Duo Interpretation: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know
Competitors in Duo Interpretation can find everything they would ever want, or need, to know about the competitive acting event Duo (AND Duet Acting) 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 Duo/Duet!
An official event of the National Forensic League, National Catholic Forensics League, and the National Christian Forensics and Communications Association, Duo is shall we say popular? In this two-person event, the partners interpret and perform a selection from a literary work (play, poem, short story) in a ten minute time frame. Basically, Duo is almost like a theatrical duet acting piece—except for some explicit, forensic related rules. Duo pieces can either be dramatic or comedic; whichever meets the needs and strengths of the performers. Interestingly, in certain realms of forensic competition Duo is broken up into Humorous Duet Acting (HAD) and Dramatic Duet Acting (DDA), thus a comedic piece would not be contending with a dramatic work.
Duo is both a rewarding and challenging event. Rewarding in that working with a scene partner helps develop you as an actor. You learn to listen. You and your partner discover each other’s strengths and weaknesses and learn how to balance one another. Cooperation skills are a must! However, the challenge is being with a partner also means that someone else is responsible for half the work. Choosing a reliable partner is imperative. Also, if either of you are terrible communicators…FIX IT. Otherwise the piece will suffer. But the effort is well worth it when you and your partner finish performing and you two know you were both in sync.
Restrictions in Duo are specific and offer interesting obstacles to overcome. For instance, partners are not allowed to touch or look at one another. Therefore, creative blocking might be in order for any “contact” that must occur. Duo pieces can be cut in any manner but no dialogue can be added. Further, most Duo competitions expect actors to take on more than one role. This again leads to creativity. Changes in body language, voice, hand-gestures, and pantomime are some ways to signal the transformation to a new character. For comedic effect, the use of singing, emphasis on certain words, altering tone, and dancing are several ways to add variety to a piece.
Duo: Structure and Rules
Duo is structured that you and your partner cut a published, printed work from either plays, short stories, or novels-although, plays tend to be easier source material to search through. An introduction is written to be delivered during competition. You and your partner will go to a tournament, compete in your three rounds, and possibly compete at finals if you break. Any piece selection needs to tell a complete story, have character development, provide drama/humor, and allow for interpretation by the performers.
--Piece must be within time (typically ten minutes, some areas differ)
--Selections must be from published, printed works (plays, novels, short stories, poems) and can be either dramatic or humorous-note some areas have two separate categories for drama and humor
--Must be memorized
--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
--No physical contact or looking at your partner (most places, ask to see if this applies to your region)
--Can cut anything out of the piece, but cannot add anything
--No lying on the ground or kneeling with both legs
--Interpretation of character is vital-know whom you are playing and your scene!
--When playing multiple characters, each character needs to be distinct (gestures, movement, voice, etc. need to be unique to that character)
--Creative blocking/pantomime/song/dance to overcome any issues due to Duo rules (such as not being able to touch your partner, but using timing and illusion to give the appearance of a slap) is encouraged and helps rank higher
--Partner chemistry is important-if you two look like you are having fun and have a good rapport, then you will earn some points because this also means you have practiced to earn this trust and relationship (so you should be good anyway)
Excelling In Duo: An Advanced Guide
With a great partner, a well-suited piece and some dedicated rehearsing, Duo Interpretation can be one of the most rewarding events in speech competition. It is also one of the most challenging.
Rules differ slightly by district, but in most states, Duo rules require two competitors to stand next to each other, face the audience, and perform a 10-minute piece without touching each other or looking at each other. Competitors can refer to a script held in a (usually black, 10-inch) binder.
Here are some of the guidelines you should consider when preparing for competition in Duo:
1. Find out what the rules are in your district, and make sure you find out whether they’re the same if you’re participating in a national qualifying tournament. This is important because it will determine how many characters you can have in your piece, how you and your partner can use the space around you, whether you hold binders, et cetera. Look at the ballots your judges will be using to evaluate you. Ask your coach and search on your league’s web site to find as much information as possible about what the rules are for your particular district and use them to improve your interpretation.
2. Practice in front of a mirror. This is a great way to watch your partner and find out how he or she is interpreting the character, as well as to make sure your facial expressions are coming across the way you want them to. Try to make sure that you are holding your binders at similar heights (It will look strange if one person is holding the binder right under her chin while the other is holding it at waist level) and that you are maintaining a balance between looking at your script and looking up.
3. Pick a focal point. In most forms of Duo, you are not allowed to look at your partner. This does not mean that you should let your eyes wander around the room – or worse, that you should stare directly at your judge when you are supposed to be having a dialogue with your partner’s character. You must pick a focal point and pretend that it is the other person’s face. Most importantly, you have to stick to that focal point. In most cases, competitors stare straight ahead, which works perfectly. If that doesn't work for you, it means you need to find something to return your gaze to, such as a corner of a desk or a photograph in the room. This is crucial in Duo. Another important thing to remember is that your focal point should match up with your partner’s. This means you should both be staring straight ahead – or that if you are looking slightly toward the ground, your partner should be looking up slightly. The best way to figure out whether you are doing this correctly is by videotaping a rehearsal and watching where your eyes are focusing. If it looks weird to you, it will look weird to your audience.
4. Don’t fight for the spotlight. This isn’t about one person’s performance over the other. If your teammate’s role is the dominant one in the story, or vice versa, you need to work together to make sure that you’re illustrating the author’s intent and expressing your interpretation with grace. For every Abbott, there is a Costello, for every Lucy, an Ethel. Figure out which person should be in the forefront during each moment in the script.
5. Your page turns should match. This is an often overlooked detail, but it looks great when it is done correctly, and some judges actually count off points if you don’t do it. You should try to turn your pages at the same time, at the same speed and with the same intensity. Some people go so far as to match the page turns with the mood of the piece – slow turns for sad, slow-paced pieces and quick turns for dramatic scenes with a lot of yelling – but it is not necessary. You should also make sure that you and your partner have the same copy of the piece. Nothing is more annoying than watching one person turn pages after every three lines, while the other person only turns the page once.
6. Come up with some original pantomimed blocking. Performing mimed actions that aren’t necessarily written into a piece can be a powerful tool because it shows the audience your originality. When someone mimes putting on lipstick, slapping the other character, drinking from a glass, or pulling out a handkerchief and drying tears, it can be a nice way to add some visual interest to what may be an otherwise slow piece.
7. Don’t forget the basics. Facial expressions, articulation, pronunciation, volume and characterization are important in all speech events. Be true to the character and the script. A lot of people think yelling is always the answer in Duo. It can be powerful to yell during a dramatic scene, but often, a soft, focused tone can be just as breathtaking for the audience. Think about the movie “Silence of the Lambs.” Some of the creepiest, most intense moments are those during which a character is practically whispering.
8. Choose the right partner. This is the foundation of any partner event. If your partner doesn’t like to practice, that could be a problem unless you thrive on the thrill of uncertainty. Practice is essential in Duo because so much of its success depends on anticipating your partner's actions.
9. Try to match your clothes. This doesn’t mean that you should try to wear matching suits. It doesn’t mean that you must coordinate the pattern of your tie with the color of your partner’s shirt. It means that if you are wearing a three-piece suit with a silk tie and your partner is wearing a dress shirt two sizes too big with a pair of wrinkled khakis, it’s going to look odd, and that will distract your audience from your performance. Some teams do color-coordinate their outfits for competition, and while that is not required, you definitely both need to look polished and professional.
10. For every action, there must be a reaction. Never assume that your audience is watching your partner because he or she is the one speaking. When you have a conversation with someone, you react with your face, your breathing, your posture and your gestures. The same is true in Duo. This is also very important when you coordinate blocking with your partner. Let’s say your partner’s character is supposed to slap your character. When your partner’s arm moves, your head should turn as if you have actually been slapped. In addition, don’t look down at your script every time you are not speaking. Engage in your performance and you will have your audience wanting more.
It Takes Two to Duo or: What Makes a Great Partner
Holmes and Watson. Lucy and Ethel. Burton and Depp. Names that can be great on their own, though are arguably at their best when paired together. There exists people with whom you instantly click; understand and relate to with the slightest of nods. This can be your closest friend or business partner. Either way, the two of you realize that success is greatest when you join together. As you enter into the realm of Duo, choosing your Duo partner can be a heftier decision than what script to use. You too must plunge into a quest for a partner, and knowing what to search for will help catapult your dynamic duo into success.
1. Availability. People lead busy lives. Often, friendships or relationships will be stretched or dissolve when two people cannot find time to reconnect. Why should a Duo relationship be different? Find a person who has a schedule similar enough to yours to guarantee rehearsal time. How can your scene become wonderful if rehearsal is limited or held under stressful, time-restrained circumstances?
2. Work Ethic. You're the type that likes to meet a few times a week to run the scene, go over notes, and try new approaches. Your hypothetical partner prefers to meet once a week, for thirty minutes, and only wishes to run the Duo a few times to "keep it fresh." This is not the Odd Couple, you will not humorously find a solution and laugh. This is life. If you and your potential partner do not share the same attitude towards work DO NOT waste either of yours time. Or suffer the future headaches and contempt.
3. Work Style. Everyone should be forced to abandon their comfort zones periodically and try something new. This includes work styles. Some people are very methodical about solving issues; others are more organic and experimental. Find a Duo partner where both of your methods will mesh. Otherwise, you two could find yourselves with a blocking problem and not know how to work together to reach a solution.
4. Comfort Factor. There are certain people where once you meet them you do not like them. You might not know why. There is just something inherent within them that irks your inner core. There are also certain people that you might be okay with but not fully open towards. Avoid working with these people. Be respectful and courteous, but do not enter into a partnership with them. Duo requires a level of trust with your partner in order to fully experiment with possibilities and discuss "shortcomings" in order to prosper. If you sense that you or the other are closed-off, in regards towards each other, your Duo could suffer from suffocation. Find a person with whom you feel at ease.
5. Similar Tastes. A great Duo is as contingent on locating a captivating script as it is a partnership to enact the words. That said, partners with varying tastes of what makes a great script might find themselves bickering. Compromise is a solution and could work if both partners agree enough. However, if you desire a Drama and another a Comedy there might not be any resolution.
6. Experience and Skill. NEVER write off an individual because you have more experience than them. That is unfair and could be damaging to both you and your potential partner--who knows what sort of talent you might toss away as rubbish. Some people are inclined towards the arts and will learn quickly. Meet with the possible partner and see if you two gel. Inversely, there are some Novices who will not be able to hold ground with Varsity. Not that they are "bad," just they need time to grow. Do not enter into a Duo with these Novice, but offer to help guide them and offer advice so they can be in your position in a season or so.
7. Working Relationship Vs Friendship. Above all, repeat in your mind that a great Duo partner does not naturally stem from a great friend. Hanging out and general shenanigans are, over-all, fun activities to share with a friend. Sure, close pals lend support and wade through turbulent situations with you. But Duo is mostly a working relationship. Laughs happen but the main focus of any rehearsal is work. Constructive criticism is a given. Can your friendship handle this level of honesty? People tend to behave differently when they are on task--the person you went to get ice cream with might not be the same person you rehearse with.
Selecting a compatible Duo partner can be a challenging journey. Options might be limited or the timing off. Be persistent and patient! Take the time to find a partner you can work well with and your Duo will flourish.
The Dynamic Duo and How to Make It Work
After finding a Duo partner and a script one would think all that remains would be rehearsal and competition. Wrong. There is a subtext that underlies a Duo partnership from conception to the season's close. The chemistry and bond a partnership creates is a formula that can grow or die pending on how it is nurtured. This is not to say that you must become best pals with your Duo partner, nor will your performance be weak if the piece was rehearsed in a "strictly business" attitude. What is being said is that forming a strong, working relationship with your scene partner is crucial for success. Lose that and signs of your partnership's ailing might begin to creep into your performance at worst. At "best" rehearsal will become tedious. Some suggestions to maintain a healthy Duo partnership include:
--Communication. The key to any relationship of worth is open communication. Whether you have good news, a complaint, constructive criticism, or a suggestion you and your partner need to be aware that all must be expressed. Holding anything back might build into an argument of no return. Talk to your partner, in a polite, respectful manner and your Duo will grow together into a closeness that will be seen in your scene.
--Trust. Part of what sanctions open communication is trust. Further, trust allows for scene partners to take risks with acting (thus elevating the odds of creativity and eliciting better, honest acting). Obtaining trust is not something that happens instantly. Take some time every practice to chit-chat and goof-off. Form some memories to bond. If you are not friends with your partner and have never spent time with them outside of Forensics, go one day to hang out. Sharing experiences and time seems like nothing, but these do matter. Get to know your Duo partner and watch the trust grow.
--Support. There will be times when a judge, coach, audience member, or even your partner will tell you constructive criticism you do not want to hear. There will be critiques where you will be the "weak" actor or the "strong" one. Either situation is rotten. Whatever criticism you hear, or from whatever position you receive it as ("weak" or "strong"), be supportive of your Duo partner. Never blame them for your piece's ranking. Duo involves two people. Not one. Only through working together and improving as a team will your Duo blossom.
--Respect. When you do have to deliver criticism do so in a respectful manner. It is no one's fault why a gag or moving moment did not work. All you can do is offer a suggestion for improvement. Try a new approach, but be polite about it. Yelling or belittling your partner will accomplish nothing--aside from form a canyon between you two.
--Listen and Compromise. You cannot do all the talking and decision making, nor should your partner! Again, Duo has two individuals working as one to create art. How can you work with another without listening to their ideas? Have a friendly discussion over the blocking/interpretation/etc. and after both of you have expressed your ideas and feelings be prepared to compromise.
Although this list sounds more like "How to Keep Your Relationship Strong" for couples, that is what a Duo partnership is at its essence: a relationship. Stay connected to your partner and audiences will see. You two may not become best friends, but that trust and openness you have procured in your working relationship will shine through in performance as chemistry.
Duo Partnerships Gone Wrong
In Duo, you can’t just throw two people at each other and expect them to become The Perfect Duo Team. Building a partnership takes time, work, and dedication, and sometimes that just isn’t going to happen. Here’s some advice for what to do when your duo partner is driving you crazy.
What to do if your partner keeps rescheduling:
The amount of time you’ve been working with your partner will have an effect on how often you practice – if you’ve just started working together it should be pretty often, but even if you’ve been partnered for awhile you should still be practicing at least once a week. The easiest way to arrange practice times is to set up one regularly scheduled one-hour practice each week. Stress to your partner that other practice times are negotiable, but on Thursdays at 5 p.m. you need him to be in the speech room with his binder. This will ensure you have one solid rehearsal before every tournament.
What to do if your duo partner won’t practice:
Make him practice. Seriously. If your partner refuses to meet on a regular basis and can’t offer up any alternative times, you should first stress to them that practice is important to you and voice your concerns about whatever part of the piece you’re most uneasy about, whether it’s blocking you haven’t finalized or a line he keeps fumbling. Try setting up a regular practice time, and if that doesn't work or he ditches, you should talk to your coach.
What to do if your partner ad-libs:
Some people, for whatever reason, enjoy making up lines in the middle of performing a piece. All you can do in that situation is keep reading your lines and redirect your partner back to the actual script. You can’t stop mid-line and talk to your partner – that’s a conversation that will have to wait until after the round.
What to do if your coach puts you with someone you can’t work with:
Usually, this is for personal reasons – you dated him, you dated his ex, you got into a fight once, you took the last oatmeal cream pie from the vending machine. But regardless of the cause, the fact is you just can’t handle working with this new partner. You have two options in this case. One, think about why you “can’t” work with this person and consider how getting over it would be beneficial – that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, after all. If you can’t get over your personal issues and be businesslike about your partnership, your only other option is to talk to your coach and request a new match, explaining why you don’t want to work with that particular person.
What to do if your partner is better than you:
If you notice that on every ballot, your partner gets positive comments while you get criticism, you may be facing a difficult realization. The best thing you can do is take that criticism and use it to get better. You could even ask your partner for advice on how you can strengthen the performance. Don't let a few negative comments drag you down.
What to do if you’re better than your partner:
If your partner is the one struggling, encourage him to address issues that are holding him back. During practices, help your partner isolate the tricky moments in the performance and improve them. It's important to keep in mind that you’re not necessarily “better,” you may just be better suited to the piece. Make sure that your cutting is playing to both of your strong suits – it’s selfish and unfair to give yourself all the best lines.
What to do if you hate your duo piece:
Your partner found this script, cut it himself, and presented it to you as the perfect piece. Except it sucks. You don't want to insult your partner by saying it sucks, but you don't want to have anything to do with the piece. You can either ask to see the full script and see if you can salvage some good lines, or you can find a piece that rocks and suggest it to your partner instead. Consider that it might just be you -- try working up the piece and performing it with your partner in front of a few teammates for advice. If they love it, you may just be letting your personal pet peeves get in the way of a decent piece.
What to do if your partner slacks off:
It’s nothing personal. You get along well with your partner, you’re still friends, and everything has been peachy. But he doesn’t have time to practice, and when he does, he’s checked out – he forgets his binder, he forgets the lines in the intro, he screws up the blocking and has no suggestions for how to improve the piece. You should take some time to explain that your piece is suffering. Ask what's wrong – you never know; your partner could be dealing with personal issues. But if your partner has no excuse, it may be time to find a new piece. In some cases, you just need to be willing to pick up the slack and support the performance, or you could suggest that your partner take a tournament off and request that your coach pair you up with a temporary partner for the next competition.
What to do if you and your partner are fighting:
All duo teams have disagreements. If you’re a good duo team, you should be able to stifle your argument at least during practice time. Channel your energy into the performance. If you find that you can’t stop fighting for the ten minutes it takes to run through a piece, then you should talk to your coach -- it's time to admit you have a problem.
There are a hundred minuscule issues that could make a good Duo partnership go bad. Ultimately, it all comes down to whether you and your partner can address your differences and overcome them for the good of your performance.
3. the interaction of one personality with another: The chemistry between him and his boss was all wrong.
4. sympathetic understanding; rapport: the astonishing chemistry between the actors.
An illusive word, yet there is its definition written out with a matter-of-fact ease. "Interaction" and "sympathetic understanding?" That's all chemistry needs to exist? HA! If only. Well, technically chemistry can be used to describe any interaction (see above). However, what a Duo seeks is good chemistry. That is where the illusive nature of the word begins and a straightforward definition ends. Easy to define but difficult to capture, good chemistry in a Duo is a quality many seek but few obtain. True chemistry requires time and a genuine interest to understand your partner. However, there are a few procedures your Duo can undergo to help develop chemistry while appearing to actually have some.
1. Complement the other. As you search for a partner, try to find one that will turn you two into a real pair. Duos are generally written with opposing forces (specifically Duos meant for only two characters--no pops). As such, characters typically complement the other. It's the classic Odd Couple. One is extroverted, the other introverted. One is eccentric, the other is grounded. Get the idea? If you are an energetic personality, then matching yourself with other high-energy persona might not be smart. If you excel in the art of voices, branch out and find a partner that is great at facials/body language to act out your vocals. You can do prat falls, they have the ability to be graceful and still. You're good at analysis, your partner is better at finding a way to physically interpret. Between the two of you the Duo should have such a wide array of skills that creativity and ability is endless. The better you two complement the easier it will be for people to see how you support one another and work as one.
2. Listen. Never wait around anticipating when you can speak your line, spurt it out, and then zone out awaiting your next utterance. This cycle is detrimental to bonding and performance. Actually listen to your partner. Interpret what, and how, they are talking. Not only will this cause a Duo of more natural reactions and interaction, this will also form a visual connection between you and your partner.
3. Trust. Letting yourself take risks while performing is only capable once you trust your partner. If you feel insecure about emotionally letting go and fully experiencing the moment people can tell. Holding back can be felt and usually leaves an audience wishing for more. Further, emotionally hiding reflects on a Duo partnership. If one of you is restrained, which tends to turn into both of you being protective, then it usually means that there is a barrier between you two. Trust is hard to earn. It takes time and interaction. And sometimes a Duo does not have the luxury of being friends beforehand; not that trust can only form with friends--a good working relationship meets requirements. No, a crash course in trust building might need to occur. Both of you need to understand that open communication builds trust. Being able to freely speak, respectfully and constructively, is a must. Begin to openly discuss and trust will come. Once trust happens, then feeling safe will come, and then being able to take acting risks and opening up will follow. Get there and chemistry you shall have.
4. Enthusiasm. Nothing quite shows chemistry like enthusiasm. When an audience can tell a Duo enjoys performing it's captivating. An electric current can be felt and it's truly engaging. A Duo that is honestly excited to perform their piece together has a palpable connection. That Duo tends to interact with the other better because the sheer joy of performing has overcome them. They want to put on their best performance not only because the audience deserves it but because they legitimately love sharing their Duo's story. A Duo pair might not even be the closest of friends, but the power of storytelling unites them for ten minutes. Throw yourselves into the piece and watch magic unfold.
Chemistry does not have to be this mythical entity. It can be had if your partnership allows for a strong working relationship to grow. Some of the greatest Duos in history were forged between opposing forces who had a potent working bond: Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor come to mind. Being professional and putting the Duo first is step one in overcoming differences and merging into a pair. No one says you and your Duo partner must be buddies outside of practice, but once rehearsal begins working together is vital. Use the advice above and not only will you be able to work well with your partner, chemistry should be a side-effect.
Duo, An Equal Partnership
(There is no "better" or "weaker" performer in a DUO; you're only as good as your partner.)
Duo, like any relationship, is a joint effort. There will never come a period when one partner's performance is more pivotal than the other. Not to say that judges or coaches will not label one of your pair more effective. Honesty is cold, but a necessity, and the actuality is that sometimes one of you obviously will have more experience, be better cast, or have a flashier, dominating role (which can be a curse or source of rejoicing pending on how well you can do power roles) . Does that divide the Duo into the "stronger" and "weaker?" Unquestionably no! One can be doing a perfectly fine job but not hear the accolades due to their partner's shining star. But keep at the forefront of your mind that without a unified Duo pair any partner's shining star would be obscured by clouds and lost.
It is spirit crushing though to hear how "inadequate" you or your partner are on a regular basis. Constructive this criticism might be, it does become a burden of Atlas proportions when you either feel as if it is your fault that the Duo is not a hit or that your partner is getting poor reviews unjustly. There is one solution to seeing a reduction of these comments. Overall Duo improvement. An infinitesimal detail that will take time. Thankfully, there are solutions readily available to alleviate the burn of divided Duo reviews, while improving:
--Reminding yourselves this is a partnership. Once one of you forgets that a Duo is composed of two people who share equal responsibility in the partnership, then your Duo becomes a one-man-show with a sidekick. Most Duos follow a rule of duality; blatantly obvious in Comedies. Duality is a fancy word for the concept of without one you can't have the other. Life needs Death. Light needs Dark. The Straight character needs the Eccentric one. A fantastic Duo will have a balanced dichotomy that work as one. Therefore, without you playing the "sane" neighbor, for example, your partner's totally mad, Kramer-esque neighbor would be ridiculous--you need the balance to create some semblance of reality. If you forget this rule of duality, and let one power showboat, then The Force will suffer a disturbance.
--Tell yourself you do not suck and believe it. This is more for the bruised ego of the Duo partnership; tell yourself you are good. Your partner will tell you this nonstop, and most likely you will nod and agree to their face while thinking they are grossly wrong. Stop it. You have got talent. Once you accept that some people will not like your interpretation, you can move on and try for your personal best. The more comfortable and trusting you are of yourself, the more likely it will be for you to forget your insecurities and not only perform better but also begin the polishing process. Acting is subjective anyway. For instance, with every collection of people who adore Diane Keaton, there will be a handful that proclaim her to be a horrendous actress. Doubt that keeps her from believing in herself. Trust your judgment, deliver your best, and continue to want to best yourself.
--Be supportive and strong. If you are the one receiving the majority of negative comments while your partner garners only praise, the main focus you should have is to congratulate your partner and not become a living tragedy. Do not evoke a pity party upon yourself. So you have earned some poor reviews? Take what advice you can and strive to improve. Remaining stagnant will further nothing. If you have been deemed the strength of the performance do not gloat. Do not belittle your partner or place blame. Neither of you should ignore the elephant either. Acknowledge the comments and work together to enhance the Duo.
--Experiment within reason. Try new ways to do a bit from the piece. A Duo should always be evolving anyway, so this is not a breakthrough in practice logic. A concern with alterations is changing things so much the purpose and vision is lost. Keep what works, improve upon sections that are close, and scrap what is awful. Further, all those character related negative comments--hear them but do not adhere as though they were law. Different judges have their own preference for acting and ergo a person can be given, say, five various ways to play a segment of dialogue. Take what you will (what works for the character you envision), and leave the rest for nothing more than dried ink of no consequence. If you were to listen to all suggestions it is easy to become overwhelmed and not know what you are doing anymore.
--Remind yourself why you do Forensics. Whenever you have an onslaught of harsh comments it always is a good idea to take some time to remind yourself why exactly you get on a bus at 6 AM to compete in a nerve-racking competition that steals you from the sunshine every Saturday. It's the rush of performance, the command of language and ideas, the laughter with friends, the control yet flow of self in a round, the anticipation of break postings, and--of course--checking out people in snazzy suits. A bad Duo comment might be bitter for the ego, but one comment does not eradicate the complete and utter joy being involved in Duo/Forensics brings.
Speaking from experience on both sides of the Duo partner spectrum, whichever spot you have been forced into is tough. To be the "weak" and attribute all failure to yourself, or to be the "strong" and lead an injured partner back into confidence when you never lost faith in them is always going to be hard. Hopefully this advice saves a Duo from prolonged stress and heartache.
Duo Partnerships Gone Awry
(Last resorts: either work and proser...or bail.)
The unthinkable has happened: you and your Duo partner are in the midst of a fight! This situation does transpire. You might have chosen a person carefully and even followed some guidelines to avoid confrontation, but some arguments are unavoidable. There is a silver lining. If you two are having a tiff that means you are communicating and trust one other enough to express your thoughts and feelings. Thus, hope should remain. If the disagreement stems from a situation that can reach a compromise, because you and your Duo partner are talking that compromise can be obtained. However, some fights are massive enough to strain a Duo partnership and shove it to the brink of termination. When that occurs you have two options:
1. Work and Prosper
Okay, there is the third option of soldiering through and working together though you loath the other. But that's hardly a feasible, or astute, solution. Forensics should be challenging (as in the interpretation and work) but fun. No one should hate going to rehearsal. Also, people can tell when a Duo is not meshing; dissatisfaction manifests itself in performance and why bother performing if that is not even enjoyable?
So, let's backtrack. Either work and prosper or bail. Depending on the investment made into this Duo, bailing could be an option if differences cannot be resolved--and if it is early in the season and you care to continue competing. It's terrible to think as such, but sometimes two people cannot work together. However, if you carefully sought a partner, and both of you have respect for the other, quitting the Duo is a last resort, final solution choice. ONLY opt for this if nothing can be done to revive your partnership. Bailing puts both of you in an awkward situation competitively and socially. You might be labeled difficult to work with, not be able to find a replacement partner, or have no piece to compete with if Duo was your only event.
A better solution to Duo troubles is to talk and work to compromise. If you two cannot form a solution together seek counseling and talk. Go to a mutual friend or coach and have a mediated discussion of what is the trouble. Sometimes an outside source is needed to discover the real issue and put problems into perspective. Keep in mind that neither of you is at fault. Both of you just have different opinions you feel strongly about. Be honest, but respectful, and get everything out there. It will be challenging, but if your Duo can pull through you both might find your relationship to be stronger and work better.
No one wants to admit that they need help to keep a Duo together or that it must dissolve if nothing is done. Thoroughly think through your choices and make a decision. Duos that are hurting are transparent in competition. Also, it's not fair to either you or your partner to be miserable. Open up and talk and the outcome might surprise you. It's amazing what a massive argument and honesty can do for a relationship.
What's love got to do with it?
How can a romantic relationship affect performances in partner events?
When considering this question, a particular speech coach comes to mind. She hated it when her students started dating each other and causing "drama," particularly when they were partnered for a team event such as Duo, Duet or policy debate. Her position was that past students had broken up working relationships as a result of personal arguments, and it was easier just to “ban” dating. Of course, a teacher can’t actually forbid students from interacting or having relationships, so she basically adopted a “don’t ask, don’t tell who is dating whom” policy.
This policy had its good and bad points. When she was judging auditions for new team members at the beginning of each academic year, she didn’t have to worry about how a guy on the team might feel if his girlfriend didn’t make it past the tryouts, or how selecting somebody’s ex might affect the team. It allowed her to remain unbiased while choosing candidates, and it probably prevented at least a few unpleasant episodes.
Personally, though, I knew Duo and Duet competitors -- as well as CX teams -- who were romantically involved with each other and won trophies at every tournament. I competed in Duo with my boyfriend when we were in high school and we both found it to be a great experience. We worked well together, we received high praise from all of our judges, and we placed together at the first tournament we ever competed in. Not only that, but working with him helped to build our relationship and strengthen our skills as actors.
I think it comes down to whether two team members can work well together, regardless of the kind of relationship they have. If they don’t work well together on projects that involve communication, patience and mutual respect, then they certainly won’t make good speech partners. But if two people can remain serious and focused when they are working on their speech material, why shouldn’t they compete together?
Duo Pieces and Where to Find Them
Easy they say. Go find a Duo piece. Oh, and have it found (and cut) within the week. They never mention loving the piece, or finding work with merit, but it's implied. You are a Forensicator and putting together a performance of quality within a week is somewhat commonplace. It is easy to find any piece. It's hard when you need to find one with the previous mentioned qualities. Knowing where to locate resources can be one of the greatest deterrents in finding the right material for you. Don't let it! Between you and your Duo partner, you two should be able to find a script quickly. There are two of you! As you search, keep these locations of interest logged into your brain when you think you've depleted all script sources; you might be surprised of where you haven't looked!
--Team Archives. Duo is popular. So popular that a majority of scripts your team has stored away might be intended for Duo. The first place your partner and you should look would be team archives. Most team resources are well-organized and have selections that were kept because they were intended to be used for competition. Try to look for something that was not used the year or so before (to be "original" and somewhat fresh).
--Library. Hit the stacks! Most Duos are found in scripts and many libraries have a HUGE selection of scripts to sift through. The best incentives to take a trip to the library include: everything you want is well labeled, items are placed together, comfy chairs, helpful librarians, and it's free (aside from minimal copy costs)! Even if you choose to not look at scripts, Duos can be any published source, and a library will offer you thousands of PUBLISHED titles. As long as you can operate the search feature on the library's computers you will be able to find content to read.
--Bookstores (Physical or Internet). If you prefer to sip coffee and browse through selective stacks then a bookstore is perfect for you. Your selection might be limited, but there is the perk of weeding out "lesser" publications (stocked items sell, thus popular, and might be worth a read). You are also in a more relaxed atmosphere. If you search on-line your perusing options increase vastly. Better still, not only can you narrow your search results by selecting a genre and subsequent sub-categories, you also have the benefit of seeing what similar books match your search. This is great to learn new authors and titles you may never have encountered otherwise. Grab some prospective titles/names and go out to a physical store (or library!) and give those texts a gander.
--League Results. Some leagues post the titles of pieces with the names of those who ranked highly. Duo winners of the past prove that the piece can work, with skilled interpretation, and gives you options to material that might not be used anymore. Illinois High School Association is one of the few leagues that lists titles.
--Ask Theatre People and Teachers. Go to the theatre director at you school and strike-up a conversation about plays. Mention "Duo" or "Duet" in your conversation, and if that theatre director is worth being employed they should be able to give you a list of titles and authors to investigate. Also, it wouldn't hurt to speak with a well-informed English professor or the school's resident acting class teacher (if applicable). The acting teacher is obvious; the English one less. Yeah, you might read a play in English but that does not make an English teacher master of Drama. However, some English teachers have a love of theatre so you might gain a few leads. Finally, those involved in theatre or Drama Club are also worth talking with.
--Go On-Line. Typing "Duo pieces" or "best plays" into any search engine will guide you to websites with indexes and descriptions of plays. Search around, using descriptive keywords, and take note of anything you want to locate at a library for reading. You could also try looking up an actor's or writer's history to see work they have done in the past. A new play (new to you) might catch your attention.
--You Can Use ANY Published Material. As stated by the NFL Duos are "cuttings from published-printed novels, short stories, plays, poetry, or any other printed-published materials." Ergo, you do not need to restrict yourself to plays. If you felt inclined you could perform one of Plato's dialogues. You could use an interview for your text. As long as it is printed, if you can use it as dialogue you've found a piece.
--Think About Movies. Most movies were inspired by a play, novel, or short story. If there is a movie you adore why not look to see if it is based off of printed material? Avoid anything too well known and realize you must use the published version, not the film adaptation.
With this list a Duo piece is something you will not be searching for, for much longer. You will have to read and do detective work, but at least the strain of being overwhelmed on not knowing where to begin has been removed. Work your Duo partnership and divide research, find possibilities you think both will like, and share the material to discuss and vote upon. A Duo script ready for cutting will be yours momentarily!
Duo Pieces From Film?
The standard, go-to source for Duo pieces are theatrical scripts. They are easily flipped through, often accumulate into massive selections (libraries anyone?), and meet qualifications for legitimate source material. However, there does exist another place to find Duo pieces. You watch them, purchase them, and quote them. Films can be the perfect venue for finding a Duo script to cut. If you do decide to lift from film though, there are a few pros and cons to consider:
--PRO: prior knowledge. Most people who find Duo material from film often use a script from a movie they already know and adore. Or if they do not have one specific movie in mind, most individuals have seen enough movies to know which they would ever consider using. Between the two of you a list of films to research can be amassed in minutes.
--PRO: research made fun. Reading through scripts can be enjoyable, particularly for those who like reading and library research, but there is nothing quite like being able to pop in a film and escape WHILE determining the value of material. You and your Duo partner can have a day of excitement; go rent the top runners, order a pizza, and have a film day. Just be sure to be taking notes on why or why not that particular script may or may not work.
--CON: tracking down a script AND does it meet qualifications? The NFL defines legitimate material as being published-printed works from "novels, short stories, plays, poetry, or any other printed-published materials." Trying to find a film script can be challenging. Where do you go? Many scripts can be found on-line, but does that count as published-printed? Probably not for the NFL (sorry)! But for other leagues, that might be all you need. Talk to your coach and see what your league's precise rules are. Also, many film scripts are adaptations of novels, short stories, or theatrical scripts so that is an easy alternative to get around the on-line iffiness.
--CON: being compared to the movie. No matter how brilliant your Duo is, there is always the little problem of being compared to the movie. You can't blame audiences; if you use a popular film (or one popular to an individual) then you are leaving yourself open to comparison. What your Duo never wants to do is either copy a film's interpretation/blocking or be so different the piece no longer resembles or reflects the author's/material's intent. Look to the script and try to view the language as though it were new and fresh to your mind.
There are issues to be considered when thinking of using a film script for a Duo piece. But if done carefully, and tactfully, finding a Duo script from cinema can be another way to expand your resources and find a piece perfect for you and your partner.
Duo Script Cutting
Telling a story is an involved art. There are numerous considerations to be made and the job can become discouraging quickly. Yet, cutting a Duo script can be a painless task if you are aware of certain "must-haves" before you jump into the process. Think of these as guidelines to creating a coherent, well-paced script.
--Find the story. This applies less to those who find a short, ten minute Duo to perform, but for those who are taking from a larger work, this will be critical. To create cohesion you will want to find the one story you are going to tell. Plays, novels, short stories, etc. might have multiple themes within a work. Usually one theme is more dominate than others, but nonetheless, you need to determine what story to perform. Are you focusing on the main character's plot? Or do you want to present a clip from the supporting characters' subplot? What is the main message you wish to convey? Find the one thing and build your cutting around that.
--Character/piece development. Whether your Duo be ten minutes total or a cutting from a larger story, your characters and piece must undergo some development. Audiences do not like to sit through a Duo and witness no progression. The alteration does not have to be huge, but some sort of transformation should occur. Most often, development consists of characters coming to a realization about a conflict and reaching a decision that changes who they are slightly/massively. As you cut away, be sure to maintain character and plot progression. DO NOT cut anything that is cathartic for a character!
--Basic plot outline. 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). Never forget this and do not cut anything that diminishes the format. Cut too much of a Duo's climax and your characters are left in a flat plot. Obviously, some stories are told non-traditionally. Flashback use is a good example of this; non-linear storytelling applies too. Through the chaos is order that holds the plot in place. "(500) Days of Summer" is a recent film example of how telling a story out of order can still have structure. Trust the author and strive to uphold the integrity of plot their envisioned.
--Time. Find out the time restraints in your league and create a cutting that meets time. Fail to do this and all is for naught.
--Eliminate non-essentials. If your Duo is pressed for time the first items to cut are the unnecessary lines and prattle. Try not to cut too much of this dialogue because it adds flavor to a piece. However, as your Duo speed improves with time these lines can be added back into the piece. Think of it as this: a method to keep your piece fresh and exciting as the weeks press on!
--Watch your partner's dialogue. As you cut you want to be certain of two things in relation to character. First, that one character's dialogue is not being cut in preference of another. This is Duo and both of you are to work together. Deliberately cutting one's lines only leaves the other with more to say and leads to an unbalanced piece. Second, when snipping lines be careful to retain sense. Duo is a tennis match of words. Cut one's speech and the next line might not make sense any longer because chances are it was a direct response to the previous line. Editing and shortening long paragraphs of speech for a character usually is a safe way to trim. Also, cutting out full segments of dialogue not too important to the overall plot can also be an easy way to cut while making sense.
--Cut out a character. If you are a performing a Duo and find a scene you love but think you can't perform because a minor character appears momentarily, think twice. Cutting the minor character out is up to your discretion. This can be done by completely chopping that character's dialogue exchange, OR you can edit out what you do not like and keep lines you do by attributing them to another. Be careful to not cut anything needed and when redirecting lines check that the new cut flows well, is easy to follow, and sounds like something you or your Duo partner's character would say.
Cutting takes time even when you are seasoned. It is a process to say the least. However, with these little hints and guides helping you, your Duo cutting should be an event of creation and excitement...and joy because when knowing what to do there is less second-guessing and doubting!
Duo: Drama Vs Comedy
Few Forensicators are fortunate enough to have Duo divided into Humorous and Dramatic categories. A majority of you will have to decide between Comedy or Drama for your piece. Why Duo does not separate the two genres is mind-boggling. To rank competitors in two enormously varied genres of performance seems cruel. Regardless, you will be forced to weigh the pros and cons and decide.
One of the first questions you should ask is what genre you are drawn to. Then, find a Duo partner who feels the same. Truly ask yourself what focus of discipline, Dramatic or Comedic, you want to master. Are you more comfortable discussing heavy topics seriously or playfully? Do you have the timing for Comedy? Do you possess the intensity for Drama? Do you prefer to laugh or be moody? Which genre would help you grow more as an actor? What genre are you and your partner best suited for based on how you interact? Why do you want to do either genre? If you are leaning towards Comedy or Drama only because that is what is popular in your area then you are choosing a genre unwisely. Do what the Duo wants, or you both might become miserable and risk your performance.
As you contemplate a Dramatic or Comedic Duo there are a few considerations to be made. Be aware that both Comedy and Drama essentially do the same thing if they are great stories: discuss a serious issue, albeit with totally different methods. Obviously, Drama is more serious in tone while Comedy uses humor to answer questions. That said, there are definite pros and cons to either genre.
Comedy will allow for greater use of timing (a talent more instinctive than taught), physicality (slap stick for instance or fast blocking), and exaggeration (bigger facials/vocals/etc.). If you can get the laugh (definitely easier to say than do) you might have more of a chance of being remembered as well. People love to smile and laugh, so your Duo could also easily become a crowd favorite. And while you create laughter you do so while maintaining some reality, for the greatest comedians know that while one can be silly there must always be an anchor to the serious so the audience can relate. Keep in mind though that earning laughter is challenging, exhausting work. Also, finding the balance between clown and poignant is not as easy as one might think.
Drama will test your range in a somber manner. There may be some jokes, but mostly the Duo will be serious so use of variation becomes critical to avoid boredom. You get to act more realistically as well. Blocking is easier because there is less movement. You will be able to deliver that intense speech you have always dreamed of. And audiences relish at watching a well-done Dramatic dialogue. Further, audiences connect to a Dramatic persona with ease because of the nature of Drama being realistic and more "like us." Remember though that Dramas are viewed with a very critical eye. Acting is always subjective, but your great speech can be torn apart. Also, if a Drama becomes too heavy and clunky from lack of energy than you might look into the audience and see yawns.
An important note: Dramatic Duos are often taken more seriously (sorry for the pun) than Comedic ones. For some reason Drama is considered a higher form of art than Comedy. That is a research paper in itself, but it is suffice to say that if you choose a Dramatic Duo that you will have the privilege of weighing in on the subconscious (or not!) thought that Drama is better. A high number of Duos are Dramas as well, thus the Comedies are like the black sheep of Duo. The stigma that Drama is harder than Comedy is depressing at best, but you cannot change theatrical mythology overnight. Be warned, if you select a Comedic Duo you may face the brunt of this Drama Vs Comedy being better/harder debate and lose to Dramas.
Whichever genre your Duo decides the most important thing to remember is to choose a good script that fits the Duo. Analyze the text thoroughly, interpret, and begin the rehearsal process of honestly performing the script. It's rough that Drama and Comedy are lumped into one category when they so clearly are entirely different. A Drama and Comedy might both discuss the matter of love and proposing, but when one uses heartfelt words and another is a ridiculous marriage proposal gone wrong, then you know deciding which genre to choose requires contemplation. Ask what you and your Duo partner would prefer, mull over the pros and cons, and decide if your Duo will be the next Al Pacino/Robert DeNiro pair or the new Gene Wilder/Richard Pryor.
Duo and Non-Traditional Casting
In theatre/film non-traditional casting can refer to casting without regard to gender (such as Cate Blanchett playing Bob Dylan in "I'm Not There"). It can also refer to switching races/species to either make a statement or to simply use color-blind casting. "District 9"'s use of the alien Prawns to serve as a symbolic representation of South Africa's apartheid era is a good example of casting against species for meaning. "Night of the Living Dead"'s use of a black lead in a traditional "white" hero role--GREAT casting idea!--is a prime example of using a different race to make a statement (the actor was great in the role anyway so he should have been cast). Using black actors in a Shakespeare play would just be color-blind casting in most cases.
Duo and Duet can use non-traditional casting as well in certain instances. If you find an amazing piece but it does not meet the specifications you require do not label it as rubbish immediately. Ask yourself: can non-traditional casting work with this script? Race hardly is an issue unless you are doing a race related work. Then you should adhere to the author's intent or you most likely will diminish the message's impact. Gender however is the casting decision to really think about.
Does this Duo or Duet piece really require you and your partner to stick with the genders assigned by the author? If gender is central to the plot, character relationship type, or many of the gags then switching genders is not in your best interest. However, if your Duo or Duet's gender assignments mean nothing, or only a couple of jokes that can be cut are related to gender, some editing can make this piece doable by whatever genders you wish. It could even be fun casting a female in the male role and a male in the female role (such as with a business partnership cast a girl as the executive, a male as the secretary).
If you are planning on switching genders be sure your league allows for such changes. I competed in Illinois where up to 15% of the material did not have to be original content. Therefore, when my Duet Acting partner and I took a comedic piece intended for two males and changed one of the characters name's to the female equivalent, we were perfectly within our right and piece legal. We were somewhat successful as well placing in a few tournaments throughout the season--not bad for this being both of ours secondary event. So, using non-traditional casting in Duo or Duet can either be a decision that goes unnoticed or which causes a commotion for testing the audience's ideas about race/gender.
What do you Duo and Duet people think? Have you, or would you, cast outside the box?
Duo and Creating Character
Whether you are competing in Duo interpretation or Duet Acting, creating believable characters is fundamental. Characterization is the vessel for demonstrating your interpretive skills. Character work shows your analysis of an individual, of dialogue, and of how language/action affects the overall plot. As you and your Duo partner create characters, there are a few specific aspects you can develop for specificity. As always, refer to your script, and forge a character that supports the text.
--Stance. How does the character stand? Are their legs far apart or close? Are the knees bent or are the legs like poles? How you stand speaks much about self. For example, an older character might have the knees bent to represent old age. An uptight persona might stand with their legs stuck together and without any bend.
--Posture. Posture most likely will relate to stance. If a character has a stance of poker-straight legs, then their posture should match and be straight as well. Confidence is measured in posture. Strong willed people usually stand erect; shy people tend to cave into themselves. Use this knowledge to better visually define who a character is.
--Voice. Accents, vocal patterns, tone, pitch, anything relative to how your voice sounds is an easy way to differentiate characters. Of course, you always want your voice to have good diction and projection so you are heard and understood, but otherwise play around and find a voice for a character to speak through.
--Ticks. If there exists an eccentric character, or one with a specified mannerism, do give your character a defining tick. Mannerisms can reveal a lot about a character or be an easy way to add uniqueness. Something as simple as having a character who asks many questions slightly tilt their head to the side when they are confused can be an interesting quirk.
--Overall appearance. How fast does your character move? Are there certain arm postures that a character maintains (such as arms just dangling at the sides with few gestures)? Are there particular gestures one character mostly uses? Are there any facial expressions a character seems stuck in? All these little details add-up to form a character. Go back to your analysis and visualize how that person would look and do it! If you need to, think of a personality or person you know who mirrors this character and borrow some of their traits.
--Walk. How does your character walk? Duos allow for walking so why not have characterization through movement? An easy way to create a walk is to take characterization used while standing still and apply it into a walk. For example, if a character stands with straight legs then most likely their walk will have little bend in the legs. To get a walk down pat try exaggerating their walk, make it HUGE to memorize their movements, and then pull back into a "normal" walk.
--Be consistent. As you develop and practice your character(s), you will see how being consistent is critical for success. Once a Duo character begins to have murky characteristics then interpretation begins to fail. Practice will bring solid personas.
--Be detailed and original. The more specific and varied you make each character, the easier it will be to stay consistent and deliver readily recognizable characters.
--PRACTICE. The only way to accomplish anything is through practice. That, and some persistence.
A Duo might have several characters, and all must be individuals. Take the time to thoroughly cultivate a character. Lovingly draft them, flush them out, and practice to make them breath. It might drive you mad fully visualizing a character, but once they're alive your Duo will prosper.
Any celebrated partnership begins with an equally grand introduction. Look to film; any great buddy film has an awesome, often hilarious, first encounter of the new partnership that will cement the pair together. A Duo might not be arranged quite as such, but the introduction to your piece is the first time your audience is introduced to the real people behind the characters--an audience can glimpse how you and your partner truly interact. While adding realism and chemistry, introductions can also either add momentum to a Duo or stifle the mood. It is important to never "phone in" an introduction regardless, but in Duo it becomes even more critical. When putting together your Duo introduction there are a few things to do and to avoid.
--DON'T improv it or write it on the bus. People generally can tell when an introduction was written in five minutes. On the bus ride over. Either the writing is uninspired, dull, and boring or memorization (rather, lack of) is sketchy. Few have the ingenuity to develop an introduction on the spot (congratulations if you can). Even if you can throw words together right then chances are not in your favor of being more polished than the Duo that has rehearsed their introduction. Further, as both parties must speak in the introduction improv becomes far too intricate. How awful would it feel to deliver a marvelous hook only to speak a muddled introduction? The rest of your Duo could suffer from demoralization. Plus the judge might look poorly on your piece for not bothering to write a thirty-second introduction.
--DON'T be overly gimmicky. Yeah, it's cute and funny when two Duo partners ham it up in the introduction. Please, just do not go overboard. Pretending to be two goofballs takes away from the introduction being not only a word about your piece but also a look at who you two are. Besides, it is annoying to watch two people act fake because they think it's a riot when no one else does. Further, acting fake leaves one to think that you and your partner are not confident in yourselves so must further hide behind an image. Audiences want to see comfortable performers not timid Duo partners.
--DO be yourselves. As stated earlier, the introduction is the time to show the audience who you are and how comfortable you are to perform. People are drawn to those that show strength and honesty in public situations, so a solid introduction is one way to connect to your audience and win their affection.
--DO have a sensational hook. Most performers opt to perform a segment of their piece prior to doing the introduction. This acts as a teaser trailer of sorts to "hook" your audience. Whether your Duo be Dramatic or Comedic, you want to leave your audience on a note of anticipation. Such as when something heavy has been revealed. Leave them wanting, and give them more in the introduction.
--DO remember basic introduction structure. Not every introduction need follow this format, but on the whole most introductions begin with an attention getter (like a rhetorical question), then gives some background information that helps set the mood, then there is the delivery of the title and author's name, and then perhaps a linking sentence to ease back into the performance. In a Duo both partners must speak, you are not Penn nor Teller, so divvy the lines in rehearsal and practice a seamless, maybe banter-filled, introduction. Work with your partner, and deliver as one team.
--DO use your partner. It is acceptable to stand side by side and trade off lines of the introduction. Except, why do that when you have a Duo partner? Use your partner a little. It is okay to interact and grow off the other's energy.
--ALWAYS PRACTICE! Introductions need to be as polished as the actual performance. Remember, though clean an introduction should be, it must sound natural because it is you talking.
A Duo introduction is like any other...aside from there being another entity to help deliver. However, the premise is the same. Yet, do not let that keep you from practicing your Duo introduction regularly. If anything, because there are two involved, working a Duo introduction more is necessary to keep it clean. Teamwork takes patience and practice--even a thirty-second introduction.
Tricks of Duo Blocking
When watching a Duo it looks like magic that two people, who are not allowed to directly interact, can cooperate so well together. They always know where the other is, never bump into each other, and time movements perfectly. It's like watching those massive flocks of birds that seem to instinctively know when to turn as one so that they can make those mind-boggling acute angles without causing an aerial collision. How does a Duo do it?!
The solution to this Duo riddle is as base as you've probably concluded: PRACTICE. Really, that is hardly a secret, but it is the method to any form of success in Forensics. The thing is to find ways to practice. Just jumping into a no-contact maneuver and assuming you and your partner will be pros instantly is ridiculous. Here are some tactics your Duo can employ to ease blocking:
--Really do exchanges. If your Duo requires you and your partner to fake an exchange, such as a slap or a Jedi choke hold, one of the best ways to practice the move is to begin by actually doing it with your partner. Not to say you should really hit or harm your partner! No, be gentle. But there is something to be said about physically interacting with your partner to master an interaction. By physically interacting you and your partner will be able to practice timing and train yourselves into muscle memory mode. Doing a move enough times will cause your body to memorize how it feels. Back to the slap, if you practice at first by doing then you can mentally store necessary information: the height of your partner so you know where to strike, the feel of how much is appropriate force, the positioning your arm undergoes, which way your head spins when hit, etc. After an exchange has been practiced and detailed several times make the transition of performing it Duo style.
--Count it out. When a Duo calls for a ballet of actions, it might not be a terrible idea to actually time a motion. Dancers stay in sync due to the miracle of counting; perhaps there is a spot where timing could work for your piece. Have a set word, phrase, sound, etc. to act as the signal to begin counting from, and perhaps have other words or positions serve as markers/check points to stay together. If your Duo does use this technique it is advised to count out loud in practice to ensure both of you are keeping the same time.
--Start slow. Even professionals enter a new situation as learners. Trying to block and time anything swiftly, even in Duet Acting where contact is allowed, is silly. The only thing that will be accomplished is becoming frustrated and maybe getting a headache. Begin slow. Break a movement down into its components, and as your Duo grows in confidence gradually build by putting the pieces together and moving faster. You will save time, and your sanity, ultimately.
--Remain open. Though you might have a vision of blocking genius, it does not always translate to it working for real. Or, there might be a mediocre move that can be revamped. Always remain open to new suggestions and try new ideas. Even utterly ridiculous ideas (within reason of course) can be brilliant once physically done. You never know. Hey, people thought the aeroplane was a ludicrous concept way back when.
--Refer to the script! Always, ALWAYS refer to the script. All Duo blocking should enhance and help tell the story. Most blocking can be solved/created by re-reading and interpreting the text.
--Variation. No one wants to look at your Duo facing forward, side-by-side, for the entirety of your piece. Be creative and think of ways to add variety. Even turning to a profile view at some point differentiates and holds audience interest. Use your space effectively! Just don't go overboard.
--Peripherals and sound. Use them. You might not be able to directly gaze upon your partner, but you certainly can keep tabs on them by holding them in you field of vision. Listening also gives you an idea of where you partner is (blocking has marks (designated places to be) and lines generally serve as ques for when to move and where). Knowing where they are and what they are doing could be more then helpful with timing.
Certainly there are more tricks Duos have devised to help with blocking and timing. These are just basic guidelines to help your Duo along. The main idea though is to map out your blocking, memorize it, and practice until polished. Generally, the same principle of any Forensics event. Except you and your partner have the potential handicap of "blindness" and the inability to touch. 'Potential' is the key word. Do not let Duo limit you! Duo is only as limiting as you allow.
Duo Blocking (Duet Acting Edition)
In Duo there are two styles of blocking. There is the predominate version where contact (both physical and visual) are illegal, and then there is the world of Duet Acting which is in essence a theatrical duet...in a classroom, without props, costume, or set. Although, some leagues allow for Duet Acting to make use of two chairs and a table as well which adds set-like ambiance. Both forms of Duo present their own complications and challenges, neither more difficult than the other--merely distinct. This article will focus on blocking concepts for Duet Acting, so don't avert your eyes and go ahead and directly interact with these tips:
--Refer to the script. All answers can be found within the script. Whether explicitly stated or inferred, the script will guide you. If you have a direct playwright there will be stage directions in italics within the dialogue. Usually stage direction is added to inform the reader that there was a physical/verbal action that caused a physical/verbal reaction. Often though, you and your Duo partner will have to look at the text and find the levels in order to find the movement (an intense reaction can cause movement). Or, a character will move to go interact with a part of the scenery; if the script says Harold walks over to admire Richard's sculpture then that is a cue for you to designate a spot for there to be a sculpture of Richard's.
--"Setting." You might not have a physical set but do mentally create one. If your Duet is allowed chairs and a table, even better. Create a performance space and treat it as if the real items existed. Planning a set opens up options of places for your characters to move. A "set" design also makes rehearsal easier. Instead of saying "hey, why not try moving to that bare space in the corner" you can now accurately say "hey, why not try moving towards the fireplace." Further, if you do have a table and chairs USE them. Unless specifically stated in the script, or if they are serving as immovable objects, they do not have to remain super-glued in place. If it makes sense to move a chair around then do so.
--Motive. All actions/movements have a reason. Duo is not like watching an old-fashioned 3-D experience where actions were done only to use the 3-D feature (how many balls can you have thrown at your face?!). If you or your Duo partner are getting up or sitting down, there best be a reason. Give an action purpose! Movement has motive. When you turn and walk away from someone it is either because you A. are leaving B. have something enormous to say and it's hard or C. you're mad. If you move just to change scenery the audience can tell and your actions will look odd and fake.
--Levels as Indicators. When you analyze your Duo script you will find moments of emotional highs and lows. You will find builds throughout the dialogue that go up and down and have clear lines of heightened emotion. As the text directs you to these highs and lows follow accordingly and create blocking around these peaks and valleys. Dialogue forms its own verbal roller coaster; blocking is the visualization of it. If your Duo is in a state of bliss, then walking towards your partner on an especially moving line would be appropriate. Note, sometimes less is more and not moving, or turning away, can be colder than stomping off. It all depends on the mood the script has build for you and atmosphere you wish to create. Attempt new movements, but realize your blocking must mirror the structure made by the script.
--Newton's Third Law of Motion. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This does not necessarily mean as one Duo partner storms away the other must follow. Sometimes an equal blocking reaction is to stay cemented in place. What this does mean is that Duo partners are to feed off the other's energy. As one person's blocking changes (action) the recipient of that action will react accordingly. Blocking is a give and take. As one moves away the other might follow or distance themselves more based on the circumstances found in the script. React to the physical changes of space you partner has made and in turn act back!
--Space. Because this type of Duo can interact take advantage of that! Use your space! If tension is thick distance yourselves as far apart from the other as possible and do not make eye contact. If your Duo is joyous be close, share some eye contact, and perhaps even physically touch your partner. Do not be afraid to make use of every inch of space you are allowed. In fact, if a section of performance area goes unused, while others are overdone, some find it distracting and uninspired blocking.
--45Â° Angles and Eye Contact. You do not want to spend the entire Duo in profile gazing at your partner. Open up to the audience! Unless for a distinct purpose, NEVER close yourself to your audience. Keeping your back to the crowd is a poor choice and should only be done if specified by the Duo OR if you are walking from downstage to upstage. But even then, try to not deliver many words to the wall behind you and adjust your volume for facing away. It is best to keep at a 45Â° angle. Profile and full-front are okay if not used extravagantly. A 45Â° angle works best because it allows you to see and interact with your partner without closing up WHILE looking somewhat natural. Now you can interact with your Duo partner, but do not forget the audience. Cheat out (look out onto the 4th wall but not anyone) and deliver some lines out to the crowd. This keeps them in the scene.
--Creativity. Blocking can be stale. If all you are doing is sitting in one place when there is no force holding you to that spot people will get bored. Doing the same blocking, such as walking left to right, is ripe for cries of unoriginality and pacing comments. Must you go crazy and never stop? NO! Actually, avoid over-movement. Go back to your script, go back to running dialogue, and pinpoint moments when the text wants you to move. When do you feel the urgency of motion? Experiment and try various methods to block a patch of script. See which works best for your Duo, and remember that blocking is never done and is always ready for retouching.
Interactive blocking can be demanding in that you must find ways to allow for "real" looking give and take to evolve. Though acting without direct interaction is its own beast, there is something to be said of the connectivity that needs to form with two actors who can look and touch. With such allowance of intimacy it almost becomes required to appear to have chemistry and fully utilize the visual and physical. However, relax and keep in mind the suggestions above and blocking will be less of a struggle and more of a natural process that will transpire with the analysis of the script during practice.
Duo competition has a range of styles. There is Duo Interpretation that forces a level of creativity with eye contact and touch forbidden. There is Duet Acting where partners can directly interact--sometimes with a table and two chairs! As if there couldn't be any more variations there is Duo with binders. Some leagues, such as in Louisiana, follow the rules of Duo Interpretation...but with binders. It is best described as a cross between Duo and Prose/Poetry. If you find yourself in a league where binders are required, here are some helpful tips on how to best utilize your black book.
--The right binder. The type of binder used in Forensics is a roughly 10", black, 3-ring binder. There are no rules stating color, but as most Interpreters opt for black (black blends and hides well, therefore focusing attention away from the object in your hand) it is advised to follow the norm. Choose to be the odd color, such as navy blue, and all your audience will think is how your binder is so blue. Some judges even deduct points for appearance. Be a rebel with your piece selection's originality, not your binder color.
--Paper. You have a black Duo binder. Coordinate your appearance with some black paper to place inside. Obviously the typed out paragraphs of your piece will be on white paper, but glue those blocks of white onto black paper. Construction paper is resilient and strong. Black colored loose-leaf works too. It is suggested for all paper types to laminate your pages to prevent them from tearing. Plastic sleeves are also okay, though they tend to be slippery.
--Content. Do not cram too much text onto a page. Fit what is appropriate for a scene or moment and use a page turn to help show that you are moving to a new idea/scene/setting/etc. Many competitors find it easier to break up text into manageable paragraphs as well to avoid losing one's placement. Further, though your Duo binder has pockets DO NOT carry papers within them unless they are folded and hidden within the pocket. Visible paper looks sloppy and can be distracting if a it is a bright color or there are multiple papers flapping around.
--Cradle your Duo binder. Find a comfortable grip for your binder. Most Interpreters hold the binder in their left hand, spine held firmly in hand, the edge of the left flap nestled in the nook of your arm's bend (or roughly there). This provides a hearty hold with maximum mobility. You can move the Duo binder around without fear of it slipping! Keep in mind to hold the binder at a comfortable height that allows for "reading" without hiding your face--either from looking downward (too low) or from covering your face (too high). Duo binders should also form nice looking angles from the amount it is open. For example, a straight-line flatness is not only ugly but makes movement near impossible while displaying your pages and whatever is stored in the pockets. Also, do not keep your binder too closed or people will begin to wonder how you read the pages.
--Use your arm and Duo binder. Just because a binder is being held does not mean your arm is incapacitated. You can not get too crazy or you will look awkward, but you are fully entitled to hug your binder to your torso in suspense or open your arms wide for emphasis. You can grip the top of your binder with your primary gesture hand (if I hold the binder in my left I would grab the right flap's top with my right hand). Never abuse binder use. Never use your binder as a prop. But do not let your binder inhibit your mobility.
--Work with your partner. This is Duo! Any mirrored blocking must be done in sync. Practice to make sure any duel movements involving binders are synchronized. Binders are semi-large, solid objects and thus help the audience in determining if a movement was done together. Also, plan and practice page turns as one Duo unit. The more together binder blocking is the cleaner and more polished your Duo will be. Even the opening and closing of your binds (during the opening, introduction, and end) need to be rehearsed and done in unison.
Duo binders can be limiting if you choose to let them. Think of your binder as an extension of self and as a way to further prove how connected and polished you and your Duo partner are. Therefore, the binder can be an instrument of success if executed properly.
Duo Interpretation Transitions
No touching or eye-contact? Check. Characters with individual personalities and mannerisms? Check. Blocking for each scene? Check...wait. How does a Duo transition from scene to scene? A common question asked by Duo Interpretations. Due to Duo's nature of not being able to look at or touch your partner--and playing multiple characters--most Duos will find themselves transitioning in and out of scenes with fluidity. And they must. A Duo would become quite dull if all a pair did was interpret one scene for ten minutes (which, ironically, is the norm for Duet Acting because actors stick to one character and one scene). The rule forbidding direct interaction means performers mostly look at the audience, and staring out into the 4th wall, with little movement, delivering lines for a ten-minuet-one-scene-Duo will not do. Scene and character changes are necessary to keep momentum flowing. Transitions should be seamless, creative, and work with the material. Below are some common transition types. Mold these archetypes to your Duo Interpretation and your transitions will really pop!
--A noise. A clear way to transition is to create a noise between scenes. Some people use the same noise for every transition for consistency (effective but might become bland). Others only use a noise when appropriate for a transition (like if the next scene took place at a train station a valid transition noise could be that of a train). Duo transition noises work best when they directly relate to the text, instead of using some random sound.
--Song. Some Duos sing to signal transition. Again, any transitions done to song should work with the material being interpreted so it does not stand out as odd.
--Straight pops. Your Duo can use straight pops to go into the next scene. If you use this method be sure that your body undergoes a distinctive alteration. Change the angle of your stance, as you would in a Dramatic Interpretation or Humorous Interpretation, to signal that you are in a new location or time. Better yet, have a character change. This will allow for maximum differentiation.
--Turning around. Watch Duos and you will notice a popular transition--that of turning. It's easy to do and a very blatant way to show that you have transitioned into a new scene. It's nice too because you and your partner can stagger the reemergence of either of you into a scene (one person talks, the other stands with their back to the audience to give the impression of one person performing) simply by keeping your back turned. Further, while one partner is narrating the other not in play can create sound effects with their back turned, or they can perform quick reenactments/reactions with a quick spin towards the audience then "hide" again with another twist.
--Upstaging. Like turning around but instead of having two people standing side by side (or both clearly visible) one actor stands in front of the other. This blocking of the other from sight allows for the "hidden" interpreter to make noises or provide creative blocking help (such as if a narrator was talking about a monster the "hidden" interpreter could help the narrator sprout arms without being fully seen) from behind. This technique is useful in that both of you can interpret and then easily transition into a new scene just by fully "revealing" the actor behind the upstaging.
--Speed changes. Transitions can also be done with varying speeds to help show passage of time. Want to fast-forward? Create a speedy shift. If your Duo wants to elongate time try doing a transition in slow-motion.
Whichever transitions your Duo decides to utilize be sure to practice, be creative, and vary them. Though it might be easier to use the same style of transition for scene changes, rarely does a script warrant such abuse. Refer to your script and experiment with ways to transition within your Duo that work with the material.
How To Slap Someone (In Duo)
One of the most famous moves in Duo is the often-attempted (and unfortunately, sometimes fumbled) slap. In Duo, two competitors stand next to each other, face the audience, and perform a 10-minute piece without touching each other or looking at each other.
Which, as you might imagine, makes slapping each other very difficult.
Instead of physically making contact, competitors have to pretend they are interacting with each other face-to-face. This means that to shake hands, both competitors would need to extend their right hands in front of them and act as though they're shaking hands with someone. Likewise, for a slap, one competitor must extend his or her hand and swipe it swiftly across the space in front of him or her, while the other competitor must jerk his or her head to the side suddenly, as if receiving a blow to the face.
This can be an extremely difficult thing to accomplish because the timing has to be exactly right. And this is not something that is part of every piece (and should therefore not be incorporated into every performance just for the sake of being able to do some cool blocking) but it can be a powerful and simple blocking technique. When it's done correctly, it grabs the audience's attention and pulls them into the piece in a way that few other movements can.
Here are a few basics to consider when attempting a slap in Duo:
1) Make sure your hand remains stiff when you slap. A lot of people allow their hands to relax in the air after they pantomime the slap, but it looks feeble to the audience. Keep your hand stiff throughout the motion.
2) Consider the height of the opposing character's head -- practice the slap standing across from each other (you shouldn't actually hit your partner, of course! Just mime the slap in slow motion until you are used to the height).
3) If you are on the receiving end of the slap, don't forget which direction to turn your head. You'll both look like you haven't practiced if you turn it the wrong way. Again, practice standing across from each other, and you should get it right.
4) Time your response right. If you're a second late turning your head after your partner slaps, it's game over. Practice in front of a mirror over and over until you both know the cue. The best way to do this is to match it up with one word in one of your lines; that way you both know to wait for a particular word before moving.
5) The person slapping should raise his or her hand before actually giving the slap; the other competitor will be able to watch this out of the corner of his or her eye to know when to be ready.
6) Do NOT have one competitor make a slapping noise by clapping unless the piece is supposed to be funny. It's unrealistic and you'll likely screw up the timing.
7) If you've been slapped, you need to react as though you have actually been slapped. You should appear shocked, and you should leave your head facing the direction it was forced in for a moment before reaching one hand up to your face and moving your jaw around slowly, like it stings.
The most important element of the slap is the timing. If you're even a quarter of a second late, everyone in the room (including you) will cringe, and that's never good. Don't make the decision to adopt this move 15 minutes before a round! Instead, work at it with your partner and make sure it fits in with the rest of your blocking and the structure and themes of your piece.
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!
Duo Vocals and Using Your Partner
Part of interpretation is figuring out what to do with your voice. Duo, like every other event, must have good diction, projection, dynamics, effective use of tone/pitch, and enough variation to keep yourself interesting. Further, accents can also be employed to add another layer of interpretation. But these are common to every event--well, maybe not accents! Duo is unique in that there is a partnership sharing vocals. Thus, the question must be asked: what special tricks can a Duo do with vocals?
--Take advantage of your partner's abilities. Not everyone can whistle, nor sing in tune. But when two people are involved the odds increase of one of you being capable. If a script calls for singing, and your Duo partner has been in choir for five years, capitalize on their talents. Even if singing is not part of the stage direction, if it is appropriate why not utilize their gifts? This exploitation applies to accents, sound effects, and anything else you can do with your vocal chords to produce noise.
--Broken speech. An obvious observation of Duo is that two people can play multiple characters while exchanging dialogue (conversations). What might not be so obvious is that speech does not necessarily have to be one person saying one continuous line. Characters can cut in to finish. Maybe a narration can be divided between both of you? However choppy or smooth your Duo decides, the fact remains that dialogue can be passed between the two of you. Consider a narration from a disoriented individual. A Duo could have one partner narrate that part of the story while the other stand with their back towards the audience, OR both partners can deliver the narration; finishing sentences for the other while varying dynamics to create a whirlwind of language. It could be a vocal symbolism of the disorientation.
--Vocal effects. Adding sound effects, like an owl hooting as a wood is described, adds texture to a piece. Duos have the capability to have one narrate while the other act out and/or create sound effects for that narration. Not to be recommended for extensive use, but a hoot here or there can add flavor to the performance.
--Layering. Two is stronger than one. If, for some reason, the Duo could be enhanced through the use of layered voices, this event offers the opportunity to do so. Again, not to be abused, but if a character's interpretation could be bettered through a booming voice (or perhaps a section of narration would benefit from an enhancement) then all you and your Duo partner need to do is speak lines together. Speaking together is an instant effect to add power, and then when a voiced is dropped to a whisper a massive effect is created of near silence. If your Duo decides to layer be sure to practice the timing from entrance to exit of layering; you do not want a round to begin! Also, match tone/pitch/volume and even all consonant hits to sound as one voice. Closing your eyes while talking will help focus your ears to whether or not you and your partner match perfectly. Your Duo could even choose to not quite match to add a level of creepiness to a deserving piece. Layering works best for narration but can work for characterization if it has been determined BOTH of you are working as one to create the character. If that is so, then both should do the movements and blocking for that character for consistency; or at the least have the other partner not physically interpreting turn their back towards the audience to give the illusion of one performer.
These are a few suggestions on methods to fully use your Duo advantages in relation to vocal. Of course there are more tricks. Look towards your Duo script and imagine the endless vocalizations you and your partner could dabble.
Duo and Listening to Your Partner
In Duo you can be as solid as a diamond on your lines, know all your blocking, and have impeccable interpretation, but if you forget this one part of performance your Duo will be jeopardized. Too often Duo partners jabber their lines off without any regard to the other. The lines might appear to have conviction, but without actually having heard your partner the scene is fake. If you can look at your partner or not, being able to listen is a weapon your Duo can deploy to add an edge of perfection. How so? Well, listening allows for these things to happen:
--Better timing. Instead of waiting for your partner to finish speaking so you can say your line, listening will allow for you to improve timing and create a more natural conversation speed. The script calls for you to interrupt your partner? If you listen to them you can better place when you cut of their speech to avoid those awkward mini-pauses that happen on poorly executed interruptions. Further, by listening you can better assess how long to wait before speaking your line based off of your partner's previous dialogue.
--Awareness. You might know your lines, but there is always the possibility of a performance hiccup. The less you pay attention the more likely you are to lose your place in the script. Or, if your partner jumped a line you might not catch the blunder and miss an opportunity for correction. Listen to your Duo partner and decrease the odds of such awkward situations.
--Natural reactions. When you listen to a person you fully take in their words, message, and emotions. In Duo, listening to your partner will allow for you to fully engage with them as an actor. Process and interpret their character's emotions and words as they speak and there will be an increased chance of you responding more naturally because you are connecting with their emotions. You become involved with the piece and become engrossed in the scene.
--Connectivity and draw. Listening connects two people. As stated earlier, listening in Duo will lead to more natural, organic reactions to what is said. As you become engaged, you and your partner will connect in the scene. When that happens, it can be described as chemistry. Audiences will see the level of interest and comfort you two have in the others performance and be drawn to the reality of the scene. The Duo will seem less as a Forensics competition piece and more of a realistic interpretation of life.
Duo is not about waiting for you partner to finish speaking so you can get your lines out. Duo is a give and take between two individuals and the journey the characters take in discovery. It is a joint venture and not a demonstration of one actor vs another. Only through working together can a Duo succeed.
Though your eyes might not meet, your ears are always open.
How To Succeed in Duo Without Really Trying
To succeed in Duo there a few key things that you really need to dominate:
--Pick the right partner! Sometimes our best friend, does not make for the best partner. And a significant other is never a good idea! While my partner was perhaps not the MOST dedicated to practicing as much as is needed, he always came through in a pinch and committed 100%. We had a really good chemistry that gave our pieces a lot of life. Nothing is worse than watching duo teams that were created by the coach without regard for personalities or appearance. Finding a good duo partner is like finding a soul mate-- they need to complete you. They need to be able to diminish your weaknesses and allow your strengths to really shine and you need to be able to do the same for them. It's an important balancing act- yin and yang, if you will. I was always anxious and eager and competitive while my partner was much more relaxed and zen-like, which gave us a really good balance; I could sing, but my partner was a better dancer. He could make funny faces and I could do different voices. You need to have all different skills that work well together. You also need to have the same goals, which is generally breaking first, but moreover, to be really polished and master your piece.
--A really awesome, well-cut, not over-done piece. This is really the key to success in any speech category, but is especially useful for Duo since people do the same pieces over and over again and after awhile, all of the creative blocking and cutting has already been done. Stay away from anything by David Ives- they have ALL been done and are dead in the water. I would say the same thing for Neil Simon. And never ever do "Fences" or whatever that piece was about the white trash named Jessie with the gun to her head. David Mamet is a little too controversial- you can't cut out the "foul" language because then the pieces fall flat, so stay away altogether. Try to find up-and-coming playwrights or lesser known pieces. Best thing to do is dig around at a drama book store. If you don't have a good script, you've got nothing.
--Try to perform as more than one character each without making the piece muddy. If you and your duo partner both have the ability to do character pops (transitioning from one character to another), then do it! You'll have more flexibility with the pieces you can do and it'll be more interesting than if you both played the same 2 characters the whole time. Just be sure that everything is really clear and the story is intact.
--Creative blocking! The only rule in Duo is that you can't look directly at your partner or touch them, but that doesn't mean you stand side by side and stare straight ahead the whole time. Make use of the space you have! Find new and creative ways to interact without contact. You should still spend the majority of the time next to each other, but be sure that you take some risks. Also, you can look at each other during the intro, so this is a good way to show that you have chemistry with your partner and it allows you to sort of sync up before you begin your piece.
--Practice, Practice, Practice! In Duo, timing is EVERYTHING. Every pair has a different way of succeeding in this way. Some are really methodical, count out every move to the millisecond and never diverge from the plan. Others are more haphazard, relying on the rhythm of the piece and on how well they know their partner. Both of these methods can either work beautifully or backfire horribly, so its best to use a little bit of both. In order to achieve this, you have to practice non-stop. You need to know your piece inside and out-- the dialogue, the blocking, the pauses, everything! AND just because you go to a tournament and take first doesn't mean the practicing should stop. You can't get rusty or lose your connection. I always found that the best time to take out major opponents was at the first tournament after winter break because no one did anything during this period, but if you work at it while everyone else is away, you'll come back and blow everyone out of the water.
--Just have fun with it. While Forensics is a sport for geeks and is uber-competitive and full of pressure, if you don't enjoy what you're doing, why bother? If you're not having fun, it'll reflect in your performance.
None of these ideas are new or innovative, but they're some good basic rules to follow. Good luck!
Duo Interpretation Vs Duet Acting
There exists a state where Duo allows for contact; a place where Duo partners can openly interact. Imagine! A Duo performance where you can freely touch and look at your partner--and Duo binders are unknown as well! The magical place where this topsy-turvy Wonderland abides is in Duet Acting. Where it seems most of the country follows National Forensics League protocol of absolutely no direct interaction, Duet Acting has created a unique brand of Duo that is more like a scene partner activity for a theatre class. Some Duet events even allow for the use of a table and two chairs.
But is Duets' approach to Duo that radical or, dare say, wrong? Could Duet create a niche for Duo that might become incorporated into the NFL culture? To the later, most likely not. Duet has been active quite some time, for instance it has been a staple of the Illinois High School Association since 1940, and Duo with direct interaction has yet to catch on. In fact, many Forensicators are shocked by Duet's allowance of touch and eye contact, therefore proving the limited use of Duet across the country. So fear not Speechies across the Nation; your style of Duo shall be preserved.
Yet, as to the former query of this brand of competition being awry...that really is a matter of opinion and perspective. To be fair, both types of performance offer their own challenges that make for wonderful competition. No contact of any sort can foster more creative blocking. And not being able to place anything other than your feet on the ground further limits Duo, or enhances its creativity production based on your viewpoint. Picture trying to slap someone without actually touching/looking at them. Not only does the blocking need to be flawless, so does the timing. You need to trust your partner to know where and when you are to create seamless motions together.
However, though being allowed the indulgence of direct interaction might elicit more obvious solutions to simple blocking, there are challenges that arise. As you can react and act-upon your partner openly, the need to find intriguing, crafty blocking that is active and wows an audience becomes a factor--particularly for Humorous Duet Acting where high energy is a must (yes, some Duet using leagues also divide Drama and Comedy into two separate Duo categories: Humorous Duet Acting and Dramatic Duet Acting). As you will be touching and gazing at your partner there also becomes a need to bond. Anyone can tell when two actors have little chemistry or lack the actors' ability to feed off one another. Sure, no contact Duo partners utilize their partner's energy, but not in such an intimate manner.
Whether you approve of contact in Duo or not, Duet Acting is not leaving soon. There is little consequence to this oddity as Duet's rules will never be applied to the NFL unless some miraculous alteration occurred. It is merely curious and somewhat delightful to know that variation is alive in Forensics.
Every now and then a Duo can get stuck. You might not know how to better a transition that has always given the performance a weak link or be at a loss with blocking. Maybe Duo is a new event for you; an event you have seen little of as well! Perhaps you grow weary of Duo and need a boost of confidence to remind yourself why Duo is important to you? Never fear, inspiration is near!
The Internet is an amazing tool full of information and resources for anything imaginable. Why not harness the infinite knowledge lurking in the Internet to your advantage? A buffer away are countless videos of Forensics performances--even Duo! League pages and Youtube are full of video uploads of Duo and Duet performances just waiting for you to view them. Though, with videos come responsibility and advantages:
--Great for seeing what's out there and for Duo recharging. If you and your Duo partner are interested to see where Duo has been heading over the last few years, videos are a time capsule of past Duo performances. Watching a few uploads can inform you of what is currently "in" for performance and serves as a quick way to remind you of what to shoot for in your Duo--or how awesome yours is pending on your Duo's skill and the video watched (sorry, it's true and we all compare...YOU TOO!). It's free motivation.
--Teaching tool. If you are new to Duo a good way to become acquainted is to watch a few performances. Going to a tournament is best, but if unable to because of a last minute event placement the Internet is second best. Watch, take notes, and learn!
--Great for ideas, but... Watching videos are a good source of finding new ideas and for helping your blocking/transitions/etc. when you have no clue what to do. However, never flat-out steal material. It is one thing to take one blocking maneuver and use it, or even modify it, but to lift an entire sequence is plagiarism. Even piecing together a plethora of various parts from multiple Duos is poor form. Not only does that leave you as an unoriginal thief, it also could not possibly be the best interpretation for your piece. Every Duo is different, so respect yours for the snowflake it is and interpret your cutting.
--Work your Duo first. It's wonderful to get inspiration and ideas from others, but finish interpreting your piece first. Before your Duo even begins to search the Internet have a clear performance of yours already up and working. By having a vision for your Duo prior to watching another performance you ensure that your Duo is not muddied with another performance's interpretation and concept. Again, this will help keep your piece your own and not an impostor of another.
Videos can be an excellent source of inspiration and growth, or they can be a plague slowly killing your piece. Seek ideas for your Duo from all sources. Just be careful to retain your personal interpretation and vision.