Nuyorican Accents in Melbourne

New York City, Australia

Where do Aussies go to sound American? Director David Bell and dialect coach Jennifer Innes turned to AccentHelp for their production of Motherf**ker with the Hat. Red Stitch Actors Theatre in Melbourne recently produced Stephen Adly Guirgis’ Broadway hit to rave reviews.

When Bell first read the script, the main thing he was attracted to was the language. “When it’s spoken with a kind of lightness and speed, it just flies – verbal fireworks.” They incorporated the dialect work from the very beginning of the process. “The writing actually makes it very easy; it just trips off the tongue.”

Bell and Red Stitch knew it was going to be a challenge casting the show. Although Melbourne is very multicultural, there is not as large of a Spanish/Latino community. They eventually cast actors from Melbourne and Sydney, an actress who had moved to New York City and came back for the production, and one person originally from Jamaica.

New York + Puerto Rican = Nuyorican Accents

Innes and Bell used the dialect as one element to bring these actors together from the same world. “I get a bit obsessive about pre-production research, and I often find my way into a production through music and the musicality of the language, so I’d been listening to a lot of Nuyorican music,” Bell said. “I had been searching for accents, and I found AccentHelp.” Bell and Innes used the New York City Latino and the New York City materials for Motherf**ker with the Hat.

Bell had actually already heard about AccentHelp from someone at his school – he teaches in the performance program at the National Theatre Drama School. “They had used the Midwest materials when they were doing Laramie Project, and they were very happy with that.” (In addition, he said one of the actors in Motherf**ker with the Hat just downloaded one of the Irish accents from AccentHelp for another upcoming production.)

The voice of Judy Garland is currently dancing in his head as he prepares to direct End of the Rainbow for the Queensland Performing Arts Center. He recently contacted me about other dialects for that production and may be utilizing the NYC sound for the role of Mickey Deans, who was originally from Garfield, New Jersey. “We’re more familiar with that stereotypical New York sound. The Nuyorican accent [from Motherf**ker with the Hat] is so much less familiar here, which made it quite a challenge.”

The reviews suggest that they were quite successful!