André Refig is an actor, singer and voiceover artist. Previous audiobooks include Let Me Tell You About Asperger Syndrome and Victorian Verse. Stage credits encompass musicals (Wilson Mizner in Sondheim’s Road Show, Mr Sheinkopf in Fame), Shakespeare (Rosencrantz in Hamlet, Sebastian in Twelfth Night), children’s theatre (The Little Prince, Lily and Bear, Zeraffa Giraffa, the Old-Green Grasshopper in James and the Giant Peach), new writing (The Commercial Traveller, Macbyrd, Heresy) and operetta (covering and playing roles in several Gilbert & Sullivan shows).
You studied doctoral- level physics. So how did you decide to switch to theater and voice over work, including recording audiobooks?
While I was studying physics, I became heavily involved with the student theatre societies and found myself spending more time doing drama than my degree. I thought it the natural next step to try my hand at acting professionally.
What did you do to turn that interest into practice?
I did a course in Musical Theatre and since then, luckily it’s worked out. Voice over work followed a few years later, initially as a way of supplementing my income but since then I have also been lucky enough to be involved in some more acting-based voice projects, including narrating audiobooks.
Tell us about your process of preparing to narrate an audiobook. Do you have any tricks for making it easier to perform?
Well obviously the first step is to read the book! I then start thinking about all the characters and ways to make them individual and distinguishable, as well as the overall style of the story: Is it a comedy, is it a tragedy, is the narrator a character involved in the events, are they reliable etc.? I don’t know of any tricks per se, but I suppose I don’t try to analyse the books academically, its merits or faults, but simply to empathise with the characters.
Besides audiobook narration, you do a variety of other things. As your website states, “His work has taken him across the UK and Europe and has included a wide variety of different genres, from Shakespeare to new writing, Opera to modern Musicals and voice work to screen work.” How do each of the media and genres help inform your performance of others? Or do they?
Well, this is a bit of a non-statement, but acting is acting, regardless of the medium. The same basic rules apply: connecting with the source material and then communicating that connection with the audience. The methods of communication are what vary the most from one genre to another, but they do inform each other. Working on singing for example, helps with unlocking the voice’s flexibility and any text’s musicality, which come in handy for audiobook narration. Also, the text work required for Shakespeare is a useful tool that can be translated into narrating. The intimacy and truthfulness needed in screen work contribute to the one-on-one communication of audiobooks. So yes, all the media help inform each other, in these and many other ways.
You have an audiobook, Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues, coming out on audio this week. It’s an anthology of short stories of how the bad guys in Jane Austen’s books got that way. Was it fun getting to play the bad guys? Were there any particular challenges?
Yes, playing the bad guys is always fun, but I think it’s always important when approaching them as a narrator to not think of them as bad guys but try to see things from their point of view. This is what all the stories in the anthology do so well I think: they make the reader/listener understand what motivates these characters and not to simply see them as bad boys.
Who was your favorite Austen rogue? Why?
I don’t think I can come up with one favourite Austen rogue, but I did genuinely enjoy reading every single one of them. They were all so well drawn out and very different, with their own particular faults and features, and they weren’t rogues in the same way: some were out and out cads and womanisers, some simply bon vivants and cold and calculating individuals, all equally fun to bring to life.
Was Dangerous to Know the first audiobook you recorded? How did the actual experience compare to your expectations?
This was the third audiobook I’ve recorded but the first one I produced. The previous two were a non-fiction book and a collection of poetry, both recorded in a studio with a separate producer, so this project was very different. I had prepared myself for it to be a lot of work and indeed it was! The preparation, the reading, the editing etc., but I’m happy to say I enjoyed every aspect of it and would be very keen on doing more!
How did you get selected to narrate Dangerous to Know?
I had joined ACX [Audiobook Creation Exchange] late last year, I had put up some samples of my work and was contacted by the editor of Dangerous to Know, Christina Boyd, asking me to submit an audition, which I did. I then got chosen, lucky me!
You’ve voiced animated characters. How does that experience differ from recording audiobooks?
I guess you need more flexibility and presence of mind to record an audiobook, as you’re constantly switching between characters, and from narration to dialogue. In animation, you’re concentrating on one part, which is easier, but you’re often recording your lines in isolation from the other characters and from the rest of the story, so there’s less continuity and less to react against, which is harder. I think the approach to characterisation is similar, and the stylistic choices depend more on the type of book or animation so can vary equally for both.
What is your favorite part of doing voice over work?
My favourite part of doing voice work is probably the breadth and variety of different work there is, and it never gets boring. However, I also love listening to my work afterwards! Although I’m very critical of my own work, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like the sound of my voice (!) and I sometimes surprise myself with what I produce: I of course monitor myself during recording but I’m not listening fully because most of my brain is concentrating on the performance, so having a good listen afterwards, when the editing is done, can be quite satisfying. I guess it’s the pleasure of having created something new.
Check out his book that comes out this week:
Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues
Edited by Christina Boyd
Narrated by André Refig
“One has all the goodness, and the other all the appearance of it.” –Jane Austen
Jane Austen’s masterpieces are littered with unsuitable gentlemen–Willoughby, Wickham, Churchill, Crawford, Tilney, Elliot, et al.–adding color and depth to her plots but often barely sketched. Have you never wondered about the pasts of her rakes, rattles, and gentlemen rogues? Surely, there’s more than one side to their stories. It is a universal truth, we are captivated by smoldering looks, daring charms … a happy-go-lucky, cool confidence. All the while, our loyal confidants are shouting on deaf ears: “He is a cad–a brute–all wrong!” But is that not how tender hearts are broken…by loving the undeserving? How did they become the men Jane Austen created?
In this romance anthology, eleven Austenesque authors expose the histories of Austen’s anti-heroes. Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues is a titillating collection of Georgian era short stories–a backstory or parallel tale off-stage of canon–whilst remaining steadfast to the characters we recognize in Austen’s great works. What say you? Everyone may be attracted to a bad boy…even temporarily…but heaven help us if we marry one.
Stories by: Karen M Cox, J. Marie Croft, Amy D’Orazio, Jenetta James, Lona Manning, Christina Morland, Beau North, Katie Oliver, Sophia Rose, Joana Starnes and Brooke West.
Get the book on Amazon.