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Voice Coach Says Dialect 'Lifts a Character'


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.

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