This hybrid event is free and open to the public.
Register to participate virtually.
Accents Speak Louder Than Words: Examining Accent Bias Through the Lens of Actor Training
Karen Kopryanski: Assistant Professor and Head of Voice and Speech for Department of Theatre
Accents Speak Louder Than Words: One of the most exciting, complex and essential elements of actor training is learning to work with accents and dialects for roles in film and on stage. In voice and speech classes, students develop an awareness of their own accent and begin to train speech muscles to communicate in vastly different ways. The learning process benefits from curiosity, disciplined practice, and an enthusiastic willingness to play and make mistakes, which can be challenging in front of other people. That challenge is exacerbated by our biases about how American English should sound, and the history of accent discrimination runs deep in actor training.
This lecture will examine the evolution of pedagogical approaches to voice and speech and consider what that journey can teach us about actively confronting accent discrimination in our own lives. We will challenge some of our assumptions about pronunciation because accents encompass so much more than the articulation of individual words; they are a direct reflection of identity, a family of origin, and social, ethnic, and cultural background. Accents reveal themselves not just through diction but also through oral posture and a wide range of prosodic features, including inflection, rhythm, and musicality. By interrogating our preferences and biases toward speech, we illuminate the link between who we are and how we sound. In doing so, we improve our ability to communicate with people who speak all varieties of English.
This hybrid event is free and open to the public. The in-person lecture will be held a the ICA auditorium.
Karen Kopryanski is an Assistant Professor and Head of Voice and Speech for VCU’s Department of Theatre. She has coached more than 80 theater productions in the past 20 years, including those at Virginia Repertory Theatre, Huntington Theatre Company, American Repertory Theatre and Actor’s Shakespeare Project. Kopryanski has taught for Williamstown Theatre Festival, Harvard University, Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, Boston College, Indiana University, and the Moscow Art Theatre School. Karen is the Reviews Editor for the Voice and Speech Review, and her co-edited volume, Building Embodiment: Integrating Acting, Voice, and Movement to Illuminate Poetic Text, is scheduled to be published by Routledge in the spring of 2023. She is a member of the Actor’s Equity Association and an Associate Teacher of Fitzmaurice Voicework and was recently appointed to a three-year term as a U.S. Fulbright Specialist.
Previous lectures in the series may be viewed here.