What’s in an accent? At the Osceola Center for the Arts, hopefully the ability to nail one.

In addition to a Broadway theater series, the Osceola Center for the Arts has actors workshops for adults.

KISSIMMEE — A theater company can produce a classic British play, one that always draws in great crowds, and with a talented cast, it sounds like a sure hit.
There’s only one problem, Arin Thrower noted. What if the actors just can’t quite pin down that all important British accent?
Thrower should know. She’s the production director at the Osceola Center for the Arts, which schedules both plays to be performed there, and actor workshops for adults who want to improve their skills.
One of their upcoming productions will be the classic British musical “My Fair Lady,” and as Thrower noted, unless they recruit an all-British cast, they have to ensure their actors nail those critical accents — or sound silly up there on stage in front of a full house.
“In ‘My Fair Lady’ especially, there are some serious accents required — a Cockney accent and British accents and so on,” she said.
To help them, the Center will be hosting an actor workshop later this year that will focus on that very subject: nailing those pesky accents.
“We want to bring in somebody to really help them learn accents,” she said. “We’re definitely planning to do a workshop on accents. We’ve wanted to do that for a while, because we think actors would want to learn that for future productions. It’s just something nice for actors to learn, or to polish their accents, whether that would be a British accent or a Southern one. There are various types of accents they could learn.
“Then we may do a workshop that focuses on auditions,” she added.
The Osceola Center for the Arts, located at 2411 E. U.S. 192 in Kissimmee, is known both as a school for students interested in the performing arts, and for its theatrical productions.
They have a busy schedule this fall with the Center’s “Broadway series,” which kicks off on Oct. 14 with a production of the musical “Man of La Mancha,” followed in November with “White Christmas,” then the British comedy “Blithe Spirit” in January, and finally “My Fair Lady” in February and March.
But they also plan to offer a series of actors workshops throughout the year, starting on Saturday, Oct. 8, when actor Tim Beltley will host a three hour workshop on beginner and intermediate acting techniques.
It runs from 9 a.m. to noon that day, and costs $25 per person.
Beltley is an example, Thrower said, of the kind of performer they like to bring in to teach the workshops. He’s performed at acclaimed regional theaters, including the Bucks County Playhouse in Pennsylvania, and been on television and film programs for HBO Pictures and Warner Bros. Television.
This workshop, she said, “is for somebody who wants to brush up on a monologue or has an audition coming up. For the intermediate, it lets them work on a piece of dialogue they may want to polish. But there will definitely be exercises for the beginner as well.”
Participants will get an opportunity at this workshop to learn or improve their acting skills through scene work, improvisation, practicing audition material, and getting critiques of a monologue.
All skill levels, Thrower said, are encouraged to attend, and to bring along a monologue or audition material they’d like to work on.
Turnout for these workshops, she said, tends to be solid — but not so large that each individual performer can’t get the attention they need.
“I would say in the past we’ve had probably 10 to 20 (participants) at the most, usually averaging 15 people, which is a nice size,” she said. “We have tried in the past to do some different classes and workshops, and we find the workshops work best for adults because of time restrictions.”
It isn’t just adults, though, we get to learn at the Center.
“We do have ongoing educational theater for children, and that’s something we do have set in stone that goes on in the fall, winter and summer,” Thrower said.
That includes a series of upcoming children’s productions, including “Treasure Island,” “The Pirates of Penzance,” and “Thumbelina.”
“We’ve got everything planned out through May of 2012,” she said.
To register for the beginners workshop, call 407-846-6257, Ext. 0, or visit The Center from 9 a.m. to noon and 1-5 p.m. weekdays to register in person.
And what about this tough to master British accents? Theater director John DiDonna, who also teaches drama at Rollins College, said there are no hard and fast rules about this.
“British is easy to fake,” he said. “You can do a cartoon British. I don’t think there is a general maxim on that. I have heard foreigners do American dialects that are horrible. I’ve definitely worked with British actors who have tried to do an American dialect and it hasn’t worked out very well.”
DiDonna said anyone interested in this would be well advised to take advantage of what Osceola Center for the Arts is offering: training.
“I think if they get a good dialect coach and they do it, then they’re in great shape,” DiDonna said. “I think the problem is that often times an inexperienced actor who doesn’t understand the need for a dialogue coach will attempt to do a British dialect and what they do, basically, is like a TV British, and it just doesn’t work. I think it’s based on the actor.

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