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"Unchilding" - a surprise premiere in NYC

August 12, 2019

As can be clearly seen by the dates on my "blog" here on my home website, I am not great at updates right now. As my personal voice work builds to be a bit more substantial, perhaps I'll get better at this? Hopefully?


This may come off as a funny anecdote: I didn't know my own voice was premiering off-broadway.


I am often (mostly?) hired via the internet by clients who don't know who I am or where I am located. Joshua Kaufman was one of those people. He found me through one of the sites I freelance through. One of his local New York City actors, apparently, came down with some form of laryngitis during the recording process for his concept piece, "Unchilding."


In true efficiency-of-getting-the-job-done tradition, I wasn't given extensive backstory on the project issues/details/concept/installation. I was provided with a full script, edited script (of just my lines) and some direction in the text. We did two rounds of recording. I thought that was it. I truly had no idea what the vocal was being used for. I thought it might be a film or an animated project.


Several weeks later, my email received a Google alert on my name. It was the first one I had ever gotten, I think, because nothing ever happens to Ainslie Caswell. I have an alert active, since it's good to have when you run a career on your name. I mean, what if someone tries to post a fake nude of me? (None should exist, so don't go looking, which is why I say "fake.") Or tried to sell my voice on the Audio Book Black Market? (which also should not exist because... why?)


Anyway, my name was in a promo article for a theatre piece in New York, the aforementioned "Unchilding." Giving the article a once-over, I still thought it was a film. But looking more closely, I realized it was a stage piece they were referring to as "devised theatre" with a very large cast. They had a one-night-only premiere in the city, with two performance times. I was already looking for a reason to visit NYC, as I had some people I wanted to see. 


I backtracked in my clients, located Joshua, and told him I was within driving distance of the city, and would be glad to see the show. He got back to me right away and offered me a comp, and an invite to the afterparty. I was thrilled. I had no idea in what capacity I was going to be featured, but I was glad to be going. I hadn't seen a show in the city for over two years.



Forwarding to when I was sitting in the audience.... I was surprised to learn that the actors in the show did no speaking whatsoever. "Unchilding" is completely reliant on the voice overs for all dialogue. The on-stage actors represent the physical elements, only. Resurrecting the concept of tableau vivant, they freeze for extended periods of time while the audience hears the scene piped in from above, along with ambient sound effects mixed in.


I can only objectively report on the performances of everyone besides myself. I am a tough critic, and I was impressed with the voices, and the edits. Everything felt very real, in real time, though everything was pre-recorded. The on-stage actors' movements were deliberate, careful, and calibrated, as I feel they should be in this type of performance. Literal slips and mistakes can toss you off your rhythm, which is the lifeblood of something like tableau work. Your body and your muscles bear the brunt of what you're doing, not to mention your mind. I did not see strain in these actors. Just emotion.


As far as my vocals....I was, to the best of my knowledge, the only actor who performed her voiceover remotely, with little-to-no direction (due to the circumstances) and no one-on-one contact with the other actors. Many of the rest of the team was able to meet, talk, and interact with each other during the rehearsal and recording process. So, I am a bit of an anomaly in this show. I'm not complaining. I'm just stating the difference that we all figured out during the afterparty. We were a bit blind to each other's process, and no one had ever met me since I was not local.


And even with all that, my voice came through with the same levels and clarity as the other two voices I was paired with in the second act. I could not detect edits, changes, etc. It was fascinating to watch. I may have listened and wished I had performed certain lines differently, but that is neither here nor there. I received wonderful feedback from the team afterwards, who told me they had been subjected to listening to my voice for weeks on end during their rehearsals.


Ugh, sorry you guys. I know you never want to hear the word "swell" ever again.


Additionally, I was drawn in by the actress (Hannah Carne) who embodied the role I was voicing. I was not sitting closer than 20 feet to her. Her feet did not move once. But her face changed, just by millimeters. Tears formed in her eyes. Her breath may have caught lightly in her chest as you listen to her would-be lover walk out on her.


As I connected, later, with some of the on-stage actors and the other voice actors, there seemed to be nothing but joy. Many actors who do not get to be prominently featured in a show end up bitter. Not this group. Many of them barely ended up on stage, only to be seen at the end in an ominous cluster. This is a testament to the crew, directing process, and everything in between. I've been in shows like this.


My "brother" and I -- the voice actor who played my brother in the production -- talked for the longest that night. One of the on-stage actors eventually introduced us. The actor swept him over to me and said, "Haven't you two met yet?" as he clarified who I was. My (slightly intoxicated from the open bar) voiceover brother wrapped me in a bear hug and nearly picked me up off the ground, then told me how dare I show up there looking so beautiful.


Stopppp it. I'm your sister.


I really do enjoy talking shop with other performers. I enjoy seeing art. I enjoy critiquing art. I enjoy creating art. And I hope I get to do more of it in the future.


If any of you NYC friends are reading this, I am not far. And I will be back in the city in October for a voiceover conference, anyway. Don't be afraid to reach out. You know who you are. xxx





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