Aug 16 / Petra Wood

Accents for Actors — a journey into who we are through how we speak... (Part 1)

Kia ora, I’m Petra!

I’m an actor in my final year of training at Toi Whakaari: New Zealand Drama School.

My interest in accents began during my time spent living in Australia and Europe listening to many different people speaking English with many different accents. I found this really interesting as accents give us such a unique insight into people’s life, culture and history.

I returned to New Zealand in my late twenties to train as an actor and have seen how important it is to be capable of inhabiting a character’s accent in order to portray them authentically.

Join me as I journey into the world of Accents for Actors — sharing my questions, discoveries, challenges and insights along the way!

Lesson 1:
Breaking it down through You

It was great to join the first class on Zoom and get to meet the other participants.

In this lesson we focused on getting to know our own unique accent and how it differentiated from others — including people with the same cultural accent as ourselves! I found this really interesting because when thinking about playing different accents I’d never considered that it would be helpful to understand my own in such detail. Yet, this seems to be foundational in order to learn how to shift into another.

One task we did was pairing up with another person and listening to them speak for two minutes. We focused on the way they spoke rather than what they were saying and then wrote down all the differences to our own speech patterns. I noted differences in pace, accentuation of vowel sounds and pitch. I found I didn’t have the vocabulary to explain some of the differences I felt and I’m looking forward to developing my ability to describe in detail the things I’m hearing.

Hearing my own accent without judgement was quite challenging at times and reminded me of how weird and cringe-inducing it can be to hear yourself speak — but as an actor it’s something I really need to get used to!
Jon spoke with us about how our personal accent is not random; it is something we craft across our life based on choices that we make about how we sound. This is so fascinating! And has me really reflecting on why I speak the way I do.

We also discussed as a group any unconscious biases we might have about other accents and ways of speaking. Recognising the existence of these biases is important because they can hold you back when learning an accent and there’s a risk you may end up commenting on an accent rather than portraying it authentically.

I’m excited for the next session and eager to see what we will learn in the next chapter of Accents for Actors!

Accents for Actors one of our flagship online training courses for actors.
Discover the secrets and skills to tame your tongue and wrap your mouth around any accent in this 8-week learning journey. 
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