Vocal variations with Vicki Lewis

Six things I learned when chatting Thursday afternoon with the delightful Vicki Lewis (“NewsRadio,” “Finding Dory,”), who’s helping teach the CSU Summer Arts “Voice Actors Toolkit” course:


Summer Arts performance: Vicki Lewis speaks at the John Wright Theatre. Photo / Todd Sharp


She’s got a great way with words. “I tend to wear my fried egg on the outside,” she tells me, referencing the fact that we’re all a bit damaged (something we learned about her at her dramatic Summer Arts lecture). She says she loves connecting with students on a healing level. “I get the most reward out of helping people relate to the human condition.”


She’s funny. (What did you expect?) “We’ve got a good class of students, and they’re about my age. I’m 28,” she says. Her husband and fellow teacher, Philip G. Allen, interrupts from across the room: “Twice that,” he says.

“You can add that and keep going,” she relents cheerfully.



She’s realistic. It can be harder for actors these days to pay the bills. There might be hundreds of cable channels these days and more projects than ever, but the “Golden Age” of TV was in the 1990s, when an actor could do three guest-starring roles in a year and pull in $100,000. There are more jobs numerically, but there’s less of a chance to make a living.

“Now we make a tenth of what we did before,” she says.


She’s optimistic. Her Summer Arts class has lots of talent, she says. At the free student showcase performance (4:15 p.m. Saturday, July 8 in the Lyles Gallery), each of the 21 students will present a 90-second voiceover reel. The audio will be paired with video or still images to add a visual component. Whether it’s commercial work, animated roles or audio books, these students are brimming with potential.


She’s understanding. At least when it comes to my confession to her that some smooth-as-whipped-honey NPR newscaster voices make me want to scream. That tone of false earnestness-slash-gravity can rub her the wrong way, too. Perhaps some people are just more sensitive to voices, we agree. I want a little grit in the voices I listen to, a sense of wryness and roughed-up life experience, like someone just gargled with salt water. After bonding with Lewis in this matter, I want to stand up and declare: Yes, I am a voice snob, and I’m proud of it.


She’s still stage-struck. Lewis is itching to get back to Broadway, where she got started in the business. (I tell her that I thought of her while watching the Good Company Players production of “Damn Yankees.” She played Gloria, the brassy reporter, in the 1994 revival. She asks how GCP’s Gloria is — it’s a role that can be overdone — and I reply that Emily Pessano is terrific in it.) Things won’t be completely back to equilibrium in her life until she gets back to New York and the stage, she says. I hope I get to see her on Broadway again one of these days.

Related story: CSU Summer Arts program returns to Fresno with enthusiastic leadership and commitment to firing up the cultural scene

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Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

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