in a satisfying way (maybe comes from my Dad’s people who came from Lithuania? Who knows?). I like to teach the Scandinavian region. The sing-song thing is super fun.
Any advice to actors working on a new dialect?
If it’s your first time doing an accent or dialect, listen to your recordings every day: on the train, while making dinner, while jogging…the more you can listen while living your actual life, the more muscularity will release; it will remind you to breathe fully and thereby integrate the sounds into your body. Then, like everything else, practice practice practice. But remember that they’re called “plays,” so think of it as play time. This will help keep a sense of spontaneity in the work that will free you up when acting. The dialect/accent should illuminate and support intention, rather than stand in the way of it through muscularity.
You’re a professional actor as well. What’s it like balancing these two careers?
I love what I learn about my acting through my coaching and what I learn about my coaching through my acting. It’s a symbiotic relationship that allows me to get deeper and freer in my work with each passing project. Also, I love breathing life into great writing and whether that is through my voice or the voice of those I’m supporting is less relevant than the passion I have for creativity. It’s all the same at the end of the day.