Archive for January, 2008

Jan 28 – Roight nice noight it iz.

Posted in Acting, actor, Theatre with tags , , , on January 28, 2008 by actingchick

Woil, we ‘ave moved on frum proiper British RP English, an now ar stoodyin’ de moor woiking accen’ Cockney. There are a lot of similarities between the two, and then of course a lot of differences, because they obviously sound very different. In both the “R” before a consanant is dropped, wehk for work, for example. But where Cockney differs the most I think is in the pronunciation of the vowels, and specifically the vowel sounds of RP turning into diphthongs.

So the “ay”sound, is pronounce like an “I”. So same, becomes sime (rhymes with time). The “I” sound becomes “oy” So time becomes toyme. And there are more. Also a lot of consonants get switched out. The “th” as in think becomes an “f”. So “I think I got something stuck in my throat becomes”, “Oy fink oy got sumfin stuck in my froat.”

We spent Thursday night wrapping up RP, and moving on to Cockney, and then three hours on Sunday morning speaking Cockney, which of course we mushed up with RP, because we have been studying that. I started to forget how to talk like my regular old American self.

I don’t know if I am sounding accurate when I am practicing on my own. I need to rent a British person, to follow me around and correct me as I try to talk my way through the day. Moik shur oym speakin’ tha roight whey, an oll.

Jan 21 – Aye luv tah heah ya tock.

Posted in Acting, actor, Theatre with tags , , , on January 21, 2008 by actingchick

Last Accent Study class, we started working on a scene from a play, A School for Scandal, by Richard Brinsley Sheridan.  It is a comedy of manners written in 1777.  The language is very pompous and lends itself naturally to the British Received Pronunciation’s stuffiness.

I got to read the part of Lady Sneerwell as she plots with her friend Snake to break up a relationship so she can get the man.  We did some of our usual warm up exercises, but then spent the majority of class reading the play out loud.  After three hours of attempting to speak RP I found it hard to turn off when I got home, much to the amusement/annoyance of my roommates.

I have been finding that working on learning the RP accent has affected my everyday speech a little.  I find I am easily slipping in at least the cadence of RP, if not the whole accent.  I find my mouth moves a little differently.  RP is spoken in a different part of the mouth than General American.  To me it feels a bit like talking with a small piece of had candy in my mouth.  It sort of rolls around in the front of the mouth.

I spend my time in the car saying my practice phrases.

Barbara was very barbaric, very very barbaric indeed.
Bah-beh-ra woz veddy bahr-bear-ick, veddy veddy bahr-bear-ick in-deed.

The other day I was going to say something amusing.
Thee uth-er day aye woz goh-ing tuh say sum-thin a-myoo-zing.

The Secretary of the Home Department
Thee Seck-ruh-tree ov thuh Hoh-im De-pah-t-ment.

I know I don’t know how to get over to the road.
Aye kna-oh aye don-ta kna-oh ha-ow tuh get oah-vah tuh tha row-a-da.

I try to spend a lot of time going over my pronunciations, and also just practicing everyday speech with an accent.  I’ve been telling everyone I work with, go to Aikido with that I am taking this class, so don’t think I am going crazy when I start speaking like a rich upper-class English lady.  I often don’t get the accent right, but the more practice the more naturally it comes.  I am sure an English person would be able to tell much better when I am on and when I am off.  Sometimes I can tell too.  What I need is some Brit to follow me around all day correcting me.

On a side note, when I was doing some research on Received Pronunciation and British dialects, I came across a few websites where people discussed whether they preferred an American or Standard British accent.  These were people who were learning English as non-native speakers.  I was actually surprised at how many people said they preferred the American accent, some because it was easier to learn, others because it sounded less stuffy, others gave no reason.  It was probably split 50/50 overall, but that it was so even surprised me.

I guess I assumed that people would naturally prefer the British. Of course I am a native American speaker, so I find it rather mundane.  I don’t know about other cultures, but Americans find non-American accents intriguing, and many of them outright sexy.

I haven’t run into anyone who thinks American accents are sexy.  A lot of Brits look down on American accents, at least to the point of commenting that we pronounce and spell English wrong, which I guess is true from their point of view.  Even Americans don’t seem to find American accents sexy, outside of a few of the Southern drawls, though I must admit I have a fondness for Boston accents.

I remember being in the fourth grade in school and we had a substitute teacher for a while who was from Boston.  At the time we were reading 101 Dalmations.  So there were a lot of dawgz bahking (dogs barking), and Cruella Deville’s cah (car).  I had never heard anyone talk like that before, and I thought it was so cool.

Jan 16 – Ball and change.

Posted in Acting, actor, Theatre with tags , , on January 16, 2008 by actingchick

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Last night was my second Accent Study class. We did some vocal and physical warm-ups at the beginning. We did a ball tossing exercise, the purpose of which was to get us to pay attention to each other. One person stands in the middle of a circle and has a ball they throw to people around the circle’s edge. Whoever the ball is thrown to, throws back to the center person. At some point someone else from the edge of the circle stands behind the center person and they change places.

The point is to keep the rhythm of the ball throwing as the exchange is made. Then a second ball was added. The people on the circle’s edge throw to the middle at the same time the person in the middle throws to the circle. Again the goal is to keep the rhythm as the exchange of the center person is made. What has that got to do with learning British accents? Nothing directly, it is more of an exercise in listening and paying attention to what is going on.

Another exercise we did was “Honey I love you.” Again it is the circle formation with a person in the middle. The person in the middle (PM) walks up to a circle person (CP) and says, “Honey I love you. Can you give me a smile?” The CP replies “Honey, you know I love you, but I just can’t smile.” The goal is for the PM to make the CP laugh, and of course for the CP to not laugh. If the CP laughs, then they go to the middle of the circle and it is their turn to try and make someone laugh.

I am an easy mark when it comes to someone making me laugh. I was laughing when the PM was working on someone on the other side of the circle. Often they wouldn’t even get “Honey, I love you.” out and I would be laughing.

Some people were better at resisting laughing than others. One woman was really good. No one could make her laugh. After about my fourth or fifth time in the middle, I thought OK, I am going to go for her. I am going to make her laugh.

My clown training helped. I walked to the far edge of the circle opposite her, as far away as I could get from her. Then I undulated my way over in my clownesque walk. Right as I got to her, I got the instinct not to say anything yet. I circled around her, undulating and making eye contact as I went. Then I stopped in front of her and said my line. No laughter.

I maintained eye contact, giving her my crazy clown eyes. She started to say her line. I saw the corners of her mouth twitch just a bit. I stood about 6 inches in front of her and pointed an index finger at each corner of her mouth pretending to push them up into a smile. We weren’t allowed to actually touch the person, so I just mimed it and made little squeeling noises as I maintained eye contact. She got almost to the end of the line and burst out laughing. I raised my fists to the air triumphantly. Gotcha!

Thank you George again for the clown class. I had the determination to follow the thread I picked and it worked.

What has this got to do with learning British Accents? We had to say the lines in our best Received Pronunciation (Uppercrust British) accent.

We also worked on reading a monologue in front of the class, and the teacher would correct our pronunciation. We will be working on scenes the next time with our proper British Accents. All good fun, but for me the highlight was getting that woman to laugh.

Smashing good fun I say!

Jan 15 – Like a rolling stone.

Posted in Acting, actor, Theatre with tags , , , , on January 15, 2008 by actingchick

forward-roll.jpgThis weekend was the first of the second part of the three part Stage Combat class that I am taking at Freehold. A few people didn’t continue on with us so we are now a small group of 6. It is unfortunate that they had to drop out mostly for financial reasons, but we will benefit from the smaller class size.

I had missed the last class of part one, so it was review for the others, but not for me. We worked on some rapier and dagger, which I like a lot. It was hard having the month off, I was fuzzy on the numbering system that we use for targets. OK, is Number 4 a thrust to the sword hand side of the chest, or the non-sword hand side of the chest?

We mostly did the rapier and dagger, but the last 40 minutes or so of class we did some unarmed stuff, which mostly consisted of reviewing forward rolls and learning backward rolls. Now I missed the last class, so I didn’t realize they had moved onto rolling, and it made me very glad that I already knew how to roll.

It is funny, but in Aikido (at least at our school) we take a long time to train people how to roll. We break it down into phases starting from the ground up. We have some pre-rolling exercises that we do to get people comfortable. Some people pick up rolling right away, and some people (and this was me) take a very long time to get it. For a lot of people rolling is scary (as it was and sometimes still is for me).

But I have gone to other martial arts schools, and now in Stage Combat, and when the time to roll comes up, it is about a half a minute speech of put your arms like this in a wheel, and then…roll. A few demo rolls follow, and then people just throw themselves into it. A literal crash course in rolling.

I remember the first time this happened to me. I was so glad that I could roll. Some people got it, but some were crashing pretty hard. I have done quite a bit of crashing myself, and I know that it hurts. If not right then, then the next day. And for those people like myself who find it scary, it might be such a turn off that they don’t come back. I think we lose a fair number of people in the first three weeks of Aikido class, because of this.

So now in Stage Combat, I found myself once again saying, boy am I glad I already know how to roll. My problem stemmed from the fact that I roll too smoothly. In Aikido you want to get down and up off the floor in as smooth and continuous a motion. However in Stage Combat you want to hit the floor and make it look like it hurts.

Of course you learn how to do this safely, but I kept finding myself rolling and then starting to come up. I had to really concentrate to learn how to flop on the ground. Still I prefer that problem to the problem the others had of cranking their necks by going over the wrong way.

We incorporated the rolling into a little scenario where we karate chopped someone on the back of the neck, and then “flipped” them by the arm. Classic Avengers stuff. The people being “thrown” actually throw themselves. You are just doing the arm movement, they put in the momentum, thereby controlling the move and making it safe for them.

Now I throw people pretty regularly for real, so when it was my turn, I walked up, did my chop, grabbed the arm and “threw”. There was some laughter behind me, and one person said, wow, your so matter of fact about it. Well, what can I say, I’ve had a lot of practice.

Just a note to those people who read my blog. I have started another blog with some other friends tracking our attempts to lose that flabby midsection that we all have. There are three of us blogging on there. If you are interested in that sort of thing, you can check it out at:

http://fattybobatties.wordpress.com/

I have to warn you though. There are “before” pictures of us in bathing suits, and it ain’t pretty.

Jan 11 – You gotta speaka my language.

Posted in Acting, actor, Theatre with tags , , , , on January 11, 2008 by actingchick

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I had my first Accent Study class last night. I really didn’t know what to expect. I was wondering what we were going to do for three hours at a time, two nights a week. I mean I figured we were going to be learning accents, but how were we going to do it, what sort of exercises were we going to have to do? What sort of assignments? Would we have to do a monologue? What accents were we going to do? So many unanswered questions.

I get there really early despite the hellish traffic and the need to get dinner beforehand. I only work a mile and a half from the school, and I had a hour and a half to get there. I eat my chicken taco and wait for my classmates to arrive.

The first is a guy who seems very exuberant. Definitely seems like a person who would be in the performing arts. Then another woman comes in. She seems a little exotic and yoga-ish. We start chatting and getting names. A guy comes in with two red playground balls and a portable CD player sets them down and he leaves. I assume he is the teacher, because who else would run around with red playground balls.

More people arrive, and one of them is a guy who I have had in a couple of classes, so that’s nice. I am not totally among strangers. We start class of course by the hated ritual of telling a little bit about ourselves and our experience. My experience, other than watching Dr. Who as a kid, and a lot of other British TV, and talking with a bad British accent for fun, I have had no formal training.

We start to warm up our bodies and voices. Pretty tame stuff after Clown. Then we start talking about the differences between Standard British or RP (Received Pronunciation) and Generalized American. The teacher says some words, we repeat. We talk about vowels, and diphthongs, and consonants.

We move on to saying short sentences constructed more for their ability to emphasize a particular sound than to make sense. An example: Barbara was very barbaric, very very barbaric indeed. And my favorite phrase of the night: Secretary for the Home Department. Secretary is said in only three syllables (actually more like 2 1/2) and you can make yourself sound like a very snooty BBC commentator pretty easily with that one.

It was like being in a foreign language class, but one where you actually understood the meaning, but couldn’t speak. The subtle vowel and consonant shifts confounded most of us, especially when reading, because our brain reads, and then our mouth want to say it the way we’ve always said it, not the way those crazy Brits do.

For instance they like to drop the “R” in words or minimize it. The phrase:

The firemen at work saw the fire first by the far door, sounds like:
The fiah-mun et wehk sawr the fi-uh fust by the fah doh.

We Americans like to say “er” Figh-er (Fire). The Brits speaking RP say, Fi-uh.

This is how we spent most of the time, going over these sentences and individual words and practicing saying them. Later we will end up doing a monologue and a some scenes together. We are supposed to learn Standard Britsh, and Cockney, and then hopefully a third accent probably Irish, but I wouldn’t mine American Southern. Just because it is in this country doesn’t mean I know how to talk like that.

Jan 7 – Crikey! Schools about to start.

Posted in Acting, actor, Theatre with tags , , , on January 7, 2008 by actingchick

Well, I finally signed up for classes. I am officially registered for Accent Study, Voice, and Stage Combat Part II. My first class, Accent Study, will be this Thursday evening at 6:30. the class is twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

I am looking forward to it. I don’t really know what to expect. I mean I know we will be speaking in accents, but what accents are we going to do, and what are the exercises going to be like. We will have to do scenes, or a monologue, or pretend like we are peanut butter with a cockney accent.

I can pull off a bit of a British accent already, that is as long as you aren’t from Britain. My problem is that my accent will wander all over the British Commonwealth from Ireland to Australia within the same sentence. I don’t always know the differences between some of the accents. If it’s stereotypical Cockney, or someone lamenting over Lucky Charms, or yelling “Crikey, I’ve been stabbed in the heart by a stingray!” I might have a chance of figuring out where it’s from. Other than that, it’s just guessing.

I can’t do southern American accent either. How will I ever play Blanche?

I used to be able to do a really good Valley Girl accent, but I’ve, like, totally lost it over the years away from Southern California. Bummer.

On Saturday I have Stage Combat, continuing my progression with that. We were just starting to do rapier AND dagger. That’s pretty fun, and then we move onto Broadsword. Wahoo!

My Voice class doesn’t start until February, but that’s OK. I have this other stuff to keep me going for now. At least I will have new stuff to write about.

Jan 3 – Decisions, decisions.

Posted in Acting, Art, Theatre with tags , , , on January 3, 2008 by actingchick

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Classes start next week, and I haven’t signed up yet. Normally I have the registration form filled out the moment it becomes available. Mostly my problem is monetary. How original, right?

The problem is there are four classes I want to take. Auditioning, Voice, Accent Study, and Stage Combat. This totals up to, well, let’s just say a lot of money. So I have to choose, what I am going to take, or I can rationalize away and put it all on the credit card.

I am personally leaning towards the latter. What is a credit card for, right? And I have a girlfriend, who theoretically is going to get some inheritance money soon (Yes, I know about counting chickens and all…), and her money is my money (and vice versa of course).

Adding to that, I have been trying not to use the credit cards because we are trying to pay off our debt (which we will be able to do when that inheritance check comes – whenever that is).

So I can be somewhat selfish and reckless, and charge up the credit card, or I can play it safe and sign up for only one class. I have to take Stage Combat because it is Part Two of a series, and I want to get my certification Society of American Fight Directors certification, assuming I pass the test.

But that class is only one day a week, and there is not much “acting” going on.  A bit, but mostly it is the technical aspects of learning how not to stab your partner or give them a black eye for real.

Then I really want to take Voice. Trust me, I need it. I’ve been wanting to take this class for a year, and they haven’t offered it, so I want to get in while I can, because who knows if they will offer it next quarter and how long I will have to wait.

I will admit that Accent Study is just for fun, but still important. More job opportunities if I can do a few different accents. Still, I could take it later. Then there is Auditioning. That just screams you need to take me. How can you get a job without auditioning? I have no audition pieces yet. I need some, and this is a perfect opportunity to get some and get them polished up under professional tutelage.

Too many choices, not enough dinero. Plus, the guilt factor of frittering away my girlfriends inheritance, and she’d let me, silly her. Really if it were just me, those credit cards would be flaming.

I will have to run this all by her tonight, because I need to sign up by tomorrow before any more classes fill up. I just checked the website and Auditioning is now closed because it’s full.

Well, that’s one choice off the table.