Tavia Gilbert graduated in Theater in 2000 and has gone on to become a star in the audiobooks arena; now she has returned to help Cornish students with their voice-over skills.
It is drama at its most basic: telling a story and capturing listeners. The stage is your iPad, or your home CD player, or your car stereo on a long road at night. Its genre is audiobooks. And the voice? No one is better at keeping you company and telling a story than Cornish College of the Arts alumna Tavia Gilbert ’00, winner of the 2017 Audie Award for Best Female Narrator. What the Oscars are to film acting and the Tony is to stage acting, the Audie is to voice acting. Gilbert won for her work narrating Julia Claiborne Johnson’s Be Frank with Me, but she was a well-known visitor to the finals with six nominations over the years. There is a rabid enthusiasm for audiobooks, and Gilbert is a star with her own following. She has narrated over 300 of them.
Tavia Gilbert brought her expertise back home to Cornish this past week, sponsored by the Theater Department along with the Seattle chapters of SAG and AFTRA (the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists). She gave talks on Thursday and Friday, November 17–18 at Cornish’s Main Campus. She worked up-close with theater students in professor Kate Myre ‘s voice-over class both days.
The skill Gilbert was instructing Cornish students in is, perhaps, not well recognized by everyone, as important as it is to theater professionals. It sounds so simple, reading a book or a script into a microphone, but in many ways, it’s more difficult than acting on screen or stage. There is no help in an audiobook from sets, lights, and gesture: it’s just the voice. The actor’s voice must create everything on its own, setting the mood and often playing multiple characters; as the Library Journal says of Gilbert, she is "as close as you can get to a full cast narration with a solo voice." She works with a book like music, scoring it for herself before she sits down at the mic.
Gilbert is known as a stage and screen actor as well as a writer and producer. All these will come into play for her next project, which is developing a British series for American audiences.