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Behind the Scenes with Vanessa Dinning

What good is watching someone perform if you can’t hear them or understand them? In this Behind the Scenes interview, I talk to Vanessa Dinning, Theatrical Voice & Dialect Coach and the 2019 San Diego Theatre Critics Circle Award winner for Outstanding Specialty Artist!

Vanessa has been a vital part of San Diego theatre productions from The Eastern, Moonlight Stage Productions, Cygnet Theatre, Backyard Renaissance Theatre Company, San Diego Musical Theatre, Lamb’s Players Theatre, and more!

Vanessa Dinning

Vanessa has 20 plus years of experience, training actors in the UK and the US; with students who have gone on to perform on the West End, regional and touring shows, and tv and film. Which begs the question, what does being a vocal and dialect coach involve?

As a voice and dialect coach, I assist the actors and directors in preparing vocally for a performance.

For voice, it’s warm-up work, projection (intention, breath, emotion in the voice, volume), vocal health, etc…

For dialects, it’s preparing the specific dialects needed for each production, working with the actors to teach them the dialects so they can be understood and help flesh out the characters and ultimately make storytelling clearer.

Vanessa was in the process of working on multiple shows for various theatres when the Safer at Home order went into effect, effectively closing theatres for the health crisis.

I was working on 3 shows when everything came to a big old STOP. SHREK, THE MUSICAL at Steele Canyon High School, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE at Cal State University, and I was preparing dialects to start rehearsal in early April for AN AMERICAN IN PARIS at Moonlight Stage Productions.

Both Shrek and Pride and Prejudice have been postponed with every hope of their returning at some point. Both were going wonderfully; very disappointing that audiences won’t get to see them just yet.

I’m not yet sure of the plans for rehearsal and run of AN AMERICAN IN PARIS. It’s an utterly stunning piece and I know it will be immense and powerful and beautiful, with such an extraordinary cast at the gorgeous Moonlight Amphitheatre, so I hope we get this one up and running…

Though rehearsals may have been put on hold for those shows Vanessa finds that this hiatus is anything but dull.

I’m very lucky in that I’m still able to teach virtually. I’ve been teaching my private students (singing and cello) every day. We’re learning a lot and new ideas and practice/teaching methods are being developed and employed.

I’m lucky to be connected to excellent voice teachers around the world, so we’re all sharing on forums and discussions as to what is working and what has been successful.

I’m in discussions daily with The Eastern, a new theatre company I am part of, as we review our plans for this and coming years.

I’ve been continuing my part-time job at San Diego Opera. SDO is a first-rate company and it’s so impressive to me to be part of this world-class organization as they move quickly and smartly to plan for now and for the future.

I’ve been practicing my cello a lot, something I don’t usually have time for (sorry neighbors!)

The Eastern and Vanessa have scheduled a Voice 101 online class for everyone to enjoy, and it’s free! The class is on April 4th at noon Pacific for 1 hour. Click to access The Eastern’s Facebook page where you can sign up for the class. The class will be a brush-up for those who are trained and an intro for those who are beginners!

For Vanessa, her favorite part about the theatre community is how they’re still present and active, even during this unprecedented time.

I’m thrilled, but honestly not surprised, that the arts-globally-have stepped up and are offering concerts, operas and plays for free, or for a very low charge.

As humans we need, inherently need, the connection, the empathy, the community… and the arts provides that and transcends. It can help us escape from our thoughts and worries. Our thoughts are provoked, but we’re also entertained.

I love how supportive everyone is of each other, both here in San Diego on a local level-companies promoting other company’s efforts-and also worldwide.

Vanessa giving her niece, Helena Davison, a cello lesson. She lives in Durham, England. Please note computer is propped up on the Oxford Dictionary of Pronunciation

As fun as staying busy teaching online may be, there is one thing Vanessa does miss in this period of self-quarantine we all find ourselves in thee days.

People! I miss people. I miss the energy that’s created when a group of creative people is together making art. And I miss hugs.

Above all, I miss the sound of acoustic voices. My one trip to the grocery store in the past 2 weeks was revolutionary because it hit me just how much my body “feels” the acoustic human voice, the vibrations, the warmth. It is my job after all.


Vanessa has a few suggestions if you’re looking and able to help local organizations currently.

If you can support any local arts organizations in any way, that would be amazing. The smaller ones and the larger ones are taking a hit. I’m personally connected to San Diego Opera, The Eastern Theatre Group, and Bodhi Tree Concerts.

Donating to San Diego Food Bank and Mama’s Kitchen, are also good choices.

Vaness Dinning is giving a free voice class on April 4th through The Eastern – click here to access specific info to register.

For more information on her coaching click Vanessa Dinning

Looking for ideas of what to do during this time of quarantine? Click here for more suggestions

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