Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department associate professor Cecilia O’Reilly, coordinator of the voice training component of the Acting Program, was interviewed in the Chicago Tribune in an article about the challenges British actors face mastering American accents. O’Reilly is the dialect coach for the Royal National Theatre of Great Britain‘s production of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis’ play The Motherf**ker with the Hat, which is set in New York City’s Puerto Rican community. O’Reilly commuted between Chicago and London during rehearsals for the show, which opens June 17 at the Lyttelton Theatre in London, running through August 20.
“Accents can be learned more easily than some people think, said O’Reilly, who works as an accent coach for Steppenwolf and other Chicago theaters, and was the dialect coach for the movie August: Osage County,” wrote Tribune columnist Barbara Brotman in her June 14, 2015 article “Blown Away by English Actors with American Accents,” going on to quote O’Reilly as saying: “I think there are a lot of misconceptions out there about our ability to really work with the sound base of another language when we get older. Actors are asked to do it all the time.” Brotman also interviewed O’Reilly about the nitty-gritty of accents and dialects:
“In order to sound American, [O’Reilly] said, British actors have to master the rhotic ‘R’ sound–the hard R–and form vowels differently, shifting the focus away from the roof of the mouth. And then they have to learn regional dialects. New Yorkers drop the hard R. Chicagoans bump up the nasality, carrying the nasal sounds of ‘m,’ ‘n’ or ‘ng’ over into vowels in words like ‘man,’ ” wrote Brotman, who went on to quote O’Reilly directly:
“The Brits are steeped in a tradition, of many, many years of having the appreciation of the variations on their speech. And there is a pride in it.”
And we at the Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department have a pride in Cecilia O’Reilly!