Accents In Drama

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noun |ˈakˌsent|

a distinctive mode of pronunciation of a language, esp. one associated with a particular nation, locality, or social class

I wonder how popular is the use of accents in drama/theatre classes? I recall the good old days (or are they still with us?) where students in drama classes were so consumed with American television as part of their popular culture, American accents found their way into nearly every classroom drama (okay if you’re teaching in an American school!).

More importantly, how many drama teachers have the skills to effectively teach accents for drama classes and/or school theatre productions? Is accent teaching available in pre-service teacher education or only available in some performing arts courses preparing tertiary students for acting and theatre as an industry?

I certainly have had no formal training in teaching accents and know of only one colleague or friend who has been an accent coach in a past life before drama teaching (maybe I just lead a sheltered life?!). I often feel inadequate as an educator when it comes to students wanting accents for a character in drama. But alas, this is the age of YouTube which is a wonderful resource for accents. Students happily find themselves any number of YouTube clips by people all across the world speaking in particular accents for others doing research. Accents on audio CDs are a little hard to find, but I have previously blogged about one resource here. These days I assume students find places to download accents, also.

As I discovered today with Year 9 Drama students, the ability for a student of drama to acquire or mimic an accent for a drama performance is only part of the task. The other part involves maintaining it throughout the entire performance. I think the old rule never attempt an accent unless you can do it properly applies here, too.

It would be interesting to hear from anyone who actively encourages or teaches accents in the drama/theatre classroom and how students respond to it? Any funny stories involving drama students using accents? Any accent resources worth sharing with others?

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1 Response

  1. Rose says:

    If you look at drama beyond the school system you are generally required to speak in your own voice but also have the ability to do a standard american accent – I think it depends on the character and context. Ultimately thought if the attempt to do an accent is at the expense of characterisation and story telling then avoid!!!!

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