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Orlagh Cassidy was nicknamed "the dialect queen" in acting school at SUNY Purchase, but even with a successful serial television career ("Guiding Light," "Law and Order: SVU"), she hadn't used these skills often—until she found audiobooks. Her first audiobook, PARDONABLE LIES , by Jacqueline Winspear, received an Earphones Award in 2005, as has the third Maisie Dobbs mystery, AN INCOMPLETE REVENGE . Orlagh did get to use her Irish accent appearing off-Broadway last year in "The Field," in which she played a mother of nine. She was nominated for a Drama Desk Award. However, there's a difference, as every narrator knows, between one accent sustained throughout a play and more than a dozen accents of characters who pass in and out of scenes throughout a ten-hour audiobook. Orlagh was immediately fascinated and intrigued with these challenges. "You just don’t get to do many accents in usual acting work," she tells us. "There was more 'acting' in one book than I've done in a long time."
Orlagh's parents came to the U.S. from Ireland, where her father had been involved with Irish radio. Her many childhood visits to Ireland surrounded her with relatives and friends. "I loved to imitate their voices," Orlagh says. "My ear has always been tuned to different ways of speaking." Orlagh's sister, who recorded audiobooks as Frances Cassidy, recorded for Books on Tape for many years.
The reviewers of each audiobook Orlagh has done note her facility with the vocal portraits. She is part of the ensemble cast for the recent DUNE recording, and she shares dual narrations in MAKE HIM LOOK GOOD and PERFECT DARK . Single narrations include the Winspear's Maisie Dobbs titles and CONFESSIONS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT . Audiobook producer Garet Scott says Orlagh has the right stuff: "She's got a lovely voice, she's a terrific actress, and she's a delight to work with. And that's the audiobook trifecta."
The "technical" aspects of audiobooks are also an allure. "You can't move [in the recording booth]!" Orlagh reminds us. "You have to find a way to create the spirit and the tone of a character without moving. I love that challenge." Facility in quick reading helps, and although speaking fast does't help on every occasion, it's a plus for Orlagh's growing skills with audiobook narration. We hope to hear more!--Robin F. Whitten
Photo by Jordan Matter
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