In one of the most challenging dramatic endeavors of his career, Robert Fass played the part of 160 different characters.
“It was a lot of accents I’d never heard of before,” he said.
It was not a play or a film that required such versatility, but a book — John Steinbeck’s The Acts of King Arthur and his Noble Knights, a retelling of Arthurian legends.
Mr. Fass, 55, who lives in Riverdale, is an audiobook narrator, and a renowned one at that. He has won two Audie awards — the audiobook community’s equivalent of an Oscar — and received seven nominations total. He has recorded over 80 audiobooks, from Ray Bradbury’s Farewell Summer to Joyce Carol Oates’ The Museum of Dr. Moses.
His recording of the Steinbeck work unofficially broke narrator Jim Dale’s Guinness World Record for number of different characters voiced in an audiobook. Mr. Dale’s record came to 134 parts, in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
This month, Mr. Fass will help his fellow narrators celebrate Audiobook month through the Summer Shorts project. It brings narrators together to record and eventually sell public domain material to benefit ProLiteracy, an adult learning advocacy group.
“I love stories — that’s really what it comes down to,” he said. “I was always interested in the spoken word.”
Mr. Fass is a longtime actor, improviser, comedian, writer and photographer. By venturing into audiobooks, he followed in the footsteps of his father, who read and recorded for the blind in Washington D.C. After his father passed away, Mr. Fass began recording for the Jewish Guild for the Blind’s radio reading service as a volunteer.
For over a decade, he read The New Yorker to the visually impaired.
“That was the best training ground I could have possibly wanted,” he said.
As the audiobook industry began to seek classically and theatrically trained actors for their guild, Mr. Fass sent in a demo. Six months after his first audition, he landed his first audiobook recording job — Forever, by Jeffery Deaver.