Jason K. Martin gives actors a voice

Jason Martin

Jason K. Martin helps theater actors speak with British, Irish, Russian and other accents. “I was a kid who loved to play around with funny voices,” says Martin, assistant professor of theatre. — Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin

Need someone to help you speak with a British, Cockney, Irish, Russian, Israeli, German, Swedish or Deep South accent?

Jason K. Martin is your man.

Martin, assistant professor of theatre since 2008, has coached text and dialects for a number of theaters, including Shattered Globe, Silk Road and the Goodman.

He coached black actors in Evanston’s Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre on Mississippi Delta accents for “The Taming of the Shrew.” Another challenging assignment was working with actors in J.M. Synge’s “Playboy of the Western World” at the Raven Theatre last spring.

“I had to steer the actors to the exact place and time in Ireland,” he said. “The language is harder than Shakespeare; some of it is just as obscure.”

Not surprisingly, Martin is also an actor. Most recently he appeared at Evanston’s Piccolo Theatre, in the spring production of Noel Coward’s “Blithe Spirit.” Before that, also at the Piccolo, he was in Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors.”

For a production of “Moby-Dick” at the Building Stage Theatre in 2006, several actors played each role — as Ahab they wore a coat, as Starbuck a hat, and so on.

“It worked beautifully,” Martin said. “We all share these traits. For Starbuck it was moderation, we all have that Starbuck in us. For Ahab it was petty revenge.

“It was one of my favorite things ever to act in.”

He was director of a two-week UIC camp, new this summer, for about 20 high school kids interested in “getting their feet wet in theater and creating a work of their own,” he said. Other camp teachers were artists from Lookingglass Theatre.

From 2007 to 2011, Martin was adjunct professor at Roosevelt University, teaching dialects and Shakespeare. He also taught for a year in the Northern Illinois University School of Theatre and Dance and, before starting at UIC, three years in Northwestern University’s department of performance studies. Before that he was a teaching associate for three years at California State University, Long Beach.

Martin grew up in Rome, Georgia, “which might explain my fascination with dialects,” he said.

“I was a kid who loved to play around with funny voices — ‘Monty Python,’ the upper- and lower-class Brits.,And Paul Lynde. It strikes me as strange now that a 7-year-old would choose a fey, snarky warlock from ‘Bewitched’ as one of his voices.”

Martin earned a bachelor’s degree in English at Duke University. “I didn’t know what the hell I wanted to do,” he said. “I thought I’d end up teaching at some stuffy high school.”

But before going on for a master’s degree he moved to Chicago, where he spent four years as a tour guide for the Chicago Trolley Co. — “driving and talking, being as cheery about the Art Institute as you can as a cabdriver is cutting you off.”

Then, deciding “I needed to be in the arts, and I needed to pursue whatever talent I had to the fullest,” he said, Martin started grad school in acting at California State University, Long Beach.

He lives in the Old Irving Park neighborhood with his husband, Ed Dzialo, who is also an actor and works with communications units of medical schools. Dzialo also runs a small theatrical production company.

“We often do one- and two-person programs on literary or historical figures, and we do a two-man ‘Christmas Carol,’” Martin said.

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