Audiobook narrator and stage and screen actor Jason Culp continues a family tradition of storytelling. His father, Robert, was a star of movies and hit television shows like “I Spy,” “The Greatest American Hero,” “Everyone Loves Raymond,” and dozens of others. Some of Jason’s talent may be inherited, but he knows how important training, craft, and experience are to bringing life to dramatic material.
“I’ve gone through such an evolution over the last 23 years in the way that I prepare for an audiobook. I will confess, to my shame, that when I recorded my first audiobook, I walked in virtually without having read it. I was so cocksure that this would be something that would be easy for me. I had recorded myself reading books on my own time. So I was very sure it would be no problem at all, and I got in there, and I began to read, and I started to sweat and realized I was in so over my head and had made such a terrible mistake. I faked my way through it, and it was fine--but after that I was so traumatized by that terrible decision that I over-prepared for years.”
Jason has performed audiobook versions of romances, Westerns, and just about everything in between. His latest, AKIN, by Emma Donoghue, features the pairing of a most unlikely duo, an 11-year-old boy in trouble and a 79-year-old retired professor. As the novel progresses, family secrets are revealed, and an unlikely bond forms. “It’s more like a gift than a challenge. The idea of just being able to play an extended scene that is so well written and has an inevitable emotional arc to it is pretty rare.”
Performing on stage or camera provides settings, costumes, props, and other actors, but in the recording booth Jason says he must rely on the material and his ability to create characters without the usual tools. “With audiobooks, you are trying to get yourself quickly to the emotional place that you think the moment requires. What that encourages is a kind of organic exaggeration, so the quality in your voice conveys what you think the story ought to convey.”
Jason says he’s been recording his voice since he was 5 years old, and he’s practiced for years finding all the different sounds he can make with it. “Can I actually sound like two different people?” He says in AKIN the age difference between the two main characters is “what’s so wonderful about them in the book. You’re with the old man, with his annoyance that his vacation is being sabotaged by having this kid dumped on him, but, in fact, the big question of the book is who’s saving who.”--Randy O’Brien
©AudioFile 2019, Portland, Maine
Photo courtesy of the narrator
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