"authentic native speaker" CDs

Mark A. Mandel mamandel at LDC.UPENN.EDU
Thu Dec 2 01:45:49 UTC 2004

sent to me by my sister, who lives in the area

mark by hand


From The New London (Conn.) Day

From Groton, A Lesson In Bronxspeak

Day Staff Columnist
Published on 11/28/2004

Paula Marcus' "Hits for the Holidays," it's not, but a CD in production will 
feature what is undeniably her signature tune, and one she took pains to 
master as a child: Her Bronx.

That is, she still, at age 73 and long removed from her girlhood around 
Jerome Avenue, talks with what's described, admiringly and instructively, as 
a pure, or unsullied by the suburbs, Bronx accent. Marcus and her husband, 
George, have lived in these parts for some 25 years, most of them in Noank, 
and lately in the City of Groton.

Paula Marcus, all five-feet-zero of her and distinguished by her artwork and 
her newspaper letter writing as much as by her well-'oi'ed dialect (West 
Bronx, actually, she says), owned an art gallery in Noank for a time and is 
a member of both the Westerly Artists Cooperative and the Mystic Art Center.

She's delighted about the prospect of the CD, which is the work of Gillian 
Lane-Plescia of Preston. Before the Marcus recording -- part of a "Greater 
New York" CD -- debuts, however, there will be the release of the "Chicago" 
CD, the 18th in a series of, as Lane-Plescia puts it, "authentic native 

Lane-Plescia is a professional dialect coach, and a teacher of voice, speech 
and dialects. She's been associated with major theaters throughout this 
country, including, locally, the Long Wharf, Trinity Rep and the Eugene 
O'Neill Theater Center's National Theater Institute. Among the actors 
coached by her are Brian Dennehy, John Malkovich, Hope Davis, Estelle 
Parsons, Albert Finney, Aidan Quinn, Ashley Judd, F. Murray Abraham and Uma 

The recordings, pressed in first-runs of 300 copies, are principally for 
theater companies and actors. Some of the titles, familiar, most likely, to 
only a rather esoteric crowd, are ""Cockney and Other Accents of London and 
the Home Counties," "American South Vol. I (including Alabama, Georgia, 
Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee)" and the ever popular "Irish Vol. 1" and 
"Irish Vo. 2," the latter offering expanded material from Donegal, Mayo, 
Galway, Kerry and Cork.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must say that my wife, Liesbeth, who 
is Dutch, though she has lived in this country for 30 years, can be heard on 
track 13 of the chart-topping "German and Dutch" CD. Lane-Plescia, in the 
accompanying booklet, has annotated my wife's speech with hints such as "Her 
'L' is uncharacteristically dark in words like 'village,' 'family,' 
'electricity' and 'look,' " which was enlightening to me.

Among others living here recorded by Lane-Plescia is a fellow from Rome 
named Mimmo who has a gas station on the way to Salem, an Iranian man who 
fixes gutters and a French woman at Connecticut College.

Lane-Plescia, born in Great Britain and married to a Belgian artist, Jan 
Beekman, protests that she cannot necessarily pinpoint Home Counties, not to 
mention New York boroughs, on first listen. "I can't hear the difference, 
not until I sit down and listen to it and analyze it," she says.

Nevertheless, I've had the pleasure of being in a room with Lane-Plescia who 
proceeded, from an easy chair, to give an oral tour of Ireland, county by 
county, sentence by sentence.

Marcus also insists that her Bronx is an acquired art. "My parents didn't 
speak like this," she says. "My mother was a speech teacher and my father an 
engineer. We didn't speak like this at home. The kids on the street spoke 
like this, and I wanted to, too. Now, I can't get rid of it."

Lane-Plescia, like the rest of us, honed in on it. It is Bronx by way of 
Westchester, Stamford, Greenwich and Noank, perhaps, but even to the 
untrained ear, it is brashly and unabashedly, and soon to be academically, 
the sidewalks of New York.

This is the opinion of Steven Slosberg.

© 1998-2004 The Day Publishing Co.

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