Funny Accents

There was an interesting article the other day in the New York Times about British stage actors attempting American accents and how strange it often sounds to American ears.  It made me think of the time when I auditioned for a play and the director told me, "Try it again, but this time without the accent."  For the life of me, I couldn't understand, because I hadn't used an accent.  Then it dawned on me -- he meant my natural Bronx accent. 

Ever since then I've tried to "lose my accent," but realistically everyone has some sort of accent, so the truth was that I was trying to replace one accent for another -- that vague, general, "All-American," "can't really tell where you're from" accent.  I've come to appreciate my Bronx voice, even if it occasionally cost me a role. 

Some actors are famous for their ability to master certain dialects.  Meryl Streep, for example, is the Queen of Accents.  But I thought her attempt at a Bronx accent in Doubt was distracting.  Maybe because as a native New Yorker, I could better detect the nuances of her attempted speech patterns, and they didn't always ring true, or they sounded too forced.

Some actors shouldn't even try accents.  Take Kevin Costner, for example.  Watch his feeble attempt at a British accent in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (he actually gave up on the accent less than a third of the way through the movie.) He did slightly better with a Boston accent in Thirteen Days, but even that was annoying at times.  His best work usually comes when he speaks naturally.  

So if you come see me in my next Shakespeare production this May and you happen to notice my Bronx accent, don't be too harsh.  It could always be worse.  :)