Nevell Keeps the “Accent” Stage Perfect

Dialect Specialist Shares His Expertise With Students and Pros Here and Abroad

July 2, 2007

By Gail Matsunaga

If you were in the audience for the recent production of “The Constant Wife” at the Pasadena Playhouse, you wouldn’t have seen David Nevell, assistant professor of theatre and dance, but you would have ‘heard’ him — through the actors’ depiction of London’s upper class society of the 1920s.

As dialect and vocal coach for the W. Somerset Maugham comedy, Nevell trained the cast to perform with what he describes as “RP — received pronunciation; the Queen’s English.”

His vocal coaching, he said, was necessitated by the theater’s not-so-ideal acoustics. “I was helping the actors be heard in the theater and not hurt their voices. With eight performances a week that’s really important.”

Earlier this year, Nevell shared his voice work expertise with students at Toi Whakaari: New Zealand Drama School in Wellington, where he conducted master classes at the invitation of the institution — considered New Zealand and Australia’s premiere theater school.

The trip coincided with grants he received from the Faculty Development Center and Office of Grants and Contracts to pursue his research as a dialect specialist. He interviewed people in remote areas of New Zealand, collecting dialect samples — which can be found, along with others, on the International Dialects of English Archive website:

Nevell returns to Toi Whakaari July 6, for seven weeks to teach voice curriculum to students, and will be the vocal coach for its production of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.” Additionally, he will conduct two intensive, weekend-long workshops for voice teachers and professional actors at Toi Whakaari and Unitec, a university in Auckland.

In ‘exchange,’ Nevell will host Tom McCrory, Toi Whakaari’s head of movement, to Cal State Fullerton for two weeks of master classes in September.

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