fundamentals

+ What are your rates?

Private sessions, individual performing artists: Rates for performing clients who are paying out of their own pockets range from $100–$150 per hour, depending on factors such as the number of sessions paid for in advance, and the type of coaching services required.

The above rates are pre-discounted for performers only. If you will be reimbursed by your employer, or if your employer will be paying me directly, please put them in touch with me for a quote.

All other types of coaching: If you’re interested in production coaching (stage, screen, other media), or if you’d like me to give classes, workshops, or seminars at your school, studio, or other organization, please contact me for a quote.

+ What forms of payment do you take?

For private clients, I take payment by cash, check, or credit card (via PayPal). Please note that for payment by credit card, a percentage-based processing charge will be added to my normal rates. You will receive a receipt suitable for tax purposes regardless of payment method.

For production coaching and workshops, etc., I can invoice your company, or we can execute a contract—whichever suits your requirements.

+ What are your hours?

Regular private coaching appointment slots are:

Tuesday–Friday, Sunday: 11:30 AM, 2:00, 4:00, 6:00 PM.

Mondays & Saturdays: Closed.

This schedule may change whenever I need to accommodate production or other contract work.

+ Where are you located?

I’m based in New York City. I also coach by videophone and conferencing apps and services. Contact me to learn more.

+ May I record our session(s)?

Sure! In fact, I usually record coaching sessions myself, whether in person or videophone. I can upload your session recordings to a secure server from which you can download them to your hard drive, smartphone, or tablet. If you prefer to make your own recording, any recording I make will be saved as a backup.

+ What is the Stoller System?

Stoller System, LLC is the name of my business; I chose it because I liked the pun on my last name! If you’re looking for information on my coaching method, click on the next question.

+ How do you coach?

My approach is based on authenticity, modified for the needs of the project, the comprehension of the intended audience, and the abilities and comfort of the performer.

I encourage early acquisition of any new dialect, the sooner, the better—and preferably well before it is needed, so it becomes second nature and you are using the dialect, not the other way around!

We’ll address anatomy, oral posture (setting), resonance, vowel and consonant production, intonation (phrasing, melody, and rhythm), and linguistic considerations such as regional vocabulary and grammar. We’ll investigate cultural issues, such as social class systems and social history. I’ll provide personal instruction, practice material, guides to supplementary resources, and suggestions for ongoing improvement. I also provide session recordings (and you may make your own as well).

I take notes using the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), but if you don’t know IPA, or don’t find it user-friendly, I can help you make your notes another way.

+ Do you offer group classes?

I offer classes and workshops on request to acting studios, colleges and universities, and other institutions. If you would like me to design a workshop for your organization, please contact me.

Some of my past offerings have taken place at the A.R.T. Institute at Harvard University, NYU-Tisch Experimental Theatre Wing, HB Studio, Fordham College-Lincoln Center, Ward Acting Studio Company Program, T. Schreiber Studio, and New York’s Lower East Side Tenement Museum.

I have also given presentations at conferences of the Voice and Speech Trainers Association, the University of Pennsylvania Linguistics Department Colloquium, the Screen Actors Guild NY Conservatory, and Backstage Actorfest.

And I sometimes serve as faculty or guest faculty for classes and workshops led by Anna Deavere Smith.

learning accents & dialects

+ What’s the difference between an accent and a dialect?

Dialect refers to a variant form of a language, as spoken by the members of a specific community. The community might be distinguished by geographical region, or perhaps by social class or ethnic origin. A dialect may differ from the standard form of a language in its grammar, syntax, and vocabulary, as well as in its pronunciation.

Some scholars consider the standard form of a language to be simply one dialect among all those belonging to a collective language. Each dialect of a language has its own rules, and those may differ—a little or a lot—from each of that language’s other dialects.

Note that “non-standard” doesn’t mean “sub-standard.” If the members of a specific community communicate effectively with each other in a non-standard dialect, they are not speaking the standard dialect incorrectly, but their own dialect correctly.

The standard form of a language may be spoken as a first or an everyday language by only a minority of native speakers; but it may be understood by a majority of native speakers. So a standard form can be especially useful for communicating to a wider community, across dialect boundaries.

Accent refers solely to the pronunciation of a language or dialect. If you speak aloud, you have an accent—it’s impossible to talk without one.

It’s not unusual to hear the standard form of a language spoken with a variety of accents, but non-standard dialects tend to have specific accents associated with them. So while one might hear Standarddeutsch (standard German) spoken with a Hamburg, Berlin, or Munich accent, it would be unusual to hear Bavarian German dialect spoken with a Frisian accent, or the other way around. Similarly, it would be very unusual to hear Cajun French spoken with a Provençal accent, or Puerto Rican Spanish with a Castilian or a Mexican accent, or Jamaican Patois with a New York accent.

In the US entertainment industry, the terms accent and dialect are sometimes used differently: accent may refer to pronunciation that derives from a language other than the one being spoken, and dialect may refer to regional pronunciation of the standard language. So you might hear someone speak of a ”French accent” for a role written entirely in English, but a “Scottish dialect” for a role written in standard English but pronounced with a Scottish accent.

For myself, I prefer to use linguistically accurate definitions for accent and dialect; but what matters most in any discussion is that all the involved parties agree on terminology, so they can get on with the business at hand.

+ How much time does it take to learn a new accent?

It depends on what you need and when you need it. I can help you prepare a new accent for an audition in one to three hours, depending on length of the piece, the complexity of the accent, your previous training and experience, and your deadline. Usually, though, that’s only a quick fix—it’s appropriate for an audition (especially if you’ve gotten short notice), but it’s not the same as fully getting the accent or dialect.

For sustained work in a performance, or to build a portfolio (or a wardrobe) of accents and dialects, be prepared to commit to whatever time it takes for in-depth work on any new skill set. Learning to use accents well is a lot like learning how to play a musical instrument. Even if you are fundamentally musical, you can’t play compositions before you’ve learned what notes are, and you can’t play with expression until you’ve mastered technique. Speech skills improve along the same lines, and require the same kind of attention, practice, and interest.

Another good analogy is learning any sport, or martial art. Speech is physical work. It involves repatterning muscles; and by doing that, opening up new neural pathways.

Fortunately, it gets easier as you go along. Just as many musicians learn more than one instrument and more than one style of music, and athletes can learn more than one sport, you’ll be able to pick up all sorts of accents and dialects more readily once you’ve grasped the skills involved in learning your first one.

+ How do you coach?

My approach is based on authenticity, modified for the needs of the project, the comprehension of the intended audience, and the abilities and comfort of the performer.

I encourage early acquisition of any new dialect, the sooner, the better—and preferably well before it is needed, so it becomes second nature and you are using the dialect, not the other way around!

We’ll address anatomy, oral posture (oral setting), resonance, vowel and consonant production, intonation (phrasing, melody, and rhythm), and linguistic considerations such as regional vocabulary and grammar. We’ll investigate cultural issues, such as class systems and social history. I’ll provide personal instruction, practice material, guides to supplementary resources, and suggestions for ongoing improvement. I’ll also provide session recordings (and you may make your own as well, if you like).

I take my own notes using the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), but if you don’t know IPA, or don’t find it user-friendly, I can help you make your own notes another way.

+ What do you need to learn an accent or dialect?

An open mind and a good work ethic are your best friends.

For fluency in accents and dialects, it really helps to have a good grasp of basic speech skills, and then learn to apply those skills in different combinations. You’ll also want to develop a consistent approach to working on any new accent or dialect. That way, you won’t have to feel over-focused on your speech instead of your acting. An accent is a good servant, but a poor master!

Check out “How much time does it take to learn a new accent?” above for more information on what you need to be fully prepared to work in a new speech pattern.

+ What accents and dialects do you teach?

Accents and dialects I have experience with include:

USA:

  • Eastern New England—Southie, Brahmin, N’Hampsha, Downeast Maine, Rhode Island
  • Mid-Atlantic (Delaware Valley)—Baltimore, Philadelphia
  • New York City metro area including Latino varieties such as Nuyorican
  • Midwest/Inland Northern—Chicago, Buffalo NY, Minnesota, Wisconsin
  • Southern—Appalachian, Cajun, “Hoi Toider”, New Orleans, Ozarks, Texan, including African American varieties
  • “Standard American Stage Speech” (aka Mid-Atlantic, 1930s movie elocution)

England:

  • Received Pronunciation (aka “Standard British”—Marked, Conservative, Contemporary)
  • London including Cockney, Multicultural London English, Estuary
  • Midlands including Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire
  • Northern including Geordie (Tyneside), Lancastrian (Lancashire), Mancunian (Manchester), Scouse (Liverpool), Yorkshire
  • West Country including Devon, Dorset, Somerset, Wiltshire

Other British Isles:

  • Northern Ireland including Belfast, Co. Down
  • Republic of Ireland including Cork, Dublin, Donegal, Midlands, Western including Galway
  • Scotland
  • Wales

Other:

  • Afrikaans & Cape Coloured
  • Arabic—Palestinian, Egyptian…
  • Australian
  • Bajan (aka Barbadian)
  • Bulgarian
  • Croatian
  • Czech
  • Dari (aka Afghan Persian, Farsi)
  • Dutch
  • French
  • German including Austrian and Swiss
  • Hebrew
  • Hindi
  • Hungarian
  • Icelandic
  • Iraqi
  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • Mongolian
  • New Zealand
  • Polish
  • Russian
  • Rwandan
  • Serbian
  • South African English
  • Spanish—European and Latin American
  • Swedish
  • Trini (aka Trinidadian)
  • Welsh and “Pirate”!

If you don’t see what you’re looking for, just ask!

+ What accents and dialects should I learn?

Here are some factors to consider:

  • What is your casting “type”?
  • What accents are most requested in current casting breakdowns?
  • What does your agent or manager want you to learn?
    (But also, What would you like to learn?)

Feel free to contact me for a dialect fitting. I‘ll be glad to tailor a repertoire just for you.

+ I hate the IPA. Do I have to use it?

No.

+ What is the IPA?

The International Phonetic Association (IPA) was created in 1886 to advance the scientific study of phonetics (the study and classification of speech sounds) and the various practical applications of that science.

The International Phonetic Alphabet (also IPA) is a notation system devised and periodically updated by the International Phonetic Association. It uses specific symbols to represent all of the sounds that occur in spoken language. The symbols are mostly based on the letters of the Latin alphabet (the alphabet used in English and many European languages), including modified versions of those letters; there are also a few symbols drawn from Greek and other sources, and additional symbols (diacritical marks) to indicate nuances of pronunciation.

The IPA is my preferred notation system because it is has a pretty high degree of precision built into it, allowing users to make (and read) detailed notes efficiently. It’s also the most widely used speech notation system, not only by performers and dialect coaches, but also by linguists, speech-language pathologists, lexicographers, and others.

If you don’t know the IPA, I can teach it to you (and provide lots of resources to help). It’s a great tool, and learning it will serve you well for the rest of your accent-and-dialect using life.

BUT … if the thought of learning another alphabet sends chills down your spine, don’t worry! The most important part of accent and dialect work is learning how to distinguish between different sounds with accuracy, and how to reproduce them equally accurately, as needed. Notation systems are all very well, but they’re not the be-all and end-all of accent work. There are plenty of good musicans who can’t read sheet music, and plenty of actors who are great at accents and dialects who can’t read IPA. You can be one of them.

clientele

+ Have you worked with anybody famous?

I coached Jessie Mueller in her Tony Award-winning performance as Carole King in Beautiful: the Carole King Musical, along with her co-star Jake Epstein as Gerry Goffin. I work regularly with National Humanities Medalist Anna Deavere Smith as her dialect coach, and also as her associate on classes and workshops. Other well-known performers I’ve worked with include (in alphabetical order) Jordan Baker, Justin Bartha, Colman Domingo, Carmen Ejogo (as Coretta Scott King in Selma), Lou Ferguson, Peter Friedman, Betty Gilpin (in Nurse Jackie), Kimiko Glenn, Tom Hewitt, Jonathan Hogan, Robert Hogan, Brian D’Arcy James (in Mozart in the Jungle), Rebecca Naomi Jones, Laurie Kennedy, Karl Kenzler, Kevin Kilner, Roberta Maxwell, Adrienne C. Moore, George Morfogen, Melissa Rauch, Roslyn Ruff, Wrenn Schmidt, Dylan Riley Snyder, and Frances Sternhagen.

To respect the confidence of those clients who prefer to keep their work with me private, the above is only a partial list.

Directors I’ve worked with include Jonathan Bank, Hal Brooks, Marc Bruni, Gordon Edelstein, Leonard Foglia, Leah C. Gardiner, Gus Kaikkonen, Tina Landau, Brian Murray, John Pascoe, Austin Pendleton, Eleanor Reissa, and J.R. Sullivan.

Playwrights whose premieres I’ve worked on include Athol Fugard, Aditi Brennan Kapil, Laura Pedersen, Lisa Ramirez, Anna Deavere Smith, and Paula Vogel.

+ Do you work with kids?

Yes! Among the young actors I have worked with are Dylan Riley Snyder, Matthew Gumley, Schuyler Iona Press, Alexa Shae Niziak, Shannon Harrington, Beatrice Tulchin, Holly Taylor, Meg Donnelly, Athena Ripka, Leah Greenhaus, Gabrielle Piacentile, and Bridget Megan Clark, Dalton Harrod, Lance Chantiles-Wertz, Emma Kantor, Mel Eichler, Namumba Santos, Shadoe Alan Brandt, Max Miner and Samantha Grossman, and others, including several young voice actors in their guest roles on Dora the Explorer and Go, Diego, Go!

I work the same way with children and teens as I do with adults—except that a parent, guardian, or ”child wrangler” must be in attendance.

If you would like references, let me know, and I’ll be glad to put you in touch with the parents of some of my young clients, or the producer or director of a show that had young performers in the cast.

+ English is not my first language. Can you help me?

Yes, if you are an advanced, fluent speaker of English, with an excellent command of grammar, syntax, and vocabulary. If you are still in need of instruction in the English language, you are not ready for the kind of accent polishing I can help you with.

It’s important to have realistic expectations. It’s usually easier for children to acquire new languages and accents than it is for older learners. Although there are exceptions, most adults will find it very challenging to acquire a native-speaker-level accent for daily use. The good news is: With expert guidance and daily practice, you will be able to speak with fewer obvious markers of your original language. You will become easier to understand in an American (or other English-speaking) environment. And it is possible to sound like a native speaker on learned text (lines in a play or screenplay).

Motivation and discipline are key. If you attend sessions regularly, stay focused, and do your homework diligently and mindfully, you will improve.

PLEASE NOTE: Because I am frequently engaged on contract work, I can no longer take on new clients who need long-term guidance in this area. But I want you to get the help you need. If I’m not available to provide that help myself, I will make a referral if possible.

+ I need accent reduction. Can you help me?

Accent reduction is a term I don’t like, especially for performing artists. Your speech pattern is a part of you; even if you could lose it (a doubtful proposition), why would you want to? Why trade one set of limitations for another? Wouldn’t it be more useful to expand your horizons?

If your current everyday speech pattern is limiting your castability, I will be delighted to work with you on accent acquisition—learning a new way or ways to speak that will help you get your job done.

PLEASE NOTE: Because I am frequently engaged on contract work, I can longer take on new clients who need long-term guidance in this area. But I want you to get the help you need. If I’m not available to provide that help myself, I will make a referral if possible.

+ Do you work with non-performers?

Currently I work exclusively with performing artists. If you are looking for speech help in an environment unrelated to the performing arts, please visit VASTA, the Voice and Speech Trainers Association, and click on the “Find a Voice Pro!” menu near the top of the page. I have many wonderful colleagues who will be glad to help you. Good luck!

career