News Item

Theatre professor Monique Sacay-Bagwell brings her acting talents to audiobooks

May 17, 2016

After more than 30 years as a stage actress and director, Lander University Professor of Theatre Monique Sacay-Bagwell has shifted her talents to a new pursuit. When she is not teaching or involved in a theatre production, she performs off stage, behind a microphone as a voice-over artist, narrating audio books.

Sacay-Bagwell joined Lander’s Department of Mass Communication and Theatre in 1991 after earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in acting from Brooklyn College and Ohio State University. She teaches several courses such as public speaking, oral interpretation, voice and diction, and the fundamentals of acting. 

She has an impressive theatre background, acting in and directing dozens of productions around the country. Her name is familiar to local audiences because of her roles on stage at Greenwood Community Theatre and Abbeville Opera House. In fact, she recently won the Best Actress Award for her portrayal of Annie Sullivan in the Abbeville Opera House production of "Miracle Worker."

Monique Sacay-Bagwell, audiobooks resize 

Sacay-Bagwell’s first voice-over recording is titled “Back to School: The A to Z of Success,” a nonfiction book by Sue Baker, with a listening time of four and a half hours. Her second audio book is a historical novel: “White Slave Treasure: An M Suspense Novel,” by Kit Crumb. It’s the first in a series of three books, and Crumb has chosen her to narrate all three.

 When she finds a book she is interested in, Sacay-Bagwell must first audition for the author by producing a sample narration and, if the author approves, she works with ACX, Audiobook Creation Exchange, to follow through on the production.

Once selected, she reads the book for understanding, makes notes and consults with the author about segments or items that might be unclear to her. Then it’s time to record.

She said, “I confiscated a closet in my house and turned it into a voice-over booth.” The room is sound-deadened, not soundproof, so she must be alert to any noise from inside the house or sounds from outside, such as planes flying overhead, sirens or loud traffic. She said the best time for her to record is during the evening when the household has settled down. “My family is very cooperative.”

She records directly into her computer and controls the entire process, including editing. The productions can be very tedious, and it could take three to five weeks to complete one book. And audio book narration differs from what she is accustomed to as a stage actress. She has to keep in mind that she is performing for one listener rather than a theatre audience. “It is less emotional and more conversational.” But her passion and intensity when narrating a book is the same as when she is acting onstage. “It’s a delicate balance,” she said, describing the work as “a solitary art.”

How are narrators paid? She said audiobooks that are available to audition are listed either for royalty share, with compensation based on the number of books sold, or hourly pay.

Sacay-Bagwell is deeply involved in expanding her knowledge of her new craft, attending conferences and workshops and connecting with people in the audiobook industry. In addition to learning, she is alert to opportunities for voice-overs. “I have to sell myself constantly. It’s about marketing and entrepreneurship.”

She said she plans to introduce voice-over acting and its different facets as one of the courses she will teach at Lander beginning in the fall.

Her advice to anyone interested in becoming an audiobook or voice-over performer?  “Get acting experience, take an acting course. Study character analysis, physicality and emotional connection to characters. And take care of your voice; it’s your main communication instrument.”