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New arts education classes at Loyola give students a career edge on and off the stage

September 23, 2014

Loyola University New Orleans is offering a new take on arts education and at the same time answering the demand to train students with the latest marketable skills that can help make a career on and off the stage. The university is offering new multidimensional audio narratives and voice acting classes—spanning the disciplines of creative writing, acting and music industry studies—to teach students how to write for the ear, voice act and also produce high-quality audio performances.

In fact, at Loyola, there’s a person who epitomizes these marketable creative skills in action: Loyola Artist-in-Residence Harry Shearer. Shearer has made a career of not only voice acting—he’s the voice of 20 characters on the hit animated sitcom, “The Simpsons”—but also as an actor, comedian, writer, musician, author, radio show host and producer.

Further highlighting the value of these kinds of skills, Shearer will be joined by another well-known voice actor, Dave Willis of The Cartoon Network’s “Adult Swim” for a free, public Loyola masterclass and forum Monday, Oct. 20. The masterclass on voice acting and directing is set for 2 p.m. in Loyola’s Louis J. Roussel Performance Hall followed by public forum at 5 p.m. in the same location where the two will speak about this exciting industry.

Through the new classes offered through the University’s Honors Program and as major courses, Loyola will teach the increasingly complex skills in written, digital and oral communication, as well as critical thinking and voice acting by bringing together students from several disciplines to write, perform and produce their own recorded plays. In this way, creative writing students learn the special skills needed to convey messages through audio, acting students receive hands-on training to become voice actors and production students learn how to put everything together in an actual audio performance piece.

“Loyola is exactly the right kind of place for this sort of collaboration. We’re exactly the right size for various kinds of artists to work together,” said English professor and award-winning playwright John Biguenet. “There are very few universities that are capable of having the regular artistic collaboration and artistic education we enjoy at Loyola.”

The collaborative classes teach the skills that are becoming an increasingly important part of an actor’s life. Today's actors must not only make a living in traditional stage or film acting, but must also be ready to take voice-over jobs or read for book recordings.

“To be competitive, an actor develops a diverse skill set to act on stage, in film, on television, and in voiceovers, audiobooks and radio dramas. While overlap exists among these mediums, the precision of voice acting requires that an actor adapt his or her voice to the text and the context in a digital environment,” said Artemis Preeshl, Loyola associate professor of theatre arts.

The new classes are a collaborative effort of the University Honors Program, the Department of Theatre Arts and Dance, the Department of English and the Music Industry Studies Program at Loyola.

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