Bill’s legacy includes three companies, well over 100 hours of recorded audio drama work, and hundreds of audiobooks.
William Dufris passed away in March 2020.
Millions who never met William Dufris have heard his voice. Whether it was his voicing of the children’s character Bob the Builder or his narration of one of 400+ audiobooks, Bill’s voice was heard in living rooms, on car rides, and in earbuds around the world. To those who knew the man behind the microphone, Bill will be remembered as a ceaselessly positive human, delivering hugs and guffaws, bringing out the best in the people around him, and condemning the wrongs in the world.
Bill left this world on March 24, 2020, surrounded by his family after an epic battle with esophageal cancer. He leaves behind an audiobook and audio drama legacy and a devoted circle of family and friends whose talents he was continuously lifting. At a celebration of his life last November, colleagues and friends toasted him with stories of his impact on their lives for five continuous hours.
2009 Best Voice in NONFICTION & CULTURE: READING THE OED
Not every narrator can populate an audio performance with a perfect cast, but William Dufris commands a dazzling array of voices that bring to life the dozens of audiobooks he’s narrated. Whether it’s Sam Spade, a survival expert, a Cuban gangster, or Fletcher, the basset hound, William has a voice to embody the character. In a memorable scene from HOLMES ON THE RANGE , a Swedish cook, a pompous English duke and his prissy daughter, and a cowboy with a Cockney accent all appear together. William’s verbal agility and speed-of-light comic timing make it work. His style of playful, enthusiastic performance clearly suits adult satire, such as THE FUTURIST , comedic mysteries like Donald Westlake’s Dortmunder series, and fantasy novels like D.J. MacHale’s Pendragon series. For children’s books, his animal or human voices are pure entertainment. William is recognized by a whole generation of little listeners as the voice of Bob the Builder--a role he played for the North American Nickelodeon version of the animated TV show. He is also the winner of handfuls of AudioFile Earphones Awards and has been an Audies Award finalist numerous times.
William’s solid theater background evolved into a concentration on voice work when, as an American living in London, he found it difficult to get work on the British stage. An introduction to audiobooks, radio plays, and animation encouraged his natural vocal flexibility and facility with character voices. “From doing animation I learned to breathe in character,” he tells us. “It enables me to switch quickly to the next character.”
After moving home to the U.S. in 1999, William set up his own recording studio. Initially he tackled a wagon train of Westerns with brilliant success. One AudioFile review notes, “Dufris seems born to this kind of material. He has the sound of the frontier in his voice.” His mastery of classic mysteries by Dashiell Hammett such as THE MALTESE FALCON led the way to multinational thrillers that provide rich ground for William’s vocal command. When William moves to more serious fiction, he dials down the enthusiasm and uses nuanced emotional shading. In the recent FIELDWORK , William brought listeners inside three radically different cultures: Thai hill tribes, evangelical Christian Americans, and academic anthropologists.
William embodies a passion for audio. He currently records for at least seven audio publishers and produces audiobooks by other narrators from his busy Mind’s Eye Productions studio in Maine. He’s also keen on encouraging other narrators and teaching the art of narration, which he’s done several times at NATF’s annual Audio Theatre Workshops. Recently he helped produce “Super Indian,” a radio comedy serial that resulted from the 2006 Native Radio Theatre project. Mind’s Eye is also the producer of HORRORSCOPES, full-cast audio dramas of contemporary and classic horror stories. An avid audiobook listener, he says, “I learn from and listen to other narrators all the time.” --2007 Narrator Yearbook
The majority of Bill’s audios are Westerns, sci-fi, and “noir” detective tales, such as his acclaimed renditions of Dashiell Hammett’s novels. “I see the books in a cinematic way,” he explains. “I cast actors I know in the parts and see the action as I describe it.” Reviewers often remark upon his facility with characterization and flair for the dramatic, likening him to a one-man radio theater. In fact, the Maine native cut his audio teeth with the BBC when he lived in London. His abiding passion for radio drama has led him to start his own audio theater troupe in New England. Meanwhile, he continues voicing audiobooks; he recently completed Annie Proulx’s CLOSE RANGE . --2001 Narrator Yearbook
Photo by Jennifer Steele
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