When you tell award-winning narrator Ari Fliakos that his audiobook performances sound as if he has painstakingly prepped every page, he hesitates, then laughs. “That’s great to hear, because actually it’s not what I do.” He hastens to reassure us. “There’s definitely preparation involved, but it’s more a sense of finding a performance I can ride.”
Fliakos, a television and film actor, and a mainstay of the avant-garde acting troupe The Wooster Group, begins by reading the book from beginning to end. “I don’t dwell on things. Instead, I look for the story arc of the major characters, and try to understand them and their voices.” If a character reminds him of someone, he might even blend his friend’s delivery, or “vocal mask,” into his performance. And then he’s off on a recording-booth gallop, prepared but willing to make discoveries along the way.
Fliakos credits his children with providing him with a multi-year audition for audiobook narration. “I read to them a lot, and I always try to find some good vocal masks for the characters. It makes the whole thing come alive.”
Thus trained, he was excited to record his first book in 2012, THE INQUISITOR, by Mark Allen Smith. “It’s about a man who tortures people,” explains Fliakos, “although he only tortures bad guys. Still, it was really hard at first. I’d come home and tell my wife how exhausting it was and that maybe I wasn’t up to it. Then I decided to do what I did with the kids. I went for broke with one character, and that was it. I ended up riding that thing.”
Fliakos has ridden his recent performances to several AudioFile Earphones Awards, and to cheers from Nathan Hill, author of THE NIX, who friended Fliakos on Facebook after hearing the audio version. “He wrote to me during the book tour, telling me how much he appreciated my work, which was thrilling, because I adore the book. I tell everyone that it’s this amazing contemporary classic.”
Fliakos is a fan of language, whether written, spoken, or performed before an audience. He listens to audiobooks with his children, reporting proudly that “they’ve become voracious listeners and readers.” And as for him, “One of the things that I love about narrating is that I get to read books. It’s this great gift. And they even select them for me. How lucky is that? I tell you, I’m having a good time in that recording booth, and hopefully it comes through.”--Aurelia C. Scott[DECEMBER 2016/JANUARY 2017]
© AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine
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