Careers: Acting, Performing, Directing/Dubbing Voice in Plays

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Question
QUESTION: Dear Taylor

1. Is it possible to Dub voice in Plays as there are live performances by artists as compared to Movies ?.

2. What will you prefer as a play director in this scenario for taking decisions ?.

Performing Artist reports Sore Throat, Cold problem which will not allow him/her to narrate properly just 1 day before the play ?.

a. Replacing the Artist with another Artist.
b. Dubbing voice for the Artist played in background by another artist. i.e. The Same Artist will act in the play, only in the background another voice will be playing which the artist has to synchronize.
c. Cancelling the Play.

Among a,b,c which is best suited for taking a decision and under what conditions and parameters ?.

Awaiting your reply,

Thanks & Regards,
Prashant S Akerkar

ANSWER: Hello Prashant,

A really good question! I would default to A.

Unless the part in question is very small (and this doesn't fit that description) you wouldn't want to dub, as thenature of live theater is variation from show to show. It would take a lot of hours of practice to match up the one actors voice with the other's mouth....even then, nerves, other disturbances could trip up the performance. Even in movies, dubbing or "looping" takes many attempts until the fit is correct...and that's with the original actor most of the time!

I've only had one looping session, a commercial, and the client wanted one line changed by one word. It only took 1/2 hour in the studio to pull it off.

Usually in plays there is at least one "Understudy" for the men and one for the women. They learn the play (all parts) and can step in, should someone fall ill. Usually the theater manager makes an announcement a few minutes before the play, and puts up notices in the lobby and ticket office that there will be a substitute actor that night, in case the absolutely wanted to see the original actor and will not accept the change.

I highly recommend using an understudy!

Best,

Taylor

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Dear Taylor

Thank you.

You have interpreted my question correctly.

As a example, you are the Play director of the Famous William Shakespeare's Play "Romeo and Juliet". Now the Lead performers playing the part of Romeo or Juliet had the sore throat problem, but not critically ill and just one day in advance before the play. Now you could have taken a decision of either a,b or c.

In this case, you selected Option a.

i.e.

a. Replacing the Artist with another Artist.

Another Scenario
----------------

The scenario is that the Lead Role who is playing the role of Romeo or Juliet is a well known theater artist personality. i.e. Audiences are going to watch the play and have purchased tickets because of the famous artist who is acting in the play of either Romeo or Juliet.

So i would really like to know if you had much more time (not a single day, but say 3-4 days), Is it really difficult for practice and match up the one actors voice with the other's mouth ?.

i.e. Behind the curtain another artist is narrating dialogues with a microphone while the famous artist is doing lip movements and gestures.
As you correctly interpreted, the lip movements and the voice behind should synchronize.  

In this case, the audience will be able to see Romeo or Juliet in play but the voice will be not the original voice of the famous artist portraying the role of Romeo or Juliet.

Have you ever encountered such a situation ?.

Awaiting your reply,

Thanks & Regards,
Prashant S Akerkar

Answer
Hello again, Prashant,

No, I have never heard of anyone doing this, although I saw a movie once where a country music singer decided in the middle of a concert tour to abruptly disappear. His manager, in desperation, used another man dressed up like the singer to stand in for the actual star and lip synch to recordings of the singer. She made sure the lights were kept very low and that there was lots of smoke machines pumping out clouds of smoke to obscure his face. It worked in the movie, as it was a movie, but I am thinking in real life, at least the front rows of the audience would know something was wrong.

In reality, I think the star would see a doctor and get treatment to get as well as he could to continue the show. I have seen concerts postponed to another date when the artist was unable to sing. However, they usually offer ticket holders the option of a refund if desired, as sometimes the new date is impossible for them to attend.

In show business there is a mantra that is eternal: "The Show MUST Go On!" -Any professional actor or artist has a duty to their profession to do anything they can to perform the show unless it is impossible.

I once had a performance when I was younger where I had to sing. As luck would have it, I started losing my voice the night before the show. Well, I stayed warm, avoided speaking all day, and an hour before the show, took an anti-histimine tablet (with a small amount of alcohol) to prepare. My voice recovered just long enough to do the show, but immediately afterward, COMPLETELY lost my voice for two days!

Good luck in whichever approach you attempt, but I wouldn't recommend live dubbing. The only person I have ever heard of doing this was Elvis Presley, and that was only late in his career, when he was fat and older, and even then, he only had another man sing the high notes that he could not reach. He sang everything else.

Best, Taylor

Careers: Acting, Performing, Directing

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Taylor Sheppard

Expertise

I can answer questions: on starting a career in acting, mistakes in acting, etiquette when dealing with industry contacts, finer points on how to act, and things to avoid in the field.

Experience

I have been a professional actor 21 years, with appearances in TV, Film and commercials. I have made good decisions and potentially damaging mistakes. I believe anyone who has a dream deserves to explore it, and I take their aspirations seriously. That being said, I do not pull punches. I try to be tactful, but I will not lie to someone, honesty is more effective. My last film role was in "Teeth" which was picked for Sundance in January 2007. It was sold to Lionsgate and Weinstein Co. for somewhere over 2.5 million. The role was "Mr. Griffith", a sex-ed teacher.

Organizations
Ciao Agency-Austin/Georgetown, Texas. (Formerly known as Donna Adams Agency. Matthew McConaughey was a good friend and fellow member. I also have belonged to agencies in three other Texas cities, but they have since closed.) TXMPA -Texas Motion Picture Alliance. Various other internet networking web rings as well as Actors Access. I was instrumental in advising actress Krista Allen on getting her career in acting started in Austin,Texas (we worked at the same Health Club in the early '90's).

Publications
Previously wrote on a now defunct website such as this one. I enjoyed helping new actors.

Education/Credentials
I have acted for 21 years. I studied under James Nelson Harrell as well as other talented actors at Southwest Texas State University. After college, I have taken classes with Julliard graduate Mona Lee, Bill Johnson, Van Brookes, Marco Perella and others in Austin Texas. I am constantly attending classes to maintain my edge and explore new directions. In addition to attending strictly acting classes, I have also taken business workshops with respected casting directors, such as Shari Rhodes ("Jaws","Close Encounters", "Raggedy Man".) Barbara Brinkley, Jo Edna Bolden and Donise Hardy, (Castingworks LA).

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