Northern Irish dialects are extremely difficult for actors to conquer. That’s why Asolo Repertory Theatre employs Patricia Delorey. She’s the dialect coach for the production “Philadelphia Here I Come!,” which is chock-full of characters using this dialect. She is also an associate professor at FSU/Asolo Conservatory.
This particular production follows Gareth O’Donnell as he decides to leave his uncommunicative father, his job as a grocer and his failed love life in Ballybeg, Ireland, to pursue new opportunities in Philadelphia. Ballybeg isn’t a real city, but the county the play lists in the production — Donegal — is real.
Delorey and director of the production, Frank Galati, began the process by discussing what to do with the dialect: Should they adapt it slightly or really go for it?
“I really went for it in this instance,” Delorey says. “The location has a lot to do with who these people are. Even though the story is universal, how it’s expressed has a lot to do with the way they speak and where they live.”
Delorey’s job is specific. She has to train herself in the dialect to be able to coach the actors. She uses the International Phonetic Alphabet — it uses letters to represent specific sounds in every known spoken language. Delorey describes the process as being similar to musical notation. She transcribes the script into sounds using this alphabet. She also knows the physiological way sounds are made in the mouth and how to describe them to the actors.
Delorey enjoys dialect work and the research involved. It gives her a broader perspective of the world. Learning about and perfecting a dialect is a way to honor it.
“By studying dialect, I learn about the people, who they are, the hardships they bear and the joys they have,” Delorey says.
Her research includes finding recorded sound samples of people who were born in the town from the similar time period. A few weeks into her research she stumbled across a documentary “Disasters — Donegal Trawlers.” It’s about three generations of fisherman who all die from various disasters in the small town during the late ’60s and early ’70s. It was a lucky find; sometimes she only gets snippets. It speaks to not only the sound of their voices, but the quality of life.
They live in a harsh environment that’s extremely punishing — they are real salt-of-the-earth people. Her voice quickens the more she talks about the film. The film made her think about why someone would want to be a fisherman if both his father and grandfather died at sea.
“I remember one of the men said, ‘The sea gives and it takes away,’” Delorey says. “I thought, ‘That’s it!’”
For Delorey, that’s the element that made these characters real and helps her translate them to the stage. These aren’t just people in a play speaking in a particular accent.
“These are real people,” she says.
IF YOU GO
‘Philadelphia, Here I Come!’
When: Runs through April 12
Where: Asolo Repertory Theatre, 5555 N. Tamiami Trail
Cost: Tickets are $21 to $76
Info: Call 351-8000 or visit asolorep.org
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