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Meet Eliza Jane Schneider, The “Freaky Genius” Behind “Freedom of Speech”

It takes a special personality to embody the voices of hundreds of different characters. It’s not something just anyone can do, but Eliza Jane Schneider is just the kind of quirky artist who settles into that type of work nicely. 

As the voice artist behind some of the best-known female “South Park” characters, dozens of favorite video game characters, and other cartoon personalities, Schneider is known as the “Woman of a Thousand Voices.” Her professional career as a voice artist, dialect coach, and musician, has revolved around the love of sound and voices, and now she aims to help others find their voice and highlight the need for widespread freedom of those voices through her one-woman show-turned-podcast, “Freedom of Speech.”

An ear for sound 

Schneider’s wild popularity and success in the world of voice acting have been built around her remarkable ear for different dialects and her appreciation for diverse voices. It was this penchant for diversity and her incredible ear for the nuance of sound that led to her taking over nine different female voices on the cult-hit comedy “South Park,” as well as lending her talents to movies such as “Finding Nemo” and video games like “Assassin’s Creed.” 

Schneider’s love for unique sounds and voices led her to study dozens of English dialects from speakers all around the world. She bought an old ambulance, packed her fiddle and her recording equipment, and set out on the road to talk to people, record their voices, and expand her knowledge of how people sound and what they have to say. 

“I decided I wanted to study dialects, and that was going to be my excuse for knocking on every door in the nation,” Schneider told Bravo! in 2009. To date, she has covered over 300,000 miles and completed over 7,000 interviews with people from California to Singapore. 

The freedom to speak

What Schneider found in the midst of her travels and interviews was the willingness of her vocal subjects to discuss personal stories, share deeply held beliefs, and stretch their freedom of speech muscle. The stories, along with the eye-opening realization that we are all more alike than we are different, led to her creating a 25-character one-woman play she called “Freedom of Speech.” 

The play takes people on a journey through America — from polygamist strongholds of Arizona to unsigned rappers exchanging bars on the streets of Philadelphia. The stories illustrate the problems, worries, and beliefs we all share as social creatures. Schneider’s show went on to win the award for Best Solo Show at the NYC International Fringe Festival

“The show is amplifying the voices often ignored by mainstream media,” Schneider explains. “I am seeking to get unsung voices heard.” 

“Freedom of Speech” is now moving into the podcast realm, where it’s sure to find a broader audience and affect more people on a deeper level. With the wide net that Schneider cast in her years-long research into English-speaking dialects, people from all across the globe will be able to see themselves reflected in Schneider’s podcast.

The “Freedom of Speech” podcast is scheduled to launch on January 6, 2024, and presents a global journey where diverse voices are highlighted and separate cultures are bridged. It’s a testament to our small world and how not-so-different we really are. 

Each episode involves a deep dive into why people speak the way they do — and what people really have to say. Schneider’s love for sound and her advocacy work have transcended entertainment — spearheading real education and real change. In addition to highlighting stories from often unheard voices, Schneider has dedicated her time to preserving dialects and continuing to fight for free expression. 

The “Freaky Genius” at work

Schneider has been given many titles: voice actor extraordinaire, voice trainer, Vox Pop CEO, researcher, dialect expert, fiddle player, mad scientist, and one fellow actress even called her a “freaky genius.” She tends to embrace all these labels and more. She tucks them into her pocket and keeps creating with whatever medium strikes her fancy at any given moment. One such moment a few years back produced an epic work of musical mastery that Schneider will be releasing soon. The first single of her “Gypsy Grass” album titled “Jerusalem” dropped this week on her Patreon.

It’s Schneider’s love and anthropological interest in the human experience that has culminated in this moment and the creation of “Freedom of Speech.” Schneider is aware that she is barreling forth into a realm mostly dominated by male voices — but it’s nothing she hasn’t been up against before. Through her approach of diverse, open discourse and listening, she hopes to set herself apart in the extremely crowded podcast realm. 

With its unfettered look at American culture, “Freedom of Speech” is a breath of fresh air in a social media-obsessed world that has led people to hide who they truly are, and how they truly feel. Schneider’s podcast allows people to take off the masks of societal expectation and acceptance and speak truths.

Throughout her career, Schneider has not shied away from a challenge — whether it was taking on dozens of different characters on one show or collecting 7,000 interviews. “Freedom of Speech” is Schneider’s love letter to a world that champions diverse voices, a multitude of sounds, and a million different preoccupations and beliefs. 

If such a world ever needed a Queen, a leader, a guru, or a CEO, the “Woman of a Thousand Voices” (and just as many interests) could certainly fit the bill. 

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