Prairie Home Companion vets set for 'Voice Match'

Categories: Theater

Sue&Tim.jpg
Photo courtesy the Fitzgerald Theater.
Prolific local playwright Jeffrey Hatcher's latest work gets a one-night-only production this weekend and features a pair of familiar voices for listeners of A Prairie Home Companion.

In Voice Match, two voice-over artists--you know, the people who warn you that the new wonder drug may cause you to develop telekinetic powers or who let you know that your call is important to the phone company--who have "worked" together for years finally meet face to face for a new beer campaign. Will aural fireworks fly? Well, the piece is referred to as a romantic comedy.

The production stars Sue Scott and Tim Russell, who play oodles of characters each week on A Prairie Home Companion and who also make a living in recording booths. They will be joined for this weekend's performance by Tom Keith, who provides sound effects for A Prairie Home Companion.

For Hatcher, the idea has kicked around in his head for many years. "I did some voice-over work myself years ago when I first moved to New York to become an actor," he says. "I made a demo tape and I had some nice gigs. I eventually segued into writing, but the voice work stayed with me."

Last January, he approached Scott and Russell about crafting a play for them based on their shared voice-over world. Both were thrilled by the chance. The trio talked and Hatcher went to work on a script, which premiered in a one-hour staged-reading version last March on the Prairie Home Companion Cruise.

"We shared stories of voice jobs big and small, as well enlightening him on the process and 'lingo' of the voice-over biz," Scott says.

Hatcher also joined Scott on one of her gigs. "Much of it ended up in the script verbatim," Hatcher says.

So what's it like in the business?

"People think that it's easy money," Russell says. "The fact is, you are in competition with up to thousands of actors across the country for each spot. The agency has the pick of the litter, so if you book a job you've really earned it."

And, of course, it's pretty anonymous work as well. "I wonder if folks are aware that the woman you hear prompting you through your voicemail messages is a voice actor who stood in a booth in a sound studio for hours and recorded all of those dates and times," Scott says.

Both actors relish the chance to do well-written, clever spots. Of course, there's a downside too. Sometimes, the clients may cause a tense environment that leads to hundreds of takes.

"The worst part is poorly written spots that don't make sense, or really confusing directions, like, 'Do it like Orson Wells, only with a hillbilly accent,'" Russell says.

Voice Match will be performed 7 p.m. this Sunday at the Fitzgerald Theater (10 E. Exchange St., St. Paul). Tickets are $28-$32.


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