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Voice Coach Says Dialect 'Lifts a Character'

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Both Shaw’s “Pygmalion” and the musical adapted from it, “My Fair Lady” make the point that it’s not just clothes that make the man – or the woman. Speech plays a part as well, perhaps even more so.  The current production of “My Fair Lady” running at the Skylight took advantage of a UWM speech and dialect coach to ensure that these very American actors could credibly sound like Cockney Londoners.

"Dialect skills are a piece of what an actor uses to create a part...and when you combine that it can really help lift the character in a new and beautiful way," explains Raeleen McMillion. She teaches voice, speech, and dialect at UW-Milwaukee’s Peck School of the Arts as well as co-founding Milwaukee's Renaissance Theatreworks.

Just as Professor Higgins challenges Eliza Doolittle to speak properly, McMillion had to strip away very characteristic Midwest accents in order to help actors portray a convincing London accent.

"I compare it to if I were going to paint a wall in my house," says McMillion. "If the wall is purple and I want it to be yellow, than that's hard. If it's already got a lot of color in it, then getting it to a different color I got to go lots and lots and lots of layers. But if it's just plain, a light beige or something, than that's much easier."

Raeleen McMillion teaches voice, speech, and dialect at UW-Milwaukee’s Peck School of the Arts.  She was also the dialect coach for Skylight Music Theater’s current production of “My Fair Lady,” which runs through December 27th.

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Bonnie North
Bonnie joined WUWM in March 2006 as the Arts Producer of the locally produced weekday magazine program Lake Effect.