A Christmas Carol Dialect Coach – Saren Nofs Snyder

November 25, 2019 § Leave a comment

A Christmas Carol Dialect Coach, Saren Nofs Snyder answered a few questions on the dialects in A Christmas Carol, for our student study guide. Thanks again to Metropolis School of the Performing Arts Education Community Engagement Coordinator, Abby Vombrack for gathering and compiling all of this information.

1. What dialect (or dialects) did actors need to learn for A CHRISTMAS CAROL?


For this production we decided to work with three main dialects, all of which are based in England.

The first is called RP, which stands for Received Pronunciation. RP was taught to children in families of royalty (like princes and princesses), families of the aristocracy (people who had titles like Duke and Barron, or held important offices), and families who had the means to send their children to certain schools. Some characters in A Christmas Carol who use RP are Scrooge, Belle, and the school master. 

The second, Estuary, is called such because it is mostly used by people who live in London near the Thames River, and its ESTUARY (the mouth of a large river). During this time, there was a lot of pollution in London, so it wouldn’t have been as nice a place to live as today. Families with fewer means would have lived in this area, and spoken in the same dialect. The Cratchit family speaks with an Estuary dialect. 

The third dialect we used is called cockney. This was used by many people whose families worked in physical labor or working class jobs in East London. You’ll hear Scrooge’s servants, Old Joe, and the children who live on the streets using cockney. 

2. How did you go about teaching/helping the actors with their dialects? 

Learning to speak with a dialect or an accent is a lot of fun, but also a lot of hard work! Many of the adult actors in the play studied dialects at some point in their acting training, maybe at a college, or a special training program for actors. This might involve learning IPA, the International Phonetic Alphabet, which is a series of symbols that represent vowel and consonant SOUNDS. For example a G can have different sounds- in “Goat” and “Giraffe” the G sounds different, so they each have their own symbol, instead of just writing the letter G. 

For my younger actors, who haven’t yet studied dialects, one way I like to help them learn them is to have them listen to characters in movies who use the same dialect. For example, the Weasley family in Harry Potter speak with an Estuary dialect, while Lucius Malfoy and Hermione speak in RP. For cockney dialects, I always suggest listening to the movie My Fair Lady. Eliza Doolittle, her dad, and their friends use a wonderful cockney dialect! 

3. How does the time period of the play affect the dialect work? Would modern speakers in the region sound the same as the characters in A CHRISTMAS CAROL?

While all three of these dialects are still very much heard in London, who might use them today is different. For many years, some countries, including England, operated under a classist system. People who were randomly  born into privilege and wealth often felt they were superior to people who worked for a living. One way they could help to differentiate themselves was to speak in a dialect, RP, which immediately let others know of their perceived status. If you were fortunate to have a family which could afford to send you to an English public school (what we in the states call a private school), you would be taught, and expected to speak using RP. In 1922, the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) declared RP the broadcasting standard, and it was solely used by on air broadcasters in an attempt to present an air of intelligence. 

Today, many ideas of class and status are shifting, and fewer people use RP. Young people, in particular, are dismissing the dialect in an effort to minimize its classist implications. Just as in America where you will hear many, many different dialects, In England, and particularly London, lots of dialects are used. And yes, you would  still hear RP, Estuary, and cockney if you were to visit today! 

A Christmas Carol Projection Designer – Anthony Churchill

November 21, 2019 § Leave a comment

This year’s A Christmas Carol has some exciting new elements that we are very excited to share with audiences. Projection Designer, Anthony Churchill answered a few questions on what to expect from this new production at Metropolis. Thank you to Metropolis School of the Performing Arts Education Community Engagement Coordinator, Abby Vombrack for gathering and compiling all of this information into a study guide for the hundreds of students who will be coming to see this adaptation in the coming month.


1. When and why are projections used in the show? What is their artistic effect on the story?

We’re using projections to create several special effects in the show.  We’re creating several elemental looks with the projections and we’re creating the Ghost of Christmas Future.  Part of this story revolves around Scrooge’s decision to change his life and what pushes him to make these changes needs to be really powerful in order to make his decision believable. One of the ways we’re doing this is to use projections to create something really magical, which is unique to our production. The entire show has a lot of magical elements and the projections are one of these elements which help make the show really special.

2. How do create projections to use in the show? What technology is used?

Projections can be created in a number of ways.  For this show, we recorded live actors and puppets to create the Ghost of Christmas Future. Once these elements are recorded, we process them through a number of programs to get them ready for the show. Every designer has their own process and a lot of times, it depends on what the show needs. On A Christmas Carol, we’re processing things through three programs for the Ghost. This software lets us fine-tune how things look on the stage and control where the projections go.

3. Are there any other special effects (fog, strobe lights, mist, etc) that you use with the projections?

In a really special show, all the design elements work together. For this show, projections are particularly connected to a special kind of fog machine called a fog screen. The fog screen creates a super-dense wall of fog by chilling the fog too a very low temperature so that it doesn’t spread out too quickly. In conjunction with the projections, the fog screen allows us to project on a surface that actors can walk through, which allows us to create something really magical.

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