P's And Q's
Local actor Michael Jacobs rounds out those tricky vowels.
Thursday, September 24, 1998
Got a heavy Brooklyn accent? Can''t wrap your tongue around an "ing?" Give Michael Jacobs a call.
Jacobs, one of our area''s finest actors, is also one of the handful of local theater folk who have managed to make a full-time living from their theater skills. With a Master''s degree in Performance from San Jose State, plus coursework in phonetics, Jacobs teaches drama at Carmel High and two special courses at the Monterey Institute for International Studies (MIIS): one in public speaking, and the other in accent reduction.
At MIIS, he coaches future diplomats and international business tycoons on the fine art of getting up in front of a crowd without making a fool of yourself. Many, but not all, of his students are foreign-born, and need to come across better in English as part of their professional careers. "Some need to improve volume, some need more self-confidence in speaking in public, some need to be better understood," he says.
Jacobs approaches accent reduction in a novel way: He treats Standard American English ("which is close to Midwestern speech") as just another accent, which can be learned like an actor learns a specific dialect for a stage role. In his college courses, Jacobs studied dialect using the international phonetic alphabet, which uses standard symbols to represent the sounds used in foreign languages and accents. He uses that same method with his MIIS students.
"Some Asian students have difficulty with ''r'' and ''l,''" he notes. "So I make them do an Irish accent, where the ''l'' is emphasized. Or we do Texas accents, a drawl, so they have to elongate their vowels. Then we pull back to standard American dialect."
In both classes, he gives his students vocal and breathing exercises to improve speaking quality, much as actors use before a performance. In his public speaking course, he works with future simultaneous interpreters, teaching them how to control their facial expressions and body language while they are translating someone''s words. "There are times when the interpreter will need to show no emotion in the voice or face, and other times when they need to show it to convey the emotions and feelings of the speaker," Jacobs says. "I try to give them the ability to do both."
Being an actor is invaluable preparation for this work, Jacobs says. "We also use our voices to make a living," he explains. "It''s one of the reasons I was hired. At the beginning of my acting career, I was told I was nasal, had a high-pitched voice with no resonance and a New York accent. To correct it, I had to take years of lessons."
Jacobs also does private tutoring, if you can catch him between shows: He''s in one show >(Antony and Cleopatra), opening a second this Saturday >(Much Ado About Nothing), and rehearsing a third >(Laughter on the 23rd Floor). cw
Much Ado About Nothing Previews Friday, 8pm; Opens Saturday, continues Sunday, 8pm. Comedy. Pacific Repertory Theater concludes its summer Shakes-peare offerings with one of the Bard''s most popular comedies. Prideful and stubborn, Benedick and Beatrice''s determination never to get married is put to the test as they match wits while trying to marry off their young, more eligible friends. Paul Jennings and Julie Hughett face off as the main protagonists, and the young couple are played by Henry Guevara and Elizabeth Klaas. Directed by Kathy Deskin-Jacobs, who also slashed an hour from the usual running time. Special $5 price for local high school students with ID. Outdoor Forest Theater, Santa Rita and Mountain View, Carmel. 622-0700. $15/general; $10/children; $10/seniors. Through: 10/11.
The Changeling Friday and Saturday, 8pm; Sunday, 7pm. Drama. This 17th-century Elizabethan play is really two plays in one: a tragedy of love and betrayal, wherein a man disguises himself as a changeling in order to be in close contact with the wife of a local insane asylum; and a comedy, enacted by the asylum''s inmates. "The Changeling" features a large cast of Unicorn Theater regulars and newcomers, and period stage and music. Hoffman Playhouse, 320 Hoffman Street, Monterey. 649-0259. $15/general; $12/children; $12/seniors. Through: 10/11.
The Sisters Rosensweig Friday and Saturday, 8pm; Sunday, 2pm. Comedy. Wendy Wasserstein''s 1980s Broadway hit comedy has three middle-aged sisters from New York reuniting at the eldest sister''s London home for her 54th birthday. Pfeni, a disgruntled travel writer, Dr. Gorgeous, a radio talk-show host, and Sara, a financial whiz who''s failed at love, spend a boisterous evening together, punctuated by a couple of erstwhile boyfriends, and plenty of heartfelt reminiscing. The Western Stage Studio Theater, Hartnell College, 156 Homestead Ave., Salinas. 755-6816/375-2111. $15/general; $13/children; $13/seniors. Through: 10/24.
Collected Stories Friday and Saturday, 8pm; Sunday, 5pm. Drama. Collected Stories, a finalist for the 1997 Pulitzer Prize, follows two women--one a successful short story writer, the other her graduate student and eventual protege--through a complicated six-year relationship that passes through adoration, betrayal and bitterness to a tragic, if not entirely unexpected, conclusion. Donald Margulies, who won the 1992 Obie for "Sight Unseen," wrote the play at the 1995 Sundance Institute Playwrights Lab. Neva Hahns and Jessamay Howell are directed by Conrad Selvig in this MPC Players production. Cherry Hall, 4th and Guadalupe streets, Carmel. 646-9478. $12/general; $10/children; $10/seniors. Through: 9/27.
Strange Encounters Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 8pm; Sunday, 2pm. Drama. Third Studio and the MPC Theatre Co. present two one-act plays in the SRO. Agora, a parable of the marketplace, plays off the Faust paradigm as a traveller meets two merchants who offer love, power, desire and happiness--at a strange price. They strike a deal, but the stranger returns 20 years later, wondering whether it was such a bargain after all. The second play, The Palace, is a Patagonian folk tale about a man''s journey into the southern Andes, and the mystery he encounters there. SRO Theater at Monterey Peninsula College, 980 Fremont St., Monterey. 646-4213. $5/general; $5/children; $5/seniors. Through: 9/27.
Always...Patsy Cline Friday and Saturday, 8pm. Musical Revue. The Western Stage brings its production of Always to The Wharf Theater, turning the stage into the Grand Ole Opry for a musical tribute to country singer Patsy Cline, who died tragically in a plane crash in 1963. Told through the eyes of her long-time pen-pal Louise Seger, this show features a live band and more than 20 of Cline''s greatest hits, including "I Fall to Pieces" and "Crazy." The Wharf Theater, Fishermans Wharf, Monterey. 375-2111/755-6816. $20/general; $10/children; $18/seniors. Through: 10/31.
Antony & Cleopatra Friday and Saturday, 7:30pm; Sunday 5pm. Drama. This production of Shakespeare''s tragic historical romance looks a lot different than the $30-million De Mille film. Innovative cutting by Dorian Ellis and PacRep Artistic Director Stephen Moorer trims the play neatly in half, leaving just seven characters and focusing on the love story rather than the wars and battles (although there are still some of those.) The story moves from Rome to Egypt as Antony pursues the woman he loves but can''t have. The performances are uniformly fine, but MaryAnn Schaupp is a stand-out as the Egyptian queen, torn between her kingdom and her lover. John Brady''s set is spectacular, featuring a giant Sphinx head, and Steve Judge''s lighting casts an appropriately moody glow. Here''s the real, human story behind Shakespeare''s words. Special $5 admission for high school students. Golden Bough Theatre, Monte Verde between 8th and 9th avenues, Carmel. 622-0700. $15/general; $10/children; $10/seniors. Through: 10/11.
Ghost of the Ozarks Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 8pm. Melodrama. Yet another in the First Theater''s wide repertoire of 19th-century melodramas, this one was made into a John Wayne movie titled The Shepherd of the Hills. The story is set in Arkansas, but it could be anywhere USA. Plenty of hissing and booing of evil villains, weeping for maidens, and cheering of stalwart heroes. California''s First Theater, Scott and Pacific streets, Monterey. 375-4916. $10/general; $5/children; $8/seniors. Through: 11/3.
Tapping the Glass Tuesday, 7:30pm. Drama. Jeanne Wooster presents the final offering in Pac Rep''s Solo Series with her one-woman show that mixes music and monologue. Tapping the Glass follows Wooster through her final year of college in Philadelphia, as she tries to keep afloat by relying on her friends and her music, spending many a long night at Dirty Frank''s Bar, tapping the glass "in expectation of redemption and enlightenment." Directed by Kathy Deskins-Jacobs. Circle Theater at the Golden Bough, Casanova Street between 8th and 9th avenues, Carmel. 622-0100. $15/general; $10/children; $10/seniors. Through: 10/10
Vivien Thursday, 7:30pm; Saturday, 2pm. Drama. MaryAnn Schaupp-Rousseau portrays Hollywood legend Vivien Leigh, wife to Laurence Olivier and most famous for her role as Scarlett in Gone With The Wind, in a one-woman show that leads off this year''s Pacific Repertory Theater''s Solo Series. We meet up with Leigh in 1967, as she reminisces about the various men in her life, particularly the brilliant and obsessive Olivier. Schaupp, directed by Lamont Johnson, brings Leigh to life in masterful fashion, conveying the star''s mercurial temperament as she takes us through the highs and lows of life in Hollywood''s fast lane, with all the star''s playfulness, jealousy, remorse and ultimate descent into madness. The play will appeal most to an older audience and/or theater aficionados, who will appreciate the juicy tidbits about Clark Gable''s kissing style and Olivier''s jealousy of Leigh''s first Oscar. A tour-de-force by a talented local actress. Circle Theater, downstairs, Golden Bough, Casanova between 8th and 9th, Carmel. 622-0100. $15/general; $10/children; $10/seniors. Through: 10/11.