Friday, April 13, 2012

A Picture is Worth a Thousand (Strange and Wonderful) Words

The Prince of Atlantis, a world premiere by Steven Drukman now playing on the Segerstrom Stage, is set in a small community outside of Boston known as Nonantum. But the actors had to do more than just adopt a sharp, East-coast accent to make their performances believable. Nonantum, one of several villages that make up the town of Newton, Massachusetts, has a distinct dialect, developed and preserved over the past several generations by its residents. 

Even though Drukman grew up in nearby Oak Hill, Nonantum's phonetic language, which has no official spellings, let alone a dictionary, is tough to grasp. So Drukman enlisted the help of Alan Flynn, whose family has lived in Nonantum for generations. Flynn took Drukman, director Warner Shook and actor Matthew Arkin on a tour of the area, introducing them to locals who utilize "Lake talk" in everyday situations—a crucial lesson, since the meaning of the language comes not just from the word itself, but also from intonation, body language, facial expressions and the social status of the speaker.

Read on for the real-life sights and sounds of Nonantum.

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