Musical theatre student branches out as dialect assistant

Mason Shefchik (BFA Theatre Performance, Musical Theatre)
Mason Shefchik (BFA 2024, Theatre Performance: Musical Theatre) | Photo by Cameron Wise (BFA Film)

When an actor immerses themselves into a character, they sometimes need to develop an accent or dialect. Anyone who has heard a poorly executed accent knows it can be difficult to ignore. Luckily for most actors, they do not have to figure this out on their own, instead seeking help from those who specialize in this work. 

Recent grad Mason Shefchik (BFA 2024, Theatre Performance: Musical Theatre) is one of those individuals. He recently served as a dialect assistant for Renaissance Theaterworks while still a student. 

Shefchik aided in actors’ better understanding of the French language and behavior in their production of L’Appartement. This was Shefchik’s first experience in a professional theater company.  

“It’s a little weird; I’m 22 and haven’t graduated yet and this is my first actual gig in a professional theater,” said Shefchik, “But [everyone] really made me feel like I had something to show and like they gained something from what I had to provide. That was a wonderful feeling.” 

A typical day as a dialect assistant for Shefchik was incredibly hands-on. His time consisted of working directly with the production’s director to determine how consistent the actor’s accent work was. From there, they would watch scenes and record notes throughout to help performers improve their craft. 

Jonathan Bangs and Cara Johnston in Renaissance Theaterworks’ production of L”APPARTEMENT.
Jonathan Bangs and Cara Johnston, who played French characters, in Renaissance Theaterworks’ production of L’APPARTEMENT by Joanna Murray-Smith. | Photo by Nathaniel Schardin (BFA 2021, Art), Traveling Lemur Productions.

Shefchik credited the cast of L’Appartement as a standout in the production, taking great value in the feedback that he gave. 

“They were amazing, and they really took all of our notes,” said Shefchik. “By the time tech came around it was just minuscule things.” 

What resulted was an immersive experience with actors fully committing to their “uppity French attitude,” according to Shefchik. 

“The consistency the actors provide is something I had a hand in,” said Shefchik. “The actors who played French characters took it very seriously, and they were so hungry to make sure they were getting all the sound changes right.” 

Shefchik worked alongside Raeleen McMillion (Co-head of BFA Acting: Voice, Speech, and Dialects) who helped him secure the opportunity. 

While Shefchik does have prior dialect experience, McMillion offered the position to Shefchik in large part because of his admirable work ethic and strong sensitivity to the craft. “Mason not only understands the process of being a performer but is very sensitive to the overall artistic process,” said McMillion, speaking of Shefchik’s care for refined details. “Because of that, I have no doubt that Mason will be successful.” 

With graduation on the horizon for Shefchik, he viewed his time at Renaissance as a memorable and highly beneficial first experience in the professional world. 

“Seeing how well-oiled that machine works was a reminder of why we do what we do,” said Shefchik. “It was a reminder that collegiate theater is preparing us and giving us the skills to operate under [professional] expectations.” 

Story by Jason McCullum ’25