Allyson Voller's Inspirational Journey from Stage to Audiobook Narration
Updated: Jul 28
Allyson has worked professionally as a Chicago based actor for nearly 30 years. Her career has found her on stage, in front of the camera and behind the mic in theatre, TV/Film and Voice Over work.After earning a degree in Theatre, Allyson went on to study improvisation at The Second City Conservatory and iO Chicago. Her path led her to audiobook narration and she’s never looked back. Her audiobook narration work has been recognized with finalist nominations from the Independent Audiobook Awards and the Audiobook Adrenaline Awards. Allyson is a member of SAG-AFTRA, the APA and PANA. When not in her recording booth you can find her walking her local hiking trails, creating silly memorable shenanigans with her kids or simply reading a book.
Throughout your diverse career in acting, what have been some of the most memorable and fulfilling moments you have experienced?
I truly love performing and have been so fortunate to be able to perform – in various mediums – for many years. But a large portion of my most memorable and fulfilling moments happened while performing on stage in theatres. Being in front of an audience live is amazing! Hearing the audiences’ reactions, sometimes see them, it’s very satisfying to know your work is touching them. The memories that stand out are performing Shakespeare in the Park, performing a show about bank robbers – in a bank, and a children’s Christmas show for needy kids, complete with Santa showering them with gifts and cookies. Could you share an instance where your improvisation training from The Second City Conservatory and iO Chicago greatly influenced or enhanced your performance as an actor or voice-over artist? Sometimes in auditions or in a voice over session, the producers will ask you to improvise something related to the script or product for commercials. Having the framework to know how to do this on the spot has been essential for me. I believe improvisation training is important for any actor and really teaches a lot of great skills for anyone. You’re working with people as a team, supporting one another on stage while performing and building trust in one another that you’ll be there if your scene partner needs an assist. You are thinking on your feet, listening carefully to your scene partner(s) – all while zeroing in on your intention and driving the story/scene forward. And hopefully having fun in the process!
How did you transition from traditional theatre and on-camera work to audiobook narration? What drew you to this particular form of storytelling? I have always loved reading and listening to audiobooks. I really wanted to give audiobook narration a try and was drawn to pursuing narration, so I took a leap! It’s been a wonderful addition to my career and so fulfilling to be able to share stories with people. It feels a lot like theatre to me in a way, minus the live audience. I enjoy audiobook narration so much.
Being recognized as a finalist for prestigious awards such as the Independent Audiobook Awards and the Audiobook Adrenaline Awards is a remarkable achievement. What does this recognition mean to you and how has it impacted your career?
I’m truly honored by the recognitions. It’s a lovely way to say “well done!” I’m so grateful.
Outside of your professional pursuits, how do you find balance in your life? How do activities like walking hiking trails or simply reading a book contribute to your creativity and overall well-being?
Taking a break helps me to keep my focus and forward my overall goals. Even though it can be tough for me to take a break, I really try to – even if it’s a quick walk. I always feel more recharged and clear headed when I have a chance to go for a walk or spend some time with my family. I love being in nature, it’s a very peaceful and relaxing activity for me. I also enjoy volunteering. I don’t always have time, but when I can I like to volunteer making meals for a local women’s shelter, packing food for needy kids, preparing books for donation to underserved elementary schools and giving back to the audiobook community by being involved with some of our support organizations.
Can you describe the process of bringing a character to life through audiobook narration? What are some of the unique challenges and rewards of this particular art form?
One of my favorite parts of digging into a book is to prepare it for recording. I love making notes about the characters – their traits, what their intentions are, do they have accents, what do they look like, where are they from, how do they feel about the other characters in the story, etc? I will make notes on the text and I create a spreadsheet with my characters. The spreadsheet is very handy because I can include detailed notes about each character, any pronunciations that are not familiar to me, or phrases in another language. I like to include any notes the author may have as well. Putting all of these notes together help me bring the audiobooks to life. The challenges can be time. Life does happen and doesn’t care if you have a deadline. Anything outside your control that interferes with recording, will make things challenging. You do need to make it work somehow, plus good communication with your authors or producers helps too when things don’t go as planned. I feel rewarded when an author and listeners enjoy what I’ve narrated. It’s always nice to know people like your work. What advice would you give to aspiring actors or voice-over artists who are looking to build a successful and fulfilling career in the industry? Did your family foster your desire to pursue a career in science or did it come naturally? I had a conversation with a young actor recently about this very topic! They were questioning their career choice and I shared with them to stick with it, it will likely take time to build up a career but it will always be there for you – even if you chose to do something else for a little while. No matter what you work on, you’ll need to be dedicated and work hard at it. If you are passionate about something, why not pursue it and see what happens. One of the best pieces of advice I received early in my career was to surround yourself with positive and motivated people. I love sharing this piece of advice with others too because it can be applied to anything – not just acting. Having supportive, positive people around you in life is so important. I am very lucky to have parents and a family who are very supportive and encouraging. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. I like to pass on that positive support to others too!