Answers to your questions! Please contact me here if you have any questions not answered below...
What exactly do you do?
I coach actors & non-actors -- from hosts to lawyers to corporate presenters -- who want to improve the use of their voice. At the root of everything in our modern world is communi-cation. Breath, pitch, tone, emotional connection, and whether you're willing to be honest & break a few rules... it all adds up to a strong presence in the room and determines if your message reaches your audience not. And if you get what you want or not -- whether what you want is to book the part or sell your pitch. My approach is integrated and fun and takes YOU into account, no matter what material you're bringing to the table.
How does a dialect session work?
Whether you need a new dialect for an audition or project you've been cast in, or you’re working on mastering an American accent, here's generally the process for a one-hour session:
First I’ll get a sense of where you’re at with the dialect (often if you're learning a new one and you've given me some warning, I'll send you an email ahead of time with links to some authentic speakers, so you can begin to wrap your ear around the sound). Then we’ll work on the vowels & consonants you most need to hone — to train your ear to the subtle differences between sounds that can make a BIG difference in capturing the accent. I'll often jump in & introduce you to some elements of the "International Phonetic Alphabet" — which sounds daunting, but is actually a brilliant secret code that’ll help you keep it all straight. I use a special physical gestural approach to the International Phonetic Alphabet, so there's a repeatable gesture you can learn for every primary sound. It's surprisingly simple and very effective.
Next we’ll work on some good material — your own sides if you’ve brought them, or a favorite piece of text. I also have a big library of scenes to dive into if you're looking for inspiration. The beautiful challenge of dialect work is integrating the new accent WITH thinking thoughts and wanting things from your scene partner or your audience. This integration takes time and requires a bit of courage & playfulness but I'm here to help build your confidence, hone your ear, encourage you to discover aspects of the text that are hard to grasp when you're inside it. Before we finish I’ll often record you & send it to you digitally, reading your lines along with you, or side-coaching you in real time. You will be surprised with the results!
How does a voice session work?
For some actors, or those of you who work in other fields that require public speaking, it’s a game-changer to be able to use your voice better — with more freedom, variety & confidence. Contact me for more specifics; everyone is different! But I’ve helped women who need to find their “leading lady voice” and men who need to find their gravitas, hosts who need to sound more authoritative, and startup CEOs who know that winning over a VC panel isn’t always about what you say, but how you say it.
What are your rates?
Rates for private sessions at my office, another location, or by Skype, vary depending on what you need to accomplish, how quickly you need it, and travel. Please contact me for specific information about your needs and I’d be happy to work something out with you!
What are some helpful links?
Here are some useful websites if you're looking for dialect resources:
The International Dialects of English Archive -- not the easiest website to navigate through, but a fantastic resource for audio clips of people all over the world speaking English, categorized by country or region of country.
Speak with Distinction -- the book and CD that's the best explanation of the International Phonetic Alphabet. I use this book all the time, and if you're serious about learning dialects, it's a fantastic resource to have. Edith Skinner is the doyenne of dialects, and many professional coaches working today, myself included, are one or two degrees removed from her -- that is, our teachers were students of hers.
YouTube -- the "accent tag" that went around a few year ago is pretty great for hearing contemporary regional and international accents (though it's a flawed resource since you never know exactly where the speakers are from & what influenced their current accent).
What's your background, Samara?
I have an MFA (Masters in Fine Arts) from Brown University in Acting and a BA from Princeton in English. I was introduced to the International Phonetic Alphabet when I was a teenager in the ACT Summer Training Congress in San Francisco and loved it. I further studied the "IPA" as it pertains to good speech as a member of the Shakespeare Lab at the Public Theater, working alongside the luminary voice teacher & Juilliard professor, Kate Wilson. While in graduate school the following year, I assisted the head of the Voice & Speech program when he dialect coached professional mainstage productions at Trinity Rep & I was, upon graduation, thrust into the dialect coaching world in New York City -- apprenticing Broadway legend Stephen Gabis, and taking workshops with Royal Shakespeare Company legend Cicely Berry. I quickly began getting hired to coach off-Broadway productions on my own, and built a strong base of repeat clients. I was hired as an adjunct professor at Pace University in lower Manhattan in 2008, teaching "Dialects for the Stage" to BFA students. I moved to Los Angeles in 2009, and have since coached on television (including: American Crime Story: VERSACE/CUNANAN, Preacher season 2, and Santa Clarita Diet) as well as feature films (including: Bright, Avengers: Infinity Wars, Bleed for This, the Point Break remake, and Loving). I'm on faculty at Stella Adler Conservatory in Hollywood and Marki Costello's Become A Host studio in West LA, I train scientists to communicate better through the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, and I have a private practice at my home office in the Cahuenga Pass area, near the Hollywood Bowl.
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