Into The Theatre Of The Mind:
A Talk With Dan Woren
By Mende Smith
Dubbing English translations for Anime films, lead and background vocals for video games, or the obscure feature roles of trusted storyteller for libraries of best-selling audiobooks, there is so much work in the voice over world—once you find it. For veteran actor, voice over talent, and audiobook narrator Dan Woren, his savvy narration skills have kept him in the business most of his life. The growing popularity of listening to the books we love appeals to book lovers of all ages. For listeners’ young and old, Woren’s vocal style conveys all the animation, wonder, and fascination you might expect in an interview, telling his own living history with all the charm of a so-well-liked baritone that delights as well as accompanies one long-playing session after another. And he has rave reviews to match his unequalled performances. It cannot get any better than having a fan take you aside and exclaim “When we got to the destination of our road trip we still had a ways to go to the end of the story, and the wife and I sat in the car and waited fifteen minutes to come to the end.”
Fifteen minutes of Woren’s voice is butter caramel-smooth and the investment is easy on the ears. A timely, patient, elegant, and purposeful voice can lull a thousand babies to sleep, or keep a bike rider fixed on his path. “Ever since I was a kid in Elementary school I always liked reading aloud.” Fast-forward to his college years whenever his friends needed narration for their projects, Woren answered the call. With a degree in Theatre, his voice work dominating his schedule from the very start of his career, and he says, he ‘fell into it fortuitously’. “I met people who complemented me on the quality of my voice and thought that I might be good at it.” Auditions later, Woren found his rightful place at the mic for commercials and Anime work. Over the years expanding his base to incorporate live acting roles too. Woren says that working behind the microphone is the same as on camera or stage acting.
To date, Woren has narrated over 60 audiobooks, both fiction and non. He holds the writers of the works he has had the pleasure to read for in the highest regard, naming fiction writers Leif Enger and Steve Martini especially great. He says he does not have a favorite genre after a lifetime of narrating books, though he prefers fiction—and he says he will read anything if the timing is right. He is flexible, and believable. His range, inexhaustible. With a poignant dictation style and rapier wit, Woren has easily repped for Commercial Real Estate and Life Insurance firms. Among his Anime series credits are leading roles in Bleach, Fate Zero and Digimon. Video gamers know his trusted voice in the crazy-popular World of Warcraft series, among six others. Adept at so many genres, Woren’s delicious timbre makes it all seem so easy to pull off.
On being prepared for work he offers this advice: Just go for it! The industry is exclusive and evergreen, provided you are willing to work hard. If you are an actor looking to break into the business, Woren says, “Get into the workshops and formal training programs that have cropped up all over the country—whatever you can afford, do that. The gaming industry alone is primed for aspiring voice actors.”
Woren says he highly recommends Deyan Institute to get beginning or ongoing coaching in audio book, animation or video game performances, adding that they were integral in his own skillset development. “They are not only great people, they have excellent instructors for every genre that one might want to explore. In addition to the institute, Deyan Audio casts, records and produces numerous audio books each year, at their two facilities in the Valley (Northridge and Tarzana). I have had the pleasure of working with them for over 7 years.” Woren credits the program for helping him to become established in the land of audiobook narration, and introducing him to the business—into the forays of the voice over world. Like tuning an instrument for a concert performance, voice demands equal preparation, practice, and technique. “It’s a wonderful period of time for actors because there is so many opportunities with new media. Online, and even on Netflix and now Google is starting as well, there are so many companies that are producing products.” Woren adds, being a narrator in this field, it is not necessary to have the ‘impeccable booming baritone voice’ that is so often thought of with regards to the listening experience.
“There is room in the market for a myriad of vocal types and qualities. Quirky, compelling, interesting, young, old, textured (or not) my point is, that just because one doesn't have the quintessential narrator or announcer voice, doesn't mean that you can't get work in the field.”
He loves to read and believes reading is the key to carry on in this business. He reads aloud every day to keep on top of his craft. “It is best to stay fresh and to hear what your voice sounds like to others, that is the key to acting work.” The key to projection, the key to timing and the whereabouts to the greatest stories are the silver key to his success. Through the years, he says, he has always been working—like a machinist, or a cable runner, spooling along from platform to platform. With great humility and enthusiasm he discusses his living history. Seamlessly speaking from one reading to the next, and the next and so on, in the long auditions, call backs, and numerous television shows he kept a level head and a steady pace. Woren never lost his interest in connecting with people and loftily took his voice back into theatre—his first love. Having recently finished an on stage performance in the New York stage premiere of Behind Closed Doors: The Musical, playing to sold out houses in the New York Fringe Festival, Woren recounts the awesomeness of his volley back to the stage. “ I just got back from New York and was there for five weeks. Acting on stage again really was a tremendous thing—and I am always staying active and adding tools to my craft. I am looking forward to acting in another play now that opens in March.”
In 2014, Woren was honored to receive two Earphone Awards from AudioFile Magazine (arguably the bible of the industry, reviewing over 2400 audiobooks each year), and was also named one of the magazine's Best Voices of the Year. Deeply humbled by the recognition, he is delighted to have captured the attention of children and family listeners while working on one of his favorite projects. A relative newcomer to the field, he has been successful in the audiobook industry for over 8 years, now. “No matter where you live,” he smiles, “there are always good opportunities for good voices, especially with the emergence of home-studio recording."
According to Woren, to be ready for a career in acting—whatever the platform may be, it is to always be training. “Like for instance sometimes reading for non-fiction can be pretty dry—don’t get me wrong here, I am grateful for the works of non-fiction—and so it’s a challenge at times making it not sound that way to someone that’s listening to it, and in that world, it’s your job.” Woren laughs. “And doing an audiobook is to bring it to life, into the theatre of the mind, so to speak.”