Auditions and accents.

I’ve just been reading Diane’s post about her worst audition and it reminded me of an awful audition experience that I had years ago. As I began to think about it, I had a lightbulb moment and realised where it had gone wrong and that it wasn’t really my fault.

When I got to high school (I grew up in an area with the three tier education system, high school started with year 9) I was really excited to find out that they did a musical every year. Throughout my middle school career I had been in the choir, orchestra and school play every year, and already had a love for watching musicals so it sounded right up my street. The show that year was to be “Dracula Spectacular” which to this day I still consider an odd choice (the following years including Grease, West Side Story and Cabaret). There was an after school audition for the roles of the children and I turned up thinking it was worth a shot. My dream of carving out a high school acting career fell apart very quickly when they announced that the auditions were to be done in American accents.

I can not now and have never been able to mimic accents. Whereas most people who have lived in the West Midlands for a few years can strengthen and/or adapt their accent into a broad Brummie twang for humorous effect mine stays resolutely the same and I just end up with a headache. An American accent was completely beyond me, despite all of the encouragement I was given and I ended up in the chorus playing a village idiot.

I realised a few months ago that I’m missing the ability to do something that it seems most people can do, I can’t hear other people’s voices in my head. I was talking with my mom about my granny who died three years ago. My mom was quite upset about the fact that she was starting to forget how her mom sounded. I had to explain that I’d never been able to do this, once anyone has finished speaking I can’t summon up their voice. This goes for family members, friends and celebrities alike. The most distinctive speakers summon up a vague memory about their voice but this is more of a feeling than being able to hear them. This isn’t to say that I don’t have an inner monologue or indeed have voices in my head. I have both, they just speak in my accent, using the idiosyncrasies of my speech pattern.

My lightbulb moment this morning was the realisation that if I can’t hear specific voices in my head how can I possibly begin to imitate the specific patterns of sounds, intonation and rhythms that make up an American accent? Yes I fluffed the audition entirely and spent the hour fighting the urge to cry, but maybe it wasn’t exactly my fault after all.

3 thoughts on “Auditions and accents.

  1. Oh, your poor thing. Even if you could hear other people’s voices in your head, I can’t imagine that many year 9 kids can do a great American accent, especially at such short notice! We did Bugsy Malone in year 6, and I dread to think what we sounded like, LOL.

    1. Funnily enough everyone else managed. I remember that by that stage Gemma was adept at all sorts of accent. I don’t think many productions of Bugsy sound very genuine really, certainly not ones I’ve seen.

      1. Ha, no. I think that’s probably one reason schools pick it — it’s not a very authentic recreation of events.

        The boy who was the lead in our production of Grease, though, was picked because he was tall and cocky and fancied himself. The singing, acting and accent? …Not so much.

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