LEWISTON — Katalin Vecsey, an expert in theatrical uses of voice and speech, give a talk, "The Different Voices of Meryl Streep," Thursday, April 12, at Bates College.
The 4:30 p.m. lecture in classroom G52 at Pettengill Hall, 4 Andrews Road, is open to the public at no cost. Refreshment service starts at 4:15 p.m. For more information, call 786-6066.
Senior lecturer in theater at Bates, Vecsey received Bates' 2012 Kroepsch Award for excellence in teaching.
She is expert in both the anatomy and the aesthetics of speech in performance. Besides teaching courses exploring voice, speech and gender, she works with students in every Bates theatrical production and also directs plays.
Streep, who has won three Academy Awards and been nominated for many more, is one of the best actors of our time. Her use of voice, including her facility with diverse accents, is often cited.
"I am going to use her to explain what I do as a voice coach and how important voice is in establishing a character," Vecsey said.
For instance, in last year's biopic "The Iron Lady," for which Streep won her third Academy Award, the actress captured the before-and-after speaking styles of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who took elocution lessons early in her career to learn to speak with more authority.
For her Oscar-winning performance in 1982's "Sophia's Choice," in which Streep portrays a Polish immigrant, she "spent three months learning the Polish language," Vecsey said.
"She then rehearsed her Polish accent in English in order to capture the natural rhythms of speech. She spoke all day in her new accent, so much that her own child did not recognize her voice. She also picked up some German," Vecsey added. "It's a tremendous amount of work."
But, according to Vecsey, a convincing voice is only one part of constructing a character.
"Streep works very hard to find the character and it really shows. She is one of those actors who can do anything because she has the empathy to become the character, but doesn't judge the character, Vecsey said. "That's something I try to teach my students: It doesn't matter who you play, you cannot judge the characters you are portraying. You have to accept them and find something that you love about them — otherwise, people will not believe you on-stage."
A native of Budapest, Hungary, Vecsey was that nation's first voice and speech teacher to be trained at the Hungarian Academy of Drama and Film (now the University of Drama and Film), completing her training in 1991. She came to Bates in 1996 and was promoted from lecturer to senior lecturer in 2011. She lives in Lewiston with her husband, John Painter, and their son, Kelen.