Dramatic Interpretation: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know
Competitors in Dramatic Interpretation can find everything they would ever want, or need, to know about the competitive acting event DI right on this page. How and where to find pieces, tips for delivering and cutting a piece, things NOT to do, EVERYTHING a speech competitor needs to know in order to be successful in Dramatic Interpretation!
Dramatic Interpretation: Overview
This is an individual event, with no props or costumes, memorization required, and an introduction to the piece embedded within the performance. Pieces can be selections from published/printed novels, short stories, poetry, plays, monologues (although, I personally would not recommend a monologue) or other printed/published material. Dramatic Interpretation is also referred to as DI or, as a joke, Depressive Interpretation—due to competitors in DI sometimes choosing pieces “guaranteed” to cause tears in the hopes that tears and stories about puppies being maltreated will win medals (just kidding around DI speechies).
The gist of DI is fairly simple to grasp, yet perfecting it is tremendously challenging. This event takes vigorous work and dedication but is highly gratifying. As stated earlier, performers take a selection from a published/printed work and make a cutting of the piece. Cuttings should be observant of time limits. Cuttings should also be done in a fashion that allows for the story to flow, function, and facilitate drama.
It also should be noted most DI judges expect character changes (think of DI as a one-person play), so use of effective and clever body language and voice manipulation to convey character is necessary. Performers should be aware that you are NEVER allowed to walk around and feet are only permitted to change stance to further depict character. Ergo, you need to be real specific when it comes to character definitions! Plus, your character transitions (or POPS!) need to be smooth and quick. In addition, because DI entails character pops, thus multiple characters, interpretation of the text is key to success. You need to understand everyone you are playing. Know who they are, their relation to others, and what they want from the other characters. If you can do that, then your DI will be a success.
Dramatic Interpretation: Structure and Rules
The competitor will select and make a cutting of a published, printed work from a play, novel, short story, or poem. The cutting needs to be within time and tell a complete story (beginning, middle, end; introduction, rising action, CLIMAX, falling action, dÃ©nouement). The performer must also have an introduction to the piece. At competition, the performer will compete in three rounds and possibly a fourth if they break to finals. Interpretation is the key element to this event, so fully analyze the story and characters!
--Selections are to be dramatic in nature
--Selections must be from published, printed material of plays, novels, short stories, and poems
--Must be memorized
--Must be within time (ten minutes is normal, although some areas vary)
--An introduction is required (names author, title, gives any necessary information, and sets the tone) and given after a minute or so of the piece has been delivered, at a natural break-point
--No props or costumes
--All pops, or character transitions, are to be smooth, quick, and fluid
--Interpretation is most of what you will be ranked by, so know the plot, the characters, the theme, EVERYTHING
--All gestures, stances, facials, vocals/intonations need to support that character (and needs to be unique to that particular character), help tell story, and be clear
--Diction is important
--No moving-you must stand in one place, but are allowed to change stance for different characters
--Eye contact is a must
Excelling in Dramatic Interpretation: An Advanced Guide
Whether you're performing a soliloquy or a seven-character scene, Dramatic Interpretation is an event for seriously talented competitors with a serious thirst for success.
(NOTE: Dramatic Interpretation is an event for which you must memorize a ten-minute script of a dramatic nature and perform it while adhering to speech and debate rules forbidding props and costumes.At some tournaments, D.I. can refer to both dramatic (D.I.) and humorous (H.I.) performances, but this guide refers only to dramatic performances.)
Here are some of the elements of a well-done D.I. performance:
The piece: Choose an honest, unique, moving piece for Dramatic Interpretation. Different judges will have differing opinions about which pieces work and which don’t, but it ultimately comes down to whether you feel comfortable with your selection and whether you are able to express the themes well.
--Stick to your strengths. If you can do multiple characters, do it. If you prefer the depth and solidity of a monologue, go classic. Again, it’s up to you.
--Cut your piece well. Many of the best D.I. pieces are actually much larger plays trimmed down to fit the time limit. Even if you started with a ten-minute script, though, look through the lines for needless repetitions and dragging moments, then eliminate them.
--If you have a severely hard time finding a piece you like, don’t give up. Talk to your coach, visit your local bookstore or ask fellow teammates if they have suggestions for you. Consider converting one of your favorite books, plays, short stories or movie scripts into a D.I. piece.
Depth of character (or characters):
--Many competitors make the mistake of thinking that this is an easy event because all you have to do is “be sad.” But in D.I., if you do not develop your characters’ emotions and mannerisms, your piece will fall flat. It is not merely about recitation; you have to invest time and energy into character development.
--Think hard about what you would do if you were in your character’s shoes. Read every line in the piece and carefully evaluate what each phrase means for your character. If your family member was diagnosed with an incurable disease, or you were plagued by predictions of people’s deaths, or you had just buried a beating heart under your floorboards and couldn’t get the victim’s eye out of your mind, then you would react to that. Don’t just say the lines. Feel them.
--If you can do character pops, this can be a valuable tool in D.I. However, keep in mind that this is not necessary. How the number of characters in your piece reflects your score is a matter of judge preference. Some judges might think you aren’t doing as much as other competitors if you don't have multiple characters, while others might think that you have too many characters, and it clutters the piece and muddles the message. A well-done monologue can be just as moving.
--If you can rock a realistic southern drawl or a beautiful South African accent, go for it. It never hurts to use an accent in D.I. – just don’t forget to match it to your character.
--Maintain a loud enough volume all the way through the piece. Make sure you speak up enough so that your judge and your audience can hear you.
--Many dramatic scripts require yelling. It is important to rest your voice properly between rounds so that you do not overexert yourself and risk losing your voice. In addition, you should practice your piece without yelling, just so that you are prepared in case you do lose your voice. (It happens.) You may even discover that your piece works well without extreme volume.
--Again, if you are able to use pops, you may do so, but your acting must also remain solid. Don’t lose sight of your characters.
--In DI, crying is a subject of controversy. It can be awe-inspiring to watch a D.I.er cry, but in some areas, tears are considered a prop (seriously). You never know when your judge might think you're being too over-the-top. Use your judgment – you don’t want to come across as a pageant winner crying during her acceptance speech.
--Facial expression is key. Be energetic and as natural as possible. Also, if you have bangs or hair that is going to be continually falling into your eyes, you need to fix that, because if the audience can’t see your eyebrows, it will mask your expressions.
--In DI, don't run around. Physical comedy and erratic stage movements have their place, but not in a D.I. round. There is never a reason to move around excessively in this event.
--Try to avoid habits. If you have a habit of running your fingers through your hair, twirling your hair or flipping it behind your shoulder, you should definitely pull it back. If you don't, your habits will show through and then it will be obvious it's you doing it, not the character.
Most importantly, practice, and have someone else watch you perform your piece and give you feedback. This will help you determine how your piece will come across to others and how well you are conveying the author's intent.
Dramatic Interpretation and Where to Begin the Search
(Ideas on where to look for a piece.)
Thinking of where to begin the quest for a piece is intimidating. There are endless methods of how to find pieces, and every event holds secrets specific to their nature on where to look. Dramatic Interpretations can be found in a few of the usual venues. They also can be found in locations where you might have never speculated. For thoroughness, here is a list of all the possible Dramatic Interpretation hideouts and hangouts.
--Team Archives. Dramatic Interpretation is an event where most teams will have dozens upon dozens of pieces stored away for future use. Your team may even have catalogs from which to order plays from (if you know what you want and it can be afforded). Try to look for pieces that have not been overly used in the past to avoid being unoriginal.
--Library. Most libraries have a rich selection of plays available. You can browse at your leisure, read as much as you want, make copies (10 cents per page is average), and sit in comfortable chairs as you work! Another perk? Librarians are all sorts of helpful. All can point you in the correct direction; some may even be able to advise you on particular playwrights of excellence.
--Bookstores. If libraries frighten you, or you prefer to own your material, then going to a bookstore is ideal. The selection might be narrower, but there will be less walking the stacks required to find all plays available. You also can pick-up a cup of coffee as you skim through possible pieces.
--League Archives. Some leagues list not only the names of previous State winners but also the titles of their pieces. The Illinois High School Association comes to mind. Check out the records of your league and others to see what worked well enough to win State. As with searching through team archives do chose pieces that are not still fresh in memory.
--Ask Teachers. English teachers may have more knowledge on possible Dramatic Interpretation pieces that you may think. It is their job to know about literature. True, most Dramatic Interpretation pieces are taken from plays, but some English teachers might surprise you with their expansive play awareness.
--Theatre People and Places! This is where the difference lies. Tap into the information and suggestions of theatre lovers and participants. Ask the drama club, school directors, theatre teacher, and actors you know if they can suggest any good dramatic pieces for you to read. They may give you specific titles, author names, or collections you can read that may supply you with the piece you desire.
--On-Line Sources. You can type in "Dramatic Interpretation Pieces" in a search engine and hope to see results. Or you can be logical and type in keywords an actor, director, or set-designer might use (script archives, theatre scripts, famous playwrights (find a writer, find a play), best American plays, etc.). The more descriptive you are, the better your odds of something useful being displayed.
--Remember, Dramatic Interpretation can also be ANY published material from short stories, poems, and novels. They do not have to be lifted from published plays alone!
Locating a Dramatic Interpretation piece does not have to be a struggle. There are multiple ways to begin looking for material. Some may have more appeal than others. Regardless of what you decide, remain calm and use all your resources available to find the best fitting piece for you.
Dramatic Interpretation: A Perfect Script?
The strength of any performance can be linked to the strength of the script. This is not to say an okay script will result in an okay, or even bad, DI. Nor will a spectacular script yield a phenomenal piece. Dramatic Interpretation is far more involved and complicated to be based on such generalities. However, for a great Dramatic Interpretation to be created, there must be good source material from which to grow. When looking for a script there are several considerations to mull over:
1. Is the source material legal? There are rules on where you can get your script from. The range may be broad, but you do not want to find yourself "scriptless." Dramatic Interpretations, as stated by the National Forensics League, must be of "cuttings from published-printed novels, short stories, plays, poetry, or any other printed-published materials." Essentially you have an almost limitless venue of where to find materials--just be sure the work has been PUBLISHED and PRINTED.
2. Do you love it? A Dramatic Interpretation is a relationship between you and your script. And much like a relationship you would have with a friend or girlfriend/boyfriend, there are good relationships and bad ones. Why invest your time in a piece that you are lukewarm over? Would you date or befriend a person that you simply saw as mildly interesting? NO, NEVER! It's a waste of time for all parties involved. A Dramatic Interpretation without heart is what will ruin even a polished piece and leave the audience feeling your performance was lacking.
3. Can you picture yourself as the characters? You have found a script that is enticing and you are thinking of making a cutting. Ask yourself first: can I picture myself as any of these characters? Remember, you are not only casting yourself in one role but multiple. If most of the characters are not in your acting range then sorry, this piece is not in your future. You can love and be intrigued by something yet not be compatible. And that's okay. Just know when to walk away.
4. Do the characters have range? As you are playing multiple people it is advised to select a piece with well-developed characters. There are several reasons behind this. First, well-done characters make your job as an interpreter easier. Do you really want to have to chisel away at a wooden persona, trying to find what makes them distinct from everyone else? Second, having characters with varying personalities showcases your acting skills. Playing characters that are the same would be self-imposed typecasting. An example of how limited you become is as follows: Christopher Walken is well-known for playing that random, lovable, odd character that shows up half-way through a movie to add a laugh (or for his role in "The Deer Hunter" pending on your knowledge of 70s cinema). Having a cast of basically all the same people is like having a cast of nothing BUT Christopher Walken. Characters would not pop nor show any skill you may possess in playing different character types. Finally, a similar cast is dull; it's like having to eat the same meal over and over. People like variety.
5. Is it good storytelling? Reflect back on any story you love. Why is it so dear? Surly the plot is compelling. Realistically though all stories can be stripped away to several basic tales. The Boy Meets Girl story? The Buddy Adventure story? The Lost Love story? Of course there are variations and twists, but nothing is 100% new. What really makes these tales unique is how they are told. Good stories have developed expositions (introductions), rising action with juicy conflict, a mind-blowing climax, gripping falling action, and a dÃ©nouement (conclusion/resolution) that leaves you thinking. Dramatic Interpretation is a condensed version of a story so it is possible to take an alright plot and cut it to perfection; if you are crafty. But your job will be less complicated with a solid story to begin with; cutting is challenging when there is little of the source material worth keeping. Besides, most works that are mediocre stories in full will just be mediocre DIs.
6. Can it be cut? Some longer works are not meant to be cut. They might be too long to shorten without losing potency or they might not offer a selection that can stand alone. Another problem is finding a script that works with Dramatic Interpretation's nature. Are multiple characters possible? Give a piece some thought and ask yourself if making a cutting is realistic. If "no" is a reoccurring word, my apologies.
7. Is it dramatic enough? This does not mean is the story focused on murder, drugs, rape, AIDS, etc. Drama stems from conflict, plain and simple. A strained Father-Son relationship qualifies as drama--it can be excellent drama. No, what this refers to is that moment. That Dramatic Interpretation moment, usually the climax, where you get to unleash your inner dramatist. Things "get real" and it is your chance to pretend you are performing in an Academy Award winning role. Never over-do this moment, but be sure your piece offers you an opportunity to show your dramatic, peacock plumage.
8. Is it universal? Be sure to find a piece almost anyone can relate or connect with. This DI is just not for you but for your audience as well. If they cannot form a bond with your piece, it does not matter how fantastic you are, you will not do as well as you can. However, do not sacrifice quality or a work you love merely to appease the crowd. Just remind yourself that the story only you adore will most likely not place. General rule, if your team and coach enjoy it you should be golden.
Although numerous, asking yourself these questions while on the hunt for a piece can help you find one that not only you treasure but one that can work in DI as well. Discovering a Dramatic Interpretation piece that meshes with you, while being of fine quality, will make your prospective work more enjoyable and easier. Good luck and happy hunting!
Dramatic Interpretation Casting Call
It is one thing to have to cast an actor for a role. The difficulty increases when there are multiple roles to cast. Dramatic Interpretation insanity hits once the realization strikes that you have to cast yourself as several, special-as-snowflakes individuals. Should you be searching for a script that holds many characters that are just like you? Absolutely not. Not only does that mean the playwright is awful at characterization, it also is unrealistic. You will never find a piece where every character is perfect for you. So how is it done, this Dramatic Interpretation casting process? Easy.
1. Non-traditional casting. If you are a female and you wish to do a Dramatic Interpretation that has only one female role (and perhaps a supporting male one), you should not instantly be defeated by a gender barrier. You are competing in an event where you have to play multiple characters. Judges, audiences, EVERYONE will understand if you choose to do a piece where gender-bending takes place. It does happen. Just be certain that you are comfortable and able to play other genders. This also applies to other races as well. Performer discretion is advised though! There are times when roles are highly gender specific and a male playing a female lead (or in reverse) is inappropriate. Minor roles are where gender-bending should occur.
2. Main role. Your main casting concern should be to properly cast yourself as the lead. If you make a perfect Claudius, but a terrible Hamlet, your dream of performing Hamlet as a Dramatic Interpretation should remain a dream (unless you do some clever cutting and focus your performance on Claudius). The rule is that your main character, the narrator, has to be a good selection for you to play. That is who the audience will see the most of, who should have more development and range, and the role where characterization portrayal needs to be impeccable.
3. "Minor" roles. There is some wiggle-room with minor characters. You still need to be able to perform as them, but if they are less developed than your lead you may be able to squeak by...for a time. Leaders in Dramatic Interpretation know that all characters matter and will tirelessly strive for all to be near flawless. It is distracting to pop from a fantastic Estragon to a mediocre Pozzo ("Waiting for Godot," anyone?). Consider the possibility that you can select a piece with the understanding that the minor roles might be okay at first but can grow into developed, believable characters. Also, not all minor roles need to be used. Dramatic Interpretation allows you to decide if a character is a necessity. As long as they are not really needed (combining character lines is a fun way to "correct" a role you cannot perform) go ahead and ax them.
4. PRACTICE! All characters might not be you, but you can be most characters if you practice. This is acting! Of course there are limits and there are particular roles you would never be cast in if this were a play. But Dramatic Interpretation is not a play! There is the beauty. You can be the roles you long for which normally a director would never even let you read. Unless the character is so far removed from who you are that your portrayal is comical or horrible (or both) then practicing is the solution to performing a character you thought was interesting but one you would never get cast as.
Casting Dramatic Interpretation roles often leave novices concerned with how one can be multiple people. Do they have to match all their characters? Can a female play a male, or males play females? Am I suited for all these roles? The question shouldn't be can I, but why not? If the piece supports non-traditional casting, if you can tackle minor characters, and if you value PRACTICING ABOVE ALL ELSE, then that piece you were contemplating may still be approachable.
Dramatic Interpretation: Making the Cut
After you have found a story worth telling begins the process of making it live. Tempting as it is to plunge directly into creating pops and blocking, there is little you can do beyond basic analysis without a working script. Rarely is source material immediately ready to be memorized, interpreted, and practiced to perfection. Therefore, a cutting must be made. A Dramatic Interpretation cannot be crafted from one singular formula, but there are aspects of the script that can be broken down to help in the cutting process.
--Length. There are time restraints that need to be adhered to. With any cutting you do for you Dramatic Interpretation, always remind yourself that you still have to make time. Most leagues tend to fall in the 8-10 minutes time frame. However, every league is different on time limits, so you will surely want to check with your area's rules.
--Lovingly cut, never butcher. In order to make time you most likely will have to trim or omit parts of the material you adore if they are not necessary for the story. It is horrible, but it happens. With a first draft cut, it is important to retain everything crucial for the plot and character development; all the amazing superfluous zingers or tangents should be the first to be trimmed. Now, you do not want to remove too much of all the extra fluff that helps add pizazz and memorable moments. That would leave your script exposed and sickly thin. Just do not over-indulge in the perks if it damages the story's overall flow. Also, as your Dramatic Interpretation gets better so will your time. Most performers find they can add lines they loved as the season progresses. Be patient.
--Remember basic plot design. The general outline of how a plot is typically organized is as follows: Exposition (introduction of characters, setting, etc.) --> CONFLICT and Rising Action (the issue is discovered and problems arise due to the conflict) --> Climax (the height of conflict and highest tension; everything is unleashed!) --> Falling Action (things begin to settle down and a solution is sought) --> DÃ©nouement (the resolution/conclusion; things come to an end happily or not). There are instances when non-traditional storytelling occurs and these elements might be slightly out of order, such as with flashbacks. Think "Memento" or any Quentin Tarantino film. Anyway, while you are cutting your piece be sure to follow some semblance of basic plot. If you are crafting a Dramatic Interpretation and you remove too much of the climax for it to qualify for one anymore you are in trouble. If your story is told in a non-traditional method cutting may be tougher. Then you must remember to retain enough to have a coherent story. Trust your author and simply cut out anything your audience need not know.
--Do not be over-dramatic. This might be Dramatic Interpretation but that does give you a license to fill every minute with tear-filled dialogue. In fact, you would be hurting your DI. Creating a cutting with nothing but the juiciest, intense moments will most likely result in a poorly constructed, boring, limited range plot. Follow the basic plot design detailed above. Choose a few snappy parts for the Rising Action all culminating in a coup de grÃ¢ce of a climax.
--Character conscious. Regardless of how many characters you actually choose to use for your Dramatic Interpretation, all those you retain must serve a purpose. Characters should be as developed as possible, and through careful cutting of dialogue you can make your task easier. Use the dialogue to help build character and show growth. It is frustrating to invest time in characters and feel like they have not changed from point A to point B (unless that is the point of course).
--Basic rules. Do not cut anything the audience needs to understand the story. Do not make jumps from one plot point to another--unless you want to lose your audience. Use transitions. Do not trim so much dialogue it sounds choppy or stiff. Do not be afraid to play around with a cutting you have made; nothing is permanent. Alterations help keep your performance fresh. Find the one thing that this tale is about and form your cutting around telling that story.
Dramatic Interpretation is like eating a flourless, chocolate cake instead of your basic, fluffy, flour-using one. Both can be delicious or fail if not baked properly. However, this is a more condensed, intense cake, and if you forget any ingredient you are left with a hefty flop. Do not be intimidated by your Dramatic Interpretation, but do not take on a cutting lightly. Approach it with respect and your final script will be wonderful.
Dramatic Interpretation Character Analysis
The success of any Dramatic Interpretation can be measured by the actor's understanding of character. Because that is the core of the event, characterization. Knowing all personas of your piece as if they were your best friend will be the difference between doing well and just okay. Further, understanding your characters will also enable you to master other aspects of this performance category. For instance, a Dramatic Interpretation with sloppy pops, similar vocalizations, mirrored gestures, unclear physicality, all can be improved upon by getting to know your colorful array of personalities. A few basics you should ask, or infer, about every character include:
--Name and age. Incredibly basic. Yet our name is our identity. Ask, is there some sort of pun or symbolism with the name? Is there a reason why the character is this age (if specified)? How can these attributes help with characterization (older characters might not stand as tall)?
--Appearance. A character that is described, or hinted, to be either good or bad looking may reflect their confidence or insecurities as established by how they and others view their looks. Or, if a character has a disability that should be taken into consideration with physical characterization.
--Personality. How would you describe this character? How would they describe themselves? Are they smug? Intelligent? Uptight? Listing adjectives will help give you an idea of what verbs to perform later to become this character.
--Socio-economic status. What is the financial situation of this character? Or what about their financial history? Coming from nothing to having money will certainly have an effect on a person, and vice versa. Where we are fiscally has an almost direct effect on our views of the world, how we act, and how we alter ourselves to be perceived in a way of our choosing.
--Education. There is a difference between an educated individual and one with limited resources to knowledge. And our level of education effects how we interact with others and view ourselves.
--Place of residence. Where we come from and where we currently live influences who we are. A person from the slums will act differently than one who lived isolated from reality in a mansion all their life (neither individual is better, just different of course!). Also, think accents! Different regions and countries have unique vernaculars.
--Specified likes and interests. Does the author list in the script things the character likes to do, show aptitude for, or finds intriguing? These may serve as hints on how to add depth to the character. For example, a character who is described as being a bookworm might be able to be played as a reserved sort of person (if the rest of the script supports that).
--Non-specified likes and interests. What can you guess about this character's further pursuits of joy based on information given in the script? Creating a character with numerous layers will only help with the characterization process.
--How do they view other characters? People act differently around different people. For example, if one character finds another intimidating then that one who is intimidated may either become meek and "hide" in the other's presence--or do the opposite to show they are brave too. Ask how your character views others and think about how that may change their personality and social interactions.
--How do others view them? When you know someone dislikes you, it has a direct effect of how you act around that person. Or when you think people like you, you may be more open than normal. Is your character aware of how they are viewed or are they oblivious?
--Over-ruling desire/want. Characters are driven by an overwhelming desire for a want. Find what that is for your character. Knowing their main want will help you determine the tactics they use to get it. This may also help explain irrational behavior.
Dramatic Interpretation character analysis needs to be done with every character. No personality is too small or too great. Will analysis change through time? Certainly. The closer you become to a character will change your interpretation. Does that mean you should be lax in your work? NO! Dramatic Interpretation analysis will evolve, but evolution is the sign of a growing performance. And using these basic attributes as a starting reference will help you begin that journey to creating fully developed characters.
Polishing Dramatic Interpretation Character Relationships
When doing Dramatic Interpretation you are one of many. You are yourself in the introduction, a narrator/lead, and a plethora of supporting cast. While developing an individual character's mannerisms and characteristics is vital, people sometimes forget that how a character interacts with others is also critical to characterization. Dramatic Interpretation might be described as a solo event, but with an array of characters it sometimes feels like a fully cast play. Thus, you should approach script analysis as one in a play would; not only look for specifics of one character but look at how interactions influence others.
To help make relationship analysis easier you need to be organized. A method that can be used for creating a graphic organizer for character relationships is to make a chart. Take a sheet of paper and divide the paper into columns (one column for one character). Count how many columns you have and draw that many rows. Label your columns going left to right (example: Larry, Jeff, George, Gary) and your rows going top to bottom (Larry, Jeff, George, Gary). You should have the upper-left and lower-right corner box empty. This grid chart works like the multiplication table, Battleship, or those Allele charts in Biology. When filling out the chart take a name from a row and ask how does X feel about Y? Going back to our example, ask how does Larry feel about Larry, how does Jeff feel about Larry, how does George feel about Larry, and how does Gary feel about Larry? Then go down to the next row and repeat the process. Once the chart is complete you will know how every character feels about not only themselves but everyone else.
Questions to think about with character relations include:
--How does X feel about Y?
--What does X want from Y?
--Does X hide anything from Y?
Once you understand how your characters feel towards others, you can better interpret their dialogue. As you pop from character to character in your Dramatic Interpretation ask yourself how these relationships influence how they speak to one another. What are these characters really saying? How does their relationship affect the subtext? Also, this involvement of interpretation will not only develop individual characters more but allow for tension and suspense to grow between characters (which is challenging as all characters stem from you alone).
This level of analysis might seem overkill, but to know these characters entirely you need to look into every detail of your piece; Dramatic Interpretation requires it. When you have done that your characters will come alive and tell a compelling story.
Dramatic Interpretation Introductions
Writing an introduction is largely looked upon as a tough, yet unimportant aspect to performance. Well, a good introduction is tough to write and requires thought. Are they unimportant though? Absolutely not! An introduction is the only time to address the judge as yourself; it is the time to do some personal selling of your piece. Introductions also provide valuable background information and hook to grab the attention of your listeners. Introductions can also be the time to break the rapture of your audience if they are not lulled into your sales pitch. When writing a Dramatic Interpretation introduction there are several things you can do to reel in your audience.
--Set the tone. Dramatic Interpretations are often a dreary sort of artistic expression. Does this entitle you to be melodramatic and cry? No. But you might not want to be a clown either. Obviously every DI will entail a particular mood (not all atmospheres work for all DIs). BUT, a somber attitude driven with energy tends to fit most Dramatic Interpretation introductions.
--List all necessary information. Author's name and the title of the piece; you need it.
--Background information. Most pieces are a selection from a larger work. Therefore, when you present your introduction bear in mind that your audience might not have read this story before. Are they being presented a piece after some drama has occurred--drama that needs to be known? Was this Dramatic Interpretation a reaction to a historical movement or event? Should your audience be aware of this? Did the author have a particular message in mind that your listeners might need to know? Most plays and pieces of literature have a message to be told, so take advantage of that when you write your introduction.
--Be yourself. In a Dramatic Interpretation you transform yourself into any number of characters. Be sure that when you present the introduction you are yourself. As stated earlier, this is the only time to be you for the judge. Show them your charm and confidence and make them remember who you are!
--Be creative. You are in a performing event and thus can take certain liberties. You can be creative and think-up imaginative hooks and clinchers for the opening and closing of your introduction. You can use poetic language because it fits in with the tone of most DIs.
--Placement. Your introduction should be embedded within your piece after a good hook and logical break. Dramatic Interpretation introductions often are placed after an opening monologue or scene change that ends on a bang. If there are no natural breaks on that large of a scale look next for moments within dialogue where a smaller break occurs. For example, if during a monologue the narrator asks a rhetorical question or has an emotional break than an introduction would work.
--Audience connection. Performance pieces are meant to link to the audience so they can identify with the story and characters. Create ways to remind your audience of a time they felt like the lead or were in a similar situation.
Introductions might be a challenge but they are not impossible. Using the following guidelines for a Dramatic Interpretation introduction could be all you need to pen that spectacular introduction you always wanted to write.
Dramatic Interpretation Facial Expression Guidelines
For any event facial expressions are important. However, Dramatic Interpretation (as with any performing event) relies more on the face than speaking events. Much is said with the face. Body language might express emotions, but it is through our face we do most of our emotional interactions and exchanges. Through our eyes and contorting of the facial muscles we articulate our feelings and broadcast them to those around us. Our face can offer insight into our soul or serve as a mask. Knowing this, there are certain warnings one should take while planning Dramatic Interpretation facials for characters.
1. Do not be wooden. Dramatic Interpretation is a solo event yet not. You morph into several personas, all with distinct feelings. Never slack with your face. If your character is sad you need to show it. All characters, regardless of how small their role or lines, must articulate how they feel. There are few things worse than watching a DI with a wooden performer.
2. Do not over-express. Just as you want to never be emotionless, having too exaggerated of a face is comical. You are not performing in a 300 seat theatre where those in the balcony should see facials. Be melancholy but there is no need to wail with every fiber and tear duct and transform yourself into a melodrama.
3. Do not let tears ruin your performance. Emotions have a way of making us impossible to understand. When we get swept up in sobbing we, well, sob. We can hardly talk. Just because that is how we realistically act with crying does not mean that is how you should perform. People need to comprehend the words you are saying. In fact, there is never a reason when acting that distraught is a good decision. No one wants to see the multiple ways you can screw your face up. Also, if you do end up crying then you have the issue of tears on your cheeks. This can be problematic for two reasons: first, if you have a conversation with pops you now have one tear covered, hysterical character and one who should not be on that level (imagine switching from being impassioned to being a mere listener...not only is it near impossible, it most likely will look hilarious) AND second, what happens if you do not have time to wipe those tears away? You are now stuck with wet skin and eyelashes; perhaps even running mascara!
4. Characterization. If you have a character with a particular facial tick designed specifically for them DO NOT use that same facial tick for another character! Dramatic Interpretation is an interpretive event and characterization is a massive component of your score, and unless that mimicry is intentional you are now devaluing your characterization.
In Dramatic Interpretation facials can be an effective tool for linking your viewers to your characters and story. People generally are compassionate and will feel for a character they believe in. The secret is to understand the balance between caricature facials and those of non-existence. Be honest and refrain from forcing a look and your facials should win over any collection of spectators.
Crying in DI: A Do or Don’t?
When I competed in Dramatic Interpretation in high school, I cried every time I performed. People would come up to me after rounds and ask how I made myself cry, and if that was allowed. In my district, crying was regarded by some judges as a prop and as an over-dramatic interpretation technique, but for me, it wasn’t intentional; I just found myself crying at the intense parts of the piece.
It was something that was almost impossible to avoid. During my junior and senior year, I worked very hard to discipline myself and find ways not to cry during D.I. rounds – looking up at the ceiling, trying not to blink, distancing myself from whatever was happening in the piece – but it was very difficult, and I still ended up tearful in the majority of my rounds.
This was especially inconvenient in pieces with multiple characters, because when I did my pops, I would be crying as one character, but another character was supposed to stay completely straight-faced. It didn’t make sense – which is why during my first two years on the team, I mainly performed monologues In D.I. to avoid confusing my judges.
Discipline is important in any theatre performance – after all, crying could be compared to any other habit, such as absentmindedly cracking your knuckles or twirling a strand of hair on one finger.
In many events, it can be helpful to take your personal mannerisms out of the character and focus on making his or her personality completely different from your own. This expands your abilities and forces you to learn new ways to express yourself.
But in some cases, eyes welling up with tears can bring a sense of reality to your performance that stops your audience in its tracks. When appropriate, this can be a moving tool that shows your audience you are genuinely invested in your character.
What’s the general consensus on crying in your district? Do people cry regularly in D.I., or is it prohibited?
Dramatic Interpretation Vocals
Vocals in Dramatic Interpretation are as much about characterization as they are about good speaking skills. Not only are you expected to be an exquisite speaker, but you also have to apply those skills to various styles of voices. There can be no sacrifices in either field, and that requires practice! While practicing, try to keep these points in mind:
--Projection. It does not matter how wonderful of an accent you don is, if no one can hear you it is just mumbling. When practicing have friends or coaches sit in the back of the room to give you an idea of how loud you will need to be for them to hear. Remember, even the tiniest of whispers need to be heard by those sitting in the back. Also, be aware of white noise such as ventilation systems, nearby trains, or even hallway racket (hopefully, a rare occurrence). Finally, as you overcome noise never sound vocally stretched or on the verge of yelling. This means breathing from the diaphragm.
--Variation. As always, the rules of variation apply--particularly because this is an acting event! Make use of changes in dynamics (loud and soft and how you get there), tempo (fast and slow), pitch (high or low of voice), tone/inflection (the quality of your voice/the emotion or feeling behind the words), and silence. It's boring to sound the same. You have a sound for your character now build it with personality and emotional reaction relative to that character.
--Articulation. Mumbling can also come from not paying attention to consonants as you speak. Dramatic Interpretation needs to have as near perfect diction for every character (unless it is the point to not understand them; but even then you need to know exactly how to say all lines for the joke to work). There is nothing worse than trying to follow character interactions or monologue when you first have to focus on what words they are saying and then on what they mean.
--Characterization. Once you can be heard and understood by those furthest away you can focus on characterization. All characters in a Dramatic Interpretation need to be clearly defined and DIFFERENT. Of course it takes more than vocalization to define character, but voice is one of those defining features of character. Go back to all of your character analysis you did when you were still approaching the script and think. Looking at the givens of this person listed in the script, and all those inferences you can make based on the information provided, what type of person is this? Try to think of others you can relate to this character. Does this character remind you of a persona found in television or film? Have you met someone like this? Can you match this character to a group? Once you can classify the character it will help make finding a voice easier. For example, if I had a character that was a librarian I would rack my brain for all the librarians I have known and try to determine some linkable features of voice. I would then get specific and ask what are some defining characteristics of my role and question how these interests/setting/socio-economic level/etc. would influence that. If this particular librarian was an insecure person I might try to sound unsure of myself at times. Do try to avoid stereotyping as it's generic and can anger the PC crowd.
--Accents. If you decide to use an accent please do some research. Not every English person sounds snobbish and posh...or Cockney. Try to watch a few movies featuring the geographical location you are trying to imitate. Even better, try to listen to locals to be as honest as possible. For example, if you want to sound English maybe absorb the various sounds the BBC has to offer. Further, be consistent with accents. Certain sounds will trick you, so work them until you no longer drop your accent.
--Dramatic Interpretation crying. Sounding emotional does affect your voice. Being on the verge of tears causes a shaky voice that will hurt your diction. Dramatic Interpretation does mean that you will have characters that are going through stress, but you can not allow for this to impair your performance. Plan when you are going to have your character stumbling with speaking and counter that by not losing focus on your projection and articulation! In life we may become inarticulate when upset, but you cannot be unintelligible in a performance (unless a line is stated again; then you can "throw" out the first with hysterics and then deliver the line clean).
--Vocals and POPS! As Dramatic Interpretation has multiple characters, typically, you must have your vocals down cold. It might take a while for you to memorize what voice goes where, but practice so that as time goes on your transitions are smooth and flawless. Cyrano de Bergerac should never sound like Baron Christian de Neuvillette after a pop.
Being aware of these vocalization issues can greatly influence your performance. Dramatic Interpretation is based on interpretation of character and vocals are a major part of who we are as people. Just remember two things: that all characters need to sound unique and that practice is the only way to achieve that goal. Adhering to those two rules will cause all others to fall into place.
Dramatic Interpretation: Finding Your Voice
Have you ever heard someone with the exact voice as another? Excluding impersonators with near-perfect imitation (not quite "exact" either!), the answer is no. No, you have not. That is because a defining feature of an individual is their voice; all voices are unique! In Dramatic Interpretation the same concept applies. It is your task to interpret a script full of distinct characters. In order to do so, every last persona must have a specific voice to speak. How is this done? Simple.
1. Analyze your script! To find a voice to define a character you first need to understand them. Look back to your notes. Reflect on all the notes you jotted down and all the given/inferred information found in the script. Is there anything in there that would indicate a speaking style? For instance, where does the story take place? What accent does that region use? Where is your character from; what accent do they use? What socio-economic level is the character stationed? What type of profession does the character work--a lawyer and comedian would have different approaches to speaking. Does the author or another character describe their speaking style? Are there any personality traits that inspire vocalization, like a stressed character speaking almost manic? Dramatic Interpretation requires you look at all angles of a character, and through doing that you will begin to think of who this character reminds you of which is a launching point for vocals.
2. Experiment. Once you gather ideas from looking over and analyzing your script you should have some fun. Play around with possible voice ideas. Any idea that crosses into your mind try. A voice you do not attempt could be a missed opportunity. Work with accents, pitch, rhythm, etc. Anything you can do with your own voice this character can do. Just with their individual sound. Remember, your vocals are only as limiting as your imagination and playfulness.
3. Record yourself. Know how when you speak into a microphone or hear a recording of yourself your first response is "I sound like that?!" Well, don't you want to know how this new character's voice will sound to the masses? Before you unveil it? If you do wonder, it might be useful to record yourself with either a tape-recorder or a camera. This way you can hear exactly what everyone in your Dramatic Interpretation round will hear. If anything sounds odd you can adjust in private and no one will know of your vocal experiments.
4. Test it out. Take your new voices and use them on friends and family. Even if your blocking is not done, take your script and read people your piece with character voices. Ask for honesty and get feedback on what people thought. You might not enjoy the criticism, but getting advice prior to going into a round's battle is worth the constructive criticism.
5. Re-group and polish. Between getting notes from your coaches, team members, judges, friends, etc you might be offered a suggestion that sounds brilliant. Do not be afraid to play around with you voice and the advice. Dramatic Interpretations are meant to evolve. Adjust and practice!
6. Tears and sobbing...be warned to not throw your character's voice away by sobbing. Because of this event's serious nature, crying might occur. If you decide to shed a tear do so but be aware your character's voice must remain pristine. This applies to other non-crying characters sharing the scene.
7. PRACTICE!!! Practice is a given. You are working with numerous voices; all with distinct vocal patterns and dramatic situations that influence voice. Know your vocalizations cold to avoid dropping your voices mid-performance.
These seven steps could be your way to clean character voices. Dramatic Interpretation is challenging for all the aspects of performance you must analyze for multiple characters, but if you do your job thoroughly and with dedication your characters will pop--figuratively and literally.
The Dramatic Interpretation Narrator Power
Dramatic Interpretation can be an odd event with eye contact. Supporting characters often are given a focal point that is to the left or right of center in order to add distinction. Due to the use of focal points, supporting roles may not always be facing a majority of an audience (though, you do want to keep yourself angled towards the audience; use 45 degree angles). Nor do they really break the 4th wall. There is no need for supporting roles to speak to an audience because they are speaking towards another character. Thus, supporting characters do not offer the eye contact to connect to your crowd.
Where Dramatic Interpretation does find eye contact is with the narrator. Most DIs have a narrator character that does interact with supporting roles but also with the round's spectators. Many piece selections either are written with or are cut to offer monologues for the narrator/lead. Because monologues are not delivered to another character the performer can address the audience without looking awkward--no, "who are they talking to" moment.
Therefore, the narrator is really the only character that can truly interact with the audience. You can not waste this opportunity to draw in those watching. Scan the room to make sure all onlookers feel engaged. Scanning also adds variation to your performance as roles with focal points only look at one spot. Also, take the time to make eye contact with members of the crowd. Eye contact is a powerful force that intensifies a performance and helps people connect to your narrator.
Obviously with eye contact and scanning you do not want to over-do-it. Keep it natural and controlled. But if you do make an effort to really interact with your audience they will transcend from mere observers to participants in an emotional journey.
Dramatic Interpretation and Making Use of the Introduction
A Dramatic Interpretation round is essentially an emotional ride rolled into an hour-plus time frame. It is good to want to have a moving piece with a couple of laughs to hold your audience's attention. This allows for you to demonstrate your range, while being engaging, and keep your audience interested--the components of a perfect DI, perhaps? The issue is, ALL of you are trying to be the one to touch your judge the deepest. Again, that's good, but with six of you it is slightly redundant. How to make the judge remember you when ALL of you have the same objective? Being the best performer is the obvious option, but a "dirty" trick that might make the difference in split decisions could be to capitalize on your introduction.
As much as people remember emotional stories they connect with, they also remember people who carry themselves well and make others feel at ease. This is where your introduction comes into the equation. Your Dramatic Interpretation might be full of insecure people, but your introduction is YOU and it should ooze confidence. The introduction is the place to be charming, straight-out address your audience, and show them a side of you the piece does not. Granted, you need to keep with the tone of the piece, but you can be a lighter, less intensely-gloomy serious. Simply being impassioned when you deliver your introduction will leave the judge with a lasting thought of you as a professional who really loves their art. Quite often the introduction is an unpolished, rushed piece of writing that is like a break from the real show. It's a jolt to transition from a polished Dramatic Interpretation, into an introduction clearly written on the bus ride over, and then back again.
Therefore, take some time to write an exquisite introduction. Practice it. Treat it like it is part of the interpretive piece, because guess what? It is. The Dramatic Interpretation performer who is as loving towards their introduction as they are to their piece will touch the judge on a level unlike all others. You will strike a chord as being a true performer who realizes all aspects of performance need be perfected. Your introduction counts, so don't waste that little oomph that could push your piece to the lead.
Dramatic Interpretation: Physicality
After you have done your character analysis in the script you must begin to shape your characters for performance. Solid Dramatic Interpretation characterization is what will give you the push you need to rank highly. One aspect of characterization that needs to be worked until clear and clean involves the physicality of character. In Dramatic Interpretation you, most likely, will have an array if characters that all need to stand as individuals. It is just you performing, but you need to get the audience to suspend disbelief and be able to imagine several individuals morphing in and out of the performance. Using your character analysis, begin the character molding process:
--Angle. You might not be able to move from your spot on "stage" but you sure can manipulate that tiny area where you stand. You do not always need to be facing forward; there is the right and left of you to consider. For example, one character can always be facing left. Not only does this help to distinguish the character for the audience, it also helps make popping easier for you.
--Stance. How you stand says a lot about a person. Is your character the dominating type that would hold a wide stance? Are they meek and try to be as small as possible? Do they stand with legs perfectly straight or are the knees bent from age? There are numerous stances you can take; different ways to maneuver your legs and feet to help tell a story.
--Posture. Body language continues through the upper half. How would your character hold their shoulders? Are they held back with confidence or cave into themselves to hide? Is your character old and hunched over? Is she pregnant, standing with her belly thrust forward, and her hand on her lower back? Endless postures exist to help characterize.
--Mannerisms and Quirks. These are those little details that help add character depth. Dramatic Interpretation is about analysis/interpretation and nothing says you have done your job quite like a cast that all have their own quirks. Confused on what mannerisms and quirks are? They are those little ticks we all have. It's the head tilt you do when you are utterly perplexed. That biting of the lower lip when you think someone is crazy. They are those hilarious mouth stretches (yawns?) that Johnny Depp's character Mort does in "Secret Window." These are only as limitless as your imagination.
--Stamina. Essentially how quick or slow a character moves. Are they young and bouncy or elderly and tortoise-esque? Your feet might not be able to move, but the energy you place behind other motions help display if a character is spry.
--Facials. Some characters might be described as having distinctive facial features or ticks. If you can replicate these, go for it! For instance, if a character is said to perpetually be frowning then when you play them you should be frowning (appropriately).
It's the little things that separate an individual from a slew of people. Same rule applies in Dramatic Interpretation; your characters can only become memorable and distinguished if you develop them. Grab your analysis and script, play around with ideas, and create a character that is not only truthful to the piece but also extraordinary.
Dramatic Interpretation Pop Secret Advice
Flowing effortlessly between characters is beautiful to watch. Spectators observe in awe as one character morphs into another without any pause; the transformation taking what seems fractions of a second. Dramatic Interpretation might lack the same flair Humorous Interpretation possesses, using pops as a means towards a punch line. However, great pops in your DI will help increase the tension between characters (flawless pops "disguise" that you are playing multiple people; reduces obviousness). This tension is what breeds great drama, and that is what wins rounds.
What can you do for your Dramatic Interpretation to help better your pops? Well...
1. Know your piece cold. The more uncertain you are of what lines come next the more uncertain you will be with your character pops. You must know your piece forwards, backwards, sideways, and any other way you can imagine. Not having to worry about what comes next will allow you to begin to fully act out the material and get "in the moment," thus letting your body take over and pop without doubting yourself.
2. Know your characters inside and out. Knowing your Dramatic Interpretation's lines is not enough; you need to know the characters. Specifically, have memorized every physical attribute you gave. Facials, posture, feet position, focal point (direction they face), arm placement, and any distinguishing gestures/"props" they hold--ALL need to be recognizable instantly. The transition must seem instantaneous and the only way to accomplish that is to be in character after your split-second of popping is done.
3. Keep the energy up. Dramatic Interpretation should be intense and have energy behind the performance, but would it be called an energetic event? Probably not. Energetic more accurately describes Humorous Interpretation with its manic characters. Yet, to pop effectively you must be energetic. DI performances tend to take advantage of silence and pauses (which they should), but never let this pace influence your pops. Pops need to snap, even if you are popping into a silent moment.
4. PRACTICE! Never presume that pops are simple. Clean, gorgeous ones take endless practice. When practicing, be sure to go through your piece from beginning to end to ensure that there are no memorization issues. This also points out problem areas. With those, work the pops that are giving you the most difficulties. Some people just run those segments on repeat until they can integrate it back into the larger work. Others work the pop in slow motion and gradually speed it up to get it at its appropriate pace and brilliance. Whichever method works for you be sure to use it! And remember, even once you "know" the piece practice is not finished. Practicing continues for every tournament until the season is over.
These four suggestions are ways that can improve your popping skills. Master pops, and your Dramatic Interpretation will begin to flow better and therefore allow you to focus more on interpretation. DI might not be as flashy with pops as HI tends to be, but that does not entitle you to slack on mastering your pops. Sloppy pops can be the difference between breaking and not.
Gotta Have My Pops: A Guide To Multiple Characters
When a speech competitor performs a piece that has more than one character, he or she must demonstrate the shift in characters using distinct physical movements. These movements, coupled with a change in vocal interpretation, show the audience that there is a dialogue happening between two or more characters. This kind of physical illustration is often referred to as “pops” or “character pops.”
One way to look at character pops is to think of it as a scene from a movie or TV show. When two or more characters are having a conversation, the camera shows you the first character when she is speaking, then cuts instantly to the second character when he responds. In film, this is called a “jump cut.” In speech, the character pop is very similar. You must abruptly change your posture, speech pattern, facial expression and other physical attributes you've assigned to each character in order to show your audience which character you are currently portraying.
This is an art, not a science. Some people are not cut out to do character pops. The best way to figure out if this is right for you is to watch other people do character pops, have other people watch you perform a piece with pops, and perform your piece in front of a video camera or mirror to see what you look like when you do it. Here are a few things that must change when you do character pops:
-- Facial expression. This is the most obvious change you need to make because people’s eyes are naturally drawn to your face when you speak. Come up with a basic facial expression for each character so that you can go back to that expression each time you transition between characters. Try to use extremes here when you can: if one character is kind and loving, smile when you are playing that character to give contrast to your villain’s scowl.
-- Posture. If you are doing two characters, one of them should be taller than the other. Illustrate this by bending at the knees and hunching your shoulders slightly, and make sure you straighten up each time you are playing the second character. In pieces with more than two characters, use a variety of postures: a tall person (raised chin, turned up nose, arched back), a person who is your height (focus on an accent and facial expressions), a person who is shorter than you (bent knees, relaxed neck), a person with a hunched back (bent knees, bent arms, dramatically hunched shoulders, extended neck), and so on. This is something that you have to practice in front of a mirror to really get right.
-- The position of your arms. Many competitors excel at this by giving each of their characters a signature move, such as smoking a cigarette, holding a book, or keeping one hand on the hip. This helps your audience to remember the character, and it adds interest to your poses.
-- Gestures. This goes hand in hand with arm position and posture. Gestures should represent a character’s personality and illustrate their significance in the piece.
-- Your feet. People seem to have mixed feelings about this, but many believe it truly makes a difference in the way your characters come across. Many competitors will establish a set position for each character's feet. For example: In the story “Little Red Riding Hood,” you essentially have three characters: Red, her grandma, and the wolf. (I'm leaving out the huntsman here for brevity's sake. Sorry, fairy tale fanatics.) When you construct each character’s stance, you should include a distinct position for the feet. Red’s feet might be slightly apart, with the toes facing the audience. Grandma’s feet should be turned in slightly, with the toes touching and the heels apart. (Think of Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz when she’s clicking her heels.) The wolf’s feet should be turned out, with the heels touching and the toes apart, illustrating the opposite of Grandma’s feet. Little details like this separate your characters and make it easy for you – and your audience – to keep track of who’s who.
-- The direction you are facing. Turn your body slightly to the right when you are playing one character, and slightly to the left when playing another. If you only have two characters, the first should face forward while the other turns slightly to the right or left (your preference) each time he speaks. If you have three or more, you can vary your characters’ positions, but make sure that your central character is always facing forward, so that your audience can rely on one constant.
In addition to character pops, most competitors use different accents or “voices” – British, Scottish, French, southern, Midwestern, Valley Girl, Surfer Dude, Old Man, and so on – to distinguish their roles. But it’s OK if you don’t have an extensive repertoire of accents. All you have to do is use a different vocal interpretation for each person in your piece. You can do this easily by keeping your voice at a normal/loud volume for one character and then using a hushed, shy voice for another character. There’s also pitch – you can use a high falsetto for one, and a low growl for another.
The most important thing to remember when using character pops is that you must be consistent and confident. Character pops are a great way to challenge yourself and show off your talent in competition.
Character Stance Basics: Dramatic vs. Humorous
Pops have a tendency to appear comedic. Dramatic pieces that involve multiple characters require character development on a deeper level than a humorous piece when it comes to pops, and the reason is simple. In a funny performance, it’s standard operating procedure to include at least one or two characters who stand in a stereotyped or extreme way – Knees bowed in, hunched over, confused face, pushing glasses up on the nose to imitate a shy, nerdy person. Tall posture, one hand on the hip and other hand pointing at the audience for a Tim Gunn effect, et cetera. But you can’t get away with using stereotyped character stances in a dramatic performance because it comes across as a joke. Since it’s never a good sign if people are laughing at you during a dramatic performance, here are a few ways to differentiate between comedic and dramatic pops:
--Comedic pops can be “bigger” and more exaggerated, with broader movements and even audible shifting noises. Your gestures in H.I. or any comedic piece will naturally be more flamboyant, which you can use to your advantage when it comes to pops.
--Remember that contrast between pops is very important in a humorous piece simply because it’s funny to watch someone physically go back and forth between extremes.
--In a performance of a dramatic piece, you want to keep your pops somewhat close together and simple – for example, make one character slightly shorter than the other by bending your knees, and keep the focus on your shift in facial expression and posture rather than elaborate hand gestures.
--Dramatic pieces lend themselves well to silent, delicate character transitions. This goes back to contrast; your character stances should be close enough together to allow you to switch between them with minimal movement.
--Some competitors will actually “melt” between characters instead of popping, which is basically a slower, more relaxed transition. While this has its advantages because you don’t come across as stiff the way you might with a regular pop, it generally makes you look like you’re trying to do a pop and you’re not doing it correctly. Steer clear.
Simple advice, but it’s definitely something you should keep in mind when you’re performing any piece with multiple characters. I should also note that it’s important to make sure you aren’t wearing particularly noisy shoes for a competition if you plan on popping in any dramatic pieces. A well-placed squeak can really ruin a touching moment.
DI, HI, DUO: How to Be the Houdini of "Props"
Dramatic Interpretation, Humorous Interpretation, and Duo are curious events. You are expected to make a cutting of a play/novel/short story/etc, analyze and interpret the work, and then perform the piece with a list of stipulations. No set. No costumes. No props. Although understandable, these can be demanding rules. Set and costume are truly unnecessary in Forensics given how competitions are organized (carting around stage pieces for a classroom?). Props are also not needed because of the minimalistic nature of Speech. However, because pieces are derived from material that assumes props will be used, or imagined in the mind as one reads, you might have to interpret a prop. No problem! You're a forensicator.
As with most anything, practice is what will determine your success of propless prop handling. Never assume for one second that because you have interacted with an item all your life that you can imagine exactly how to hold it, manipulate it, and operate it. In life you use your motor skills to process a tangible item. Propless props leave you literally with nothing but the atoms in the air. Also, because we use an item everyday we train our body to work with it and rarely have to think. Every time you brush your teeth do you mentally talk yourself through the steps?
Didn't think so.
When you begin practicing a piece that requires a "prop" why not use one? If your character has to set the time on a watch, go find yourself a watch! Someone needs to open a lock on a door? Grab a key and the door to match. It is easiest to learn a "prop" when that is all you are focusing on--so do not attempt to learn a "prop" while performing the whole piece. Take it slowly. Begin with just handling/using the object. Become conscious of how your hand holds the item. Feel the weight. Manipulate the item and look at how your body transforms itself. As you operate the item memorize the motions, the feel, and effort that is needed to use whatever you hold. Is using this item a simple procedure? A wristwatch, for instance, cannot have the time set in five seconds (if you have to wind the knob!). Your fingers have to pinch and, hopefully, grab that tiny appendage to rotate it slowly until the hands are aligned just so. Log all information into your mind: the item's physicality, operating procedures, how your body has to morph to accommodate. Gradually, stop using the actual prop and start using the "prop." Once you can go through whatever action is called for in the script with that item, incorporate what you learned into your performance. Interact with your "prop" and react to it!
It sounds ridiculous, but even the most menial tasks are suddenly challenging when you have to imagine them. It will take time to be able to perform a propless prop feat realistically while being clear enough for an audience to know precisely what you are doing. The only way to become a Forensics Dramatic Interpretation, Humorous Interpretation, and Duo "props" master is to practice and be excruciatingly detailed. Yet, this level of preparation will translate to inner confidence and a clean performance.
It could be worse. You could be attempting to interact with a duo partner without physically interacting. At least a "prop" is inanimate and not forever changing its form!
Dramatic Interpretation and Focal Points
When you speak to a person, or pet, you tend to look towards them, if not in their eyes. People might not maintain eye contact 100% of the time, but we do try to keep looking in the general area of whom we are speaking. Dramatic Interpretation should be no different. It might not look too awkward to have characters that scan the room at first, but once you remember that this person is speaking to another it does look odd. Why is this character looking everywhere BUT the other they are talking to? As you work on characterization and pops make use of these tips.
--Height. Determine character height. Why does this matter? Where you gaze is different when you are talking to a child verse a 6'2" adult. Be mindful to not direct your whole face towards the ground or ceiling; a slight head tilt is all that is needed (leave the extremes to Humorous Interpretation where they are supposed to be silly). Try to have an array of heights to add to character depth. As always, practice the pops so you avoid tilting your head up to talk to 4" tall, boy Timmy.
--Placement. Not everyone will be standing directly in front of you. Nor should everybody be looking directly in front of them as they speak. Make use of the space to your right and left. DO keep the same direction for a character to avoid popping confusion.
--Narrator. A character who is talking directly to another will have a specific direction to look. Many Dramatic Interpretation pieces have a narrator, so what about them? If you have a character that has a monologue use that opportunity to scan the room and address the audience if appropriate.
--Focal Points. It is not enough just to look to your left. You need to have precision to look as clean as possible. Great Dramatic Interpretation performers will have trained their bodies what certain angles and directions feel like. They can turn 45 degrees with a downward head tilt without visual roadmaps. Some have a general idea but make use of focal points. A focal point is a visual landmark to direct your attention towards. For example, that red circle on the poster in the back of the classroom represents directly forwards without any head tilt, or where Martha looks. Focal points such as a poster or plant can be good to help you on maintaining focus as you speak to another character. However, training yourself on where to look without a visual marker (making your focal points a more abstract idea than physical) is best to avoid any confusion room changes may cause. If you do need a concrete map then plan one out before the tournament even begins as you check your rooms.
Dramatic Interpretations can be measured in the amount of detail a performer adds to their performance. This little, seemingly nit-picky attention towards popping specification will add a level of polish to your piece. By knowing exactly where to pop your transitions will be smoother, quicker, and look fantastic. Creating focal points also helps to break the barrier that it is only you performing and improves characterization because you are defining another--even if they are not physically there. This use of focal points will not only help you deliver a cleaner piece, but hopefully will help you deliver a higher ranking piece.
Dramatic Interpretation and Tactics To Get What You Want
"Acting is not being emotional, but being able to express emotion." ~Kate Reid, Actress
There is truth in that logic. It is never enough to simply pretend to be in a mood. Anyone can be emotional. Rather, a good actor knows how to fully express an emotion through various tactics and subtleties. To illustrate Reid's definition of acting, let's do an exercise. When told to be a particular emotion, do so; take time to demonstrate how to show that emotion. Be angry. Be sad. Be sexy. What did you notice about acting out those emotions? Did you feel fake and like a caricature? You should have. In life people never go about saying they are going to be X. Emotions are a response to stimuli or an attempt to elicit a response. Dramatic Interpretation must be realistic and capture this notion. How? By using tactics.
As you analyze your Dramatic Interpretation find what is the overarching goal of a character. What is it they want by the end? All major actions should be in support of this desire. Characters, and people, are driven by wants so to discover this will help you better understand your character as well. Once you have the major want figured out you can begin to think of tactics to earn the desired object. But what is a tactic? It is a means to an end. It is a device used to obtain and persuade another to give you something. Tactics are the nature and subtext behind what you say/do and they lead you to honest emotions. Tactics are also best when precise and in verb form. For example, if you want your mom to take you to buy ice cream there are a few tactics you could use. A mediocre tactic would be to say "ask her." That's a given, and it's more of the result of using a tactic--like a by-product. Better choices would be to use flattery or to beg. Another example could be if you were playing a girlfriend trying to persuade her boyfriend to stay. You could make the general choice to "yell" and get "emotional" to keep him, but your acting would be empty. If you instead asked what is a way you could get him to stay, you might opt to "plead." These tactics have clear game-plans. Can you sense the difference in emotional weight and breadth choosing powerful tactics can lead you to?
Some basics to bear in mind:
--Break your script up. You will have an overarching desire, but every interaction requires their own tactics. Dramatic Interpretations are composed of scenes so first break down your tactics into scenes. You might have to break further into short segments. Look for natural breaks (new idea, question, change in something) and odds are you will find you need a tactic for that moment.
--Rein in your inner dramatist. Although this is Dramatic Interpretation, do not let your tactics get the better of you and cause you to over-act.
--Wants stem from love. I cannot remember who wrote this, but an acting instructor wrote that all wants come from a place of love. Take "Richard III" by Shakespeare. Richard might do nasty evils and could be said to be murderous due to a want of revenge and hatred. But when you truly examine his nature, all Richard really wants is to be accepted and loved, and because he has been denied these basic wants he feels hatred. Anyway, when you choose tactics avoid ones like "get revenge." These really give you no clear objective and instantly leads you to acting like the exercise you began with. You might as well say "be mean." This tiny clarification can add depth and range to your Dramatic Interpretation.
So as you mark-up your Dramatic Interpretation script do write in notes on methods of how you wish to deliver your lines. It is always good to have an idea of how to speak. However, to attain that needed emotion you can benefit from thinking of tactics to give you an objective of how to get what you need and want. We do this in life, though we rarely realize. Tactics are yet one more way to add a layer of truth to your Dramatic Interpretation.
When Dramatic Interpretation Gets Gritty
(How to avoid over-acting in The Intense Scene.)
Should I be bold and explosive or intense and reserved? This is a common problem faced by Dramatic Interpretation performers nationwide. How best to handle That Scene. You know The One. It's where emotions fly and words are spoken that can never be unheard and forgotten. Be warned though, if you choose to be BIG then you walk a fine line between hitting it and being ridiculous. Recall any B-movie, or most action/horror films, and relive the moment when a young actor relishes in being able to use their "acting chops" and really lets loose. This is typically the moment in the movie when what is meant to be a serious, passionate scene turns comical from the over-acting; a clear case of trying far too hard. Even seasoned professionals have these flashes of poor acting. Any actor can have an off-day, call it in, or be baffled by the material's content. It happens. Whenever emotions are involved it becomes effortless to lose control, or miss-interpret, and become a train-wreck. Dramatic Interpretation mirrors acting in that a DI competitor can follow one of three paths:
2. Hit the Mark
As under-acting is readily spotted, and has one solution, little will be said regarding the issue. Whenever you have watched a performance and you wished the actor did more, or you felt they under-reacted to a situation, they were under-acting. Wooden, perhaps? Most actors will tell you it is better to over-act than under-act. Why? Because at least with over-acting you tried, and it is far easier to pull-back instead of grow. Dramatic Interpretations can get snooze-worthy quick with under-acting as well. Do not be afraid to let loose and explore emotion. Push yourself and feel the pain, joy, anger, etc. your characters are living! When you go too far someone will pull you back.
The other two categories are easy to define but sometimes hard to separate. Hitting the mark details being so honest and realistic that your audience really does believe, momentarily, that you are suffering from your DI's dilemmas. Over-acting is like when you walk into a room and get hit by an Axe bomb; at first it's nice but then you feel the hammer of nausea smashing you because someone wants to scream how wonderful they smell. Usually, either category is clear, defined. However, there are times when one may call over-acting "gritty" or "raw" while another calls it "comical" and "fake." Acting is subjective, and in borderline situations judge preference on acting can be the determining factor on whether you were over-the-top or being "in the moment." It's rough, but true. So what should you do? Be the polished, controlled Dramatic Interpretation performer, or the fiery one bursting with emotion? Why not both?
Variation is to an actor what The Force is to a Jedi. If you know how to use variation your Dramatic Interpretation will be enhanced ten-fold. A DI should have moments of quiet, gripping force waiting to erupt...and a DI should have those detonations of energy. It is all about appropriate timing and build. To avoid being labeled as over-acting create a build to your burst. Do not linger too long in that fiery state, but gradually come down. Creating this arch will add more intensity than if you just yelled all your lines. The anticipation to when you blow makes that moment more powerful than can be imagined. Further, you have to be as honest with your emotions as can be. Simply yelling to yell is a poor choice and certainly is over-acting. However, raising your voice as a response/method to attain a desire can be truthful and therefore allow you to be jarring yet with purpose.
A few actors that have this mastered include Robert DeNiro, James Dean, and Al Pacino. These men are known for their intensity. Yes, occasionally they went over-board, but usually they are spot on. Take for instance Al Pacino. Rent "Godfather" or "Scent of a Woman" and marvel in his transitions from calm to atomic warhead. Even his calm is more of the eye of the storm. The smoldering emotion can be seen in his eyes and the tenseness of his body. Quiet can be unnerving if played correctly.
Dramatic Interpretations can still be gritty while being refined (it sounds like an oxymoron, but truly it is possible!). You do not have to give up that raw, blunt edge you desire while preparing a polished piece for a round. Balance is the solution. And context for what feel your DI piece offers. Find a tone that meshes with your material and build emotional arches to support your outbursts. Do this, and your Dramatic Interpretation will be shocking yet believable.
Dramatic Interpretation and the Dramatic Build
Reflect back to your most recent argument. Play the fight over in your head from start to end. How did it commence? Did one of you just burst into the room, swords drawn, ready for battle? Odds are, no. Most disputes begin with a tiny disagreement, find a catalyst, and blossom into healthy debate. Was this one of your better memories? No. But was there a clear, dramatic build that any play would be jealous? Sure. Whenever you are performing, regardless of genre, it is important to create builds. A Dramatic Interpretation without builds soon becomes an over-the-top, one-note, false representation of life. When crafting a build there are a few steps to take:
1. A solid build comes from solid structure. A building would never be expected to stand with faulty ironwork. Nor will a Dramatic Interpretation hold with a weak infrastructure. A good writer will create a natural build for you and little tweaking will need to be done. Most cuttings merely leave non-vital information on the floor and a build exists. However, sometimes crafty cutting is necessary. Be sure to begin with a BANG!, give the audience key plot points through rising action (that also grows the suspense through conflict), and end with a climax. Keep in mind that while the WHOLE script follows a build so do beats (segments of a script that essentially can be performed alone--they have their own ideas/motives and thus divide your piece into manageable bits to practice). Mainly though you will be looking for overall structure and the beats will follow.
2. Make use of character pops. Much can be said on how pops create tension. Sure, you can go from one character to the next and deliver a good DI. But you can utilize your pops to add suspense. Dramatic Interpretation is unique in that it allows for an argument to be shown but one character at a time. The audience does not get to see an immediate reaction to dialogue so wondering how the other scene "partner" responds is full of anticipation. Changing the tempo of dialogue, thus increasing the speed of popping from one persona to the next, adds momentum. Gradually increase speed and you create a quickness to your piece, ready to explode. Want to really mess with an audience? Build the speed only to pop to a character who is so angry all they can do is fume. This sudden stop will be jarring and leave your audience desperate to hear what that person needs to say.
3. Work the tempo. Mentioned above, the increase or decrease of dialogue speed helps make a build. When we are calm we talk at a moderate pace, but when things get heated we tend to spit out our words. Unless we are so mad we have a difficult time controlling our voice and we consciously speak slower to cool ourselves. Either way, play around with tempo and create gradual increases in speed between characters to build to a climax. Also, silence can be a great way to add tension and rattle your audience.
4. Use your voice. No, you are not looking for a Dramatic Interpretation that screams being over-dramatic. Even in an intense moment screaming is hardly ever the solution. What you want to do is make use of your volume and pitch to add build. Take how your characters normally speak and as temperatures increase so should their volume. Gradually though. Sporadic yelling is awkward and plain bad. Further, use silence or hushed voices when your audience thinks yelling might occur (if used sparingly) and push your Dramatic Interpretation into grandeur.
5. Stress your tone. As we become more annoyed with someone how we speak is altered. Our tone becomes harsh and sharp. We try to dominate with our words. Have your characters reflect this.
6. Guidelines, not rules. There is no one way to manufacture a build. Sure, the process listed above is generally how it happens, but the keyword is "generally." Every script is different. You will have to read, analyze, and interpret what your author has given you. If you start loud, drop to stressed yet almost normal speech, and then build are you wrong? Absolutely not. Play around and LOOK TO YOUR SCRIPT!
The main idea to take from this is that jumping from level to level is bad form. Yes, in extreme instances a level can be skipped, but that takes skill and a script that supports that choice. You want a realistic Dramatic Interpretation that comes across as natural? Mind your script and create a believable build that is within the text.
Dramatic Interpretation Variety
When you are competing in an event where outrageous, cartoon-bordering characters rarely exist, finding variety can be a hunt in the subtle. Dramatic Interpretation contains characters of distinction, but you will never find the same colorful creations as you would in a Humorous Interpretation round. This translates to using more than a kooky accent to differentiate amongst characters (actually, avoid kooky accents in Dramatic Interpretation!) as you would do in Humorous Interpretation. And not only must you create unique characters but also unique moments in your DI. A stagnant performance is as compelling as non-specific characters. Either way, a flat-line DI will be dead on arrival in a round. As the clichÃ© goes, variety is the spice of life. Well, in this circumstance variety is the spice of a great Dramatic Interpretation.
There are several ways to revive a cadaver of a DI:
--Change the way how you view character. Merely changing where your face is pointed does not signify character. The process is more involved and complex. Think about your group of friends. Every one of them has defining characteristics and mannerisms. The characters in your Dramatic Interpretation are like that--all have special properties that make them an individual. Go back to your character analysis and build a character from the inside out. Define who they are as a person (what are their wants, feelings, beliefs?), ask how they look/act (how do they hold themselves? check this out for more information: http://www.forensicscommunity.com/dramaticinterpre... and figure out how they sound. You are putting on a one person play and therefore you must be the whole cast through use of variation of character.
--Work your voice. Not necessarily referring to accents for characters (that should have been figured out in the previous suggestion). No, this relates to speaking in general. In Dramatic Interpretation you are going to want to create vocal variation. There is so much one can do with their voice to keep it interesting: pitch, tone, dynamics (loud and soft), pacing, pauses, carefully placed and articulate stammering, and singing are all some methods that can be used to change the sound of your voice. All characters should sound different. Also, as characters speak they should react and engage the material's text. We are not monotone speakers, nor should your characters!
--Play with gestures. Going back to characterization, try to create character specific ticks to go with a character (if applicable and warranted). This will help separate characters and maintain audience attention. But something else to do is develop gestures to use in your performance. Avoid doing the same right arm extension for all characters, for every movement. It's rather boring to watch the same gesture being shared between three characters--let alone how inaccurate and detrimental towards characterization!
Keeping your Dramatic Interpretation fresh and full of variety will improve the odds of captivation. DI viewing can become laborious during the final round regardless of how brilliant the performances are. A day full of drama will tire anyone due to the emotional strain! However, you can counter-act this burnout effect by purposely adding variety into your Dramatic Interpretation.
Standing Out in Dramatic Interpretation
Like most forensics categories, Dramatic Interp tends to have characteristics that are quite unique. It is drama at its best and those who succeed are able to captivate and audience through a theatrical performance that comes to life. With so many competitors and only so many pieces to choose from, how does one set themselves apart in such a category?
One of my biggest pet peeves in forensics is that every person who ever competes in Dramatic Interp feels that somehow they need to incorporate rape, molestation, or murder into their piece. Ironically, you want to slit your wrists just watching some of the pieces (boredom and content reasons). With that said, I can't help but ask the question, "Isn't there more to drama?" And the clear-cut answer is yes.
Because there is also the category of HI, obviously the drama is going to have to be more serious and less humorous. But why does serious have to mean brutal or morbid? Take for instance my favorite play/musical of all-time: Phantom of the Opera. You have a riveting story of three people who have to overcome obstacles in their own lives and on top of this all, they create a love triangle that is based off intense emotion. Hello? Earth to DI-ers! This has national-qualifier written all over it. Think about it. You have Christine who is in love with Raoul but has feelings for the Phantom since he taught her how to sing. The phantom then creates tension between himself and Raoul because of the competition for Christine's affection. Lastly, the phantom faces the internal struggle everyone seems to face at one point or another...unrequited love. To take a piece like this and play all of the characters would take tremendous work but it would be the type of piece that would allow a competitor to easily take the competition.
Why? First of all, you would stand out because the people in your piece wouldn't be hanging themselves from their closets. Secondly, this would be very difficult to pull off but if you did it, the judges and your fellow competitors would be very impressed. Third and finally, this is a well-known love story that many could relate to.
This is just one suggestion. The point is simple: Don't focus on death and crime when you are putting together your DI piece. It is morbid, overused and quite frankly, not fun or enjoyable to listen to.
Dramatic Interpretation Subjects You can Live With
Going to a Dramatic Interpretation round shouldn’t make people squeamish. But at this point, many competitors and judges have said they've become sick and tired of watching performances that make everyone in the room cringe and wonder why the person would choose such a morbid script.
Why do so many students end up performing pieces about abuse and murder? These pieces are usually overdone, and they often make others in the room uncomfortable. There are hundreds of scripts in the world that deal with other issues. So, for those of you who are seeking pieces about subjects your audience will appreciate and be able to identify with, here are a few suggestions of topics and themes to watch out for when looking for new scripts:
Disease or disorders: In DI, many pieces focus on a character or characters with cancer or Alzheimer’s – "Wit" by Margaret Edson, "Therac 25" by Adam Pettle, "Tradition 1A" by Howard Rice and "The Apple Doesn’t Fall" by Trish Vradenburg are pieces that come to mind. These scripts are powerful because audiences can connect with the characters on a personal level -- most people have family members and friends who've been affected by disease and its challenges. They also touch on other themes -- the significance of family, finding meaning, and finding ways to overcome struggle.
Historical Figures: One thing I’ve seen a few speech competitors pick up on is that most prominent historical figures have either written about themselves or have had books written about them. Biographies and memoirs can be an excellent resource for DI enthusiasts who want to find a fresh piece no one else has ever done. Read a biography of someone who overcame immense challenges -- Helen Keller’s autobiography is incredible – and choose some of the most moving passages. You may need to do some additional research on the characters you’re portraying, but it’ll guarantee you a fresh, memorable piece.
War Stories: This one isn’t as easy as it sounds; it’s not going back to one of the simplest conflicts that exists in theatre. In most pieces I’ve seen dealing with this subject, it’s about placing yourself in the shoes of a character who is facing the effects of war firsthand. This is also a very personal subject for some people, which will allow you to connect with your audience. A few notes: Make sure to get your salutes and other physical signals right. Do some research on the time period your piece is set in to ensure you’re on the right track with your blocking. There are some beautiful pieces about World War II out there, as told by nurses, drill sergeants and soldiers in the line of fire.
Love Stories/Lost Love: Look at stories like "The Notebook" by Nicholas Sparks, "The Time Traveler’s Wife" by Audrey Niffenegger and "The Dead" by James Joyce. They’re powerful, moving and sad (three elements of a terrific dramatic piece), but not especially disturbing. Try to find a dramatic piece that incorporates romance, unrequited love, or two lovers being separated because of some mysterious circumstance.
Also, keep in mind that several of these subjects can be combined -- "Therac 25" is about two cancer patients who fall in love; "The Notebook" is a love story and a war story. Find something that speaks to you and use it well. Don’t forget that basics such as a solid cutting, smooth character pops and strong character development should be essential in your interpretation of the script. Choosing a piece that explores subjects outside the typical realm of DI will allow you to stand out and enjoy your performance.
It's Dramatic Interpretation, NOT Murder She Wrote
The next time you are near a group of Dramatic performers discussing piece selections pay attention. The language used to describe what type of piece a person is searching for is quite disturbing. Most Dramatic Interpretation competitors will nonchalantly toss around the words incest, molestation, eating disorder, murder, and rape as though they were candies being shared. People actively sleuth for pieces with these, and other horrors, as topics. Some have a rational that because they have experienced these trials in some capacity they can relate and thus better perform. Others openly admit they are in need of a hard-hitting drama that will be sure to place first.
Dramatic Interpretation performers, listen. Having a piece with such graphic subject matter is not the way to success. Purposely causing heavy, negative air to fall upon your round is not how champions are selected. It is hardly the piece but rather the performance that makes judges and audiences swoon (finding well-written dialogue is important, but not the only factor to success). Uncertain about that statement? Think: words in a play stay the same; it is the actor that changes. You might love Cat on a Hot Tin Roof's Maggie the Cat, but if the actress is poorly cast the role is ruined. Dramatic Interpretation follows the same principle. The work you select might be the most intense, shocking bit of dialogue ever to grace a round, but if the role is not you then all is lost. The first question you should ask regarding a piece is whether or not it is perfect for you, not how many tears your judge will cry.
Further, it is Dramatic Interpretation. When did drama only come to signify all the atrocities humans commit? Drama can be anything emotional, enlightening, and with heightened conflict. A struggle for a mother and daughter to understand one another is perfectly good drama! Will the plot drop jaws? Probably not. But can the interpretation and performance behind the piece do so? Definitely.
Dramatic Interpretation pieces do not need to focus on topics of abhorrence. "Normal" dramas still win rounds. The only thing that truly needs to be shocking are your excellent interpretation skills. Besides, by selecting a dramatic work because it moved you more emotionally and less in your stomach is a sign of a strong, competitive piece. Also, you will stand out in your rounds as having chosen tremendous material that is not another killer story. Can you do a Dramatic Interpretation that is brutal and violent? Of course. Just be certain that you are opting to perform that work for its merit and not for its shock factor.