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Actors: Lose Your Boston Accent In Four Weeks

"Edge of Darkness" was both shot and set in Boston.

"Edge of Darkness" was both shot and set in Boston.

Where did Hollywood casting directors turn when they needed some R-dropping extras and bit players for Mel Gibson’s set-in-Boston thriller, Edge of Darkness? Boston Casting.

But not every made-in-Massachusetts film is set in Massachusetts. Some, like Paul Blart: Mall Cop, are filmed in Massachusetts, but set in places such as New Jersey. No Boston accents required.

Boston Accent Reduction Class instructor Wendy Wiberg (Adam Ragusea/WBUR)

Boston Accent Reduction Class instructor Wendy Wiberg (Adam Ragusea/WBUR)

That’s why Boston Casting has started up a Boston Accent Reduction Class. Four weeks and $199 later, you can sound every bit as bland and vaguely midwestern as Tom Cruise!

We listen in on the first day of class.

Guests:

  • Frank Mazzarella, actor
  • Mary C. Ferrara, actor
  • Marjorie Whittaker, instructor, Boston Accent Reduction Class

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  • Pam Kelley

    Regarding the Boston accent, there is nothing random about the Add R Rule that turns, for instance, Santa into Santer. The rule applies when a word ending in an unaccented vowel, known as “schwa”, is followed by a word beginning with a vowel. Hence, Santer and elves/but elves and Santa; pants and a parka (whoops–paka)/but paker and pants. If anyone is interested in where schwa comes from I would refer them to Noam Chomsky’s Sound Pattern of English, Vowel Reduction Rule. Would love to chat more on this subject–I am a Beverly native with a degree in linguistics from the University of Washington.

  • http://www.prospeech.com Marjorie Whittaker

    HI Pam,
    Thanks for your comment. I am a speech-language pathologist with a Master’s Degree from BU. I know the rule, but froze when questioned about it on live radio!
    I would love to talk more about this at a future time.
    Thanks again,
    Marjorie

  • Mary Ferrara

    My name is spelled Mary Ferrara btw, and that was fun, and yes, it’s an ongoing process trying to sound “neutral.”

  • John

    I enjoyed hearing this piece while driving this afternoon. I can easily explain the extra r’s inserted into words like “idea” and “area” using basic physics. The rule is called “Conservation of R’s” and simply states that each time an r is dropped from “pahk” or “cah” it must be inserted into another word, such as “idear” or “arear”, so as to maintain a constant level of r’s in the universe. Occasionally, the balance is completely thrown off and the extra r winds up in warsh!!

  • http://www.wbur.org/people/aragusea Adam Ragusea

    Mary, fixed, sorry about that!

  • http://speakeasyenglish.com Erica Walch

    I’m an accent modification trainer, but I work almost exclusively with non-native English speakers who are trying to achieve greater comprehension. I work in the Boston area a lot (although I’m based in Western Mass, where we have one of the most standard/neutral accents), and sometimes my clients have the double whammy of a non-native accent with special Boston features thrown in. I was working with some of those folks today before I caught this segment on the radio. I’ve forwarded the link to some of my clients — I think they’ll enjoy it as much as I did!

  • Mary Ferrara

    Thanks Adam, no problem. My co-workers and boss enjoyed listening to it. I told them to snap their fingers when I speak anything non-neutral :-)

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