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Wednesday
Mar172010

Master Class with Barbara Rosenblat

Recently I had the chance at attend a master class on audio book technique with the renowned Barbara Rosenblat.  The class was held at the excellent Acting Studio Chicago and moderated by Darren Stephens.  The only downside to the whole affair was that it was only two hours long :)

For those who are unaware, Barbara has been called "the Meryl Streep of the audio book world," and this year alone is nominated for five Audies.  She's truly a master of the industry with more than 20 years under her audio book belt.

Barbara Rosenblat Barbara Rosenblat

She started off her introduction with a quote about actors in general: "you start off in the biz because you're a show off...I'm still one."  Her class contained many good nuggets and quotes that I'll try to pass along here in some vaguely organized fashion.

Barbara started by giving us a short history of her performing experience and what led her to (and keeps her in) audio books.  As I've heard elsewhere and experienced myself, she reiterated the passion needed to pursue audio books - they're simply too difficult and poorly paid otherwise.  I've been told ever since I started acting: "if you CAN do absolutely anything else, do it, only pursue acting if you are driven, if you don't have a choice."  The same can be said of the audio book niche in the voice over world: "Only pursue this niche if you HAVE to." :)

Barbara's first book was a Harlequin romance entitled Yet Will I Love Her, which, she claims, is "still bad."  If you're terribly interested, you can still buy it on audio cassette on Amazon here.

Here are some points and quotes I pulled out of her section on technique:
(note, these are her opinion or her specific way of working)

  • You must engage the listener's ear within the first five minutes, or they will not stick with you through an entire book.

  • ALWAYS use headphones, you must hear yourself and what the listener is hearing.

  • Any character voice that calls attention to itself is not suggestion, but exaggeration.

  • Create "the perpetual immediacy of the spoken word."  Or in theatre-acting terms: "the illusion of the first time."  Even though you're prepared, and your "third eye" is reading ahead and knows what is coming, the listener hears it as if for the first time.


Near the end of the session, Barbara closed with a wonderful quote from Ben Brantley's review of Martin McDonagh's new play on Broadway, A Behanding in Spokane.  The quote describes Christopher Walken's use of language, in a way Barbara thinks audio book narrators could be inspired by:
"Pauses pop up when you least expect them, entirely shifting the weight of the words around them. Inflections rise upward when normally they would curve down. A single clause can slalom from ennui to anger. These idiosyncrasies of delivery surprise you into close attention and, ultimately, into feeling you can trace the thoughts of the man speaking."

Overall the experience with Barbara was wonderful, and I'm glad I got to meet her.  As we were talking, she said to me: "our paths will cross again, you know," so here's hoping she's right!

Reader Comments (1)

Christmas party...

[...]Master Class with Barbara Rosenblat « Voice Over Blog Monkey[...]...

November 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChristmas party

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