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Sight-reading and Dyslexia: 

Deborah Leveroy, Dyslexia & Acting coach

Sight-reading can be a real concern for a lot of the actors I work with who are dyslexic. One of the most frequent worries is that there isn’t enough time allocated to process and understand words and work out how to pronounce them. One actor I worked with said that the first thing she did when she got a script was to skim through the text for any words she didn’t understand and then google them on her iphone. By the time she had done that, her prep time was up and she was called into the audition room. She had become so focused on understanding the individual meaning of words, that she hadn’t thought about the situation: who the character was talking to or what the character wanted.

As with line-learning, it can seem natural to focus on the thing we are most concerned with. If I worry about my lack of vocabulary knowledge then that is going to be the thing I fixate on. However, there has been a lot of research about how dyslexic learners read – what cognitive processes are used in the reading process. Studies by educational psychologists have found that adult dyslexic learners understand text by using context and guess work. They may not understand each word in the dictionary sense – but they use their instinct, experience and the contextual information from the writing as a whole to get the ‘gist’. (See Corkett, J.K. and Parrila, R., 2008. Use of Context in the Word Recognition Process by Adults with a Significant History of Reading Difficulties. Annals of Dyslexia, 58, 139–161 for research references).

What does this research mean in practice?

Focus on what you know, not what you don’t know! Trust your instincts and your ability to make guesses and ‘get the gist’ from the text. If you don’t know what a word means… then guess and make it work for the context of the scene. If it is wrong, the director can always give you a note, but they are not going to cast you on the basis of you understanding the word ‘antithesis’ – they will cast you on your instinctual response to the text and making the right character choices. You can’t make the right choices if you’re just worried about pronouncing antithesis! Nina Finburgh makes this point in her book ‘Some Do’s and Dont’s of Sight Reading for Actors at Audition’, as do I in my chapter on sight-reading in ‘Music, other performing arts and dyslexia’.

For more tips and strategies sign-up to Deborah’s blog ‘all things dyslexia and acting’ at www.deborahleveroy.com

Deborah is a dyslexia and acting coach. Her practice-based PhD research ‘Enabling Performance: Dyslexia and Acting Practice’ explored dyslexia and inclusion in the context of actor training institutions and the wider industry. 

Deborah offers 1-2-1 sessions for actors with Dyslexia through The Actors’ Guild. Find out more and book at: www.actorsguild.co.uk/seminar-info/?id=1049

 




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