2010 Best Voice in CHILDREN & FAMILY LISTENING: CLEMENTINE: FRIEND OF THE WEEK, FALLING IN
Jessica Almasy--actress, theater teacher, and founding member of the New York City-based theater company called The TEAM--was unconsciously preparing to be an audiobook narrator even as a youngster. "I'd get a 90-minute cassette tape, pop it into the recorder, and just talk for pretty much the whole afternoon. I'd be all sorts of characters, devised by me. I was writing little audio dramas." In 2004 Claudia Howard at Recorded Books saw Jessica in a play at the NYC Fringe and asked her to come in to read. "She gave me my intro to the lay of the land of audiobooks and how to be a professional narrator," says Jessica, who has now recorded over 80 titles, including the Earphones Award-winning Clementine series and OPERATION YES, for which she won the 2010 Audie Award for Children's Titles for Ages 8-12.
When preparing for a production, Jessica begins by reading the book. "I like to get a sense of where the characters are in the orchestra--who's the bass, what's the string
section. The spine of each character's emotional energy." She pauses to explain. "It's as though I create their eye sockets, how they see the world."
Taking a Balinese mask class, she says, shaped her understanding of character. "I discovered that a lot of what changes the characters is the size and shape of their eyes. When you get a character with small eyes, you feel a certain way. Or large droopy eyes--that changes how you see the world. Understanding a character requires getting the diameter of these people's eyes. How they see the world,versus how I see them. That way I don't judge them so much. I just do what the author wants. I hope!"
Jessica, who has a delightfully youthful, energetic voice, loves recording books for young listeners. "I feel like so much of what flourishes in my life right now stems from the fact that I wasn't glued to an electronic device as a child--that I made theater out of paper cups and beads and my mom's sweater and a cassette tape. Kids in today's technologically distracted generation don't have to use their imaginations as much. I love that I get to be a part of connecting kids to reading and seeing--in every sense of that word--for themselves."
The recording studio itself also delights and fascinates Jessica. "It's like a sensory deprivation booth!" she exclaims. "On stage you can use your body, eyes, hair, how you move . . . When they're all taken away, all you have is your voice! How do you transmit everything with just your voice--it's as though you're speaking to a prison mate through a crack in the wall. As an artist, it's great to experience a whole different spectrum of communicating. For me, it's an ongoing exploration."--Jessie C. Grearson
Jessica Almasy photo by Jo Anna Perrin