October/November 2010

Discover the World of Audiobooks

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Jessica Almasy Jessica Almasy—actress, theater teacher, and found- ing 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. FALLING IN Frances O’Roark Dowell Read by Jessica Almasy Isabel Bean is an inimitable heroine—lonely in her friendlessness yet comfort- able enough in her own skin to embrace her uniqueness. When she steps through a door from her middle school into a parallel universe of changelings and witches, she discovers her true place in the world. Jessica Almasy’s narration is a treat. She is a master storyteller whose asides and commentaries make listeners feel they’re right in the story. This is a wonderful example of an audiobook that eclipses the printed version. Almasy’s narration brings this story to life. N.E.M. Recorded Books 5 hrs. Unabridged Ages 8+ Trade Ed.: DD Library Ed.: CD ISBN 9781449824587 $19.99 ISBN 9781440756030 $51.75 (also CS ) Almasy’s narration brings this story to life. 56  AudioFile/ When preparing for a production, Jessica begins by read- ing 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 under- standing 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 ongo- ing exploration.”—Jessie C. Grearson Photo by Jo Anna Perrin

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