Sunday, January 27, 2013

Pygmalion: Dialect Coach Lindsay Barlett Sounds Off On Working With Our Actors

In our continuing series of posts looking behind-the scenes at BoHo's co-production of Pygmalion with Stage Left Theatre, we got a chance to talk to Dialect Coach (and Artistic Director of 20% Theatre) Lindsay Barlett on how she approached her work for this show.

Working on Pygmalion would seem to be a dialect coach's dream because it's a show all about dialect. Where do you start with a play like this? What is your process for gathering info?

Lindsay: This show is definitely a dialect coach's dream but then again any show with a vast amount of dialects is a dream to do because it challenges me. When I got the job working on this show I watched a lot of My Fair Lady as well as taped versions of Pygmalion just so I could get the tone. I also, as per usual for the shows i worked on, started gathering worksheets and voiced examples to not only use but pass on to the actors. A lot of my process happens after the show is cast and the rehearsals have begun because then I can witness how well a person will do with a specific dialect and whether we can tailor it or not.

What is the most fun about being a dialect coach?

Lindsay:I think the most fun thing about being a dialect coach is watching people become somebody different. Even when an actor is in their normal street clothes when you watch them put on a dialect they become a completely different person even though they are just changing the sounds that are coming out of their mouth. I kind of see it as a super power and I taught them it. I think Higgins nails it on the head when he says "you have no idea how frightfully interesting it is to take a human being and change her into quite a different human being"

What is the most challenging aspect about what you do?

Lindsay:I think the most challenging aspect about what I do is that sometimes people just can't do dialects. It's the same was as singing, not everyone is born with that talent and it takes time. It's very difficult sometimes to carve out time with an actor to work on dialect stuff because the blocking, working and general rehearsal process takes precedent but the dialect work sometimes takes the longest.

What is something that you think people don't realize about what you do?

Lindsay:I think that people don't realize how long dialect work takes. It's a different sort of designer schedule than more prominent designers like set or costumes. A Dialect Coach has to be available as often as possible at rehearsals and outside of rehearsals. Coaches are essentially an extension of the cast and not the production team.

Where do you find the time to be so knowledgeable about dialects AND be an artistic director at the same time?

Lindsay:sometimes I ask myself that very same question ;) To be honest, dialects come very easy to me, it's second nature and I have been doing them since I was a little kid so it is easy for me to translate what I know into teaching it to other people...I also am addicted to coffee and can run on very little sleep.

You can learn more about Lindsay on her website: You can also hear all of Lindsay's carefully crafted sounds in person: Pygmalion is currently running at Theater Wit through February 10th. Learn more...

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