Declamation: To Be Yourself, Or An Imitation, There Is No Question!

Whether a Declamation is paying homage to a classic speech or rediscovering a relatively “hidden” work, there is one common threat that can affect either brand of piece.  That hazard is how you decide to interpret your material.  With viewable speeches seconds away on the Internet, or perhaps a drive for those archived at a Library, finding a video performance of a popular or classic speech is not hard to fathom.  Here is the issue: with every viewing of a speaker you are researching, your performance becomes compromised.  The problem becomes this, when you present your Declamation are you being YOU or an imitation?

Without question there is merit to watching another speaker’s interpretation of the piece you have selected.  Any sections of the speech that left you troubled on how exactly to present them become clear.  Any pronunciation issues you may have had will be answered (be warned, some speakers you watch may also mispronounce—generally, not).  Further, interesting and clever presentation skills, gestures/facials and pacing for instance, can be learned after a few viewings.  Taking notes on the video you are watching is a great way to jot down anything that struck you as fascinating or perplexing you wish to remember.  Following this advice is also a great way to lead you to the temptation, either knowingly or subliminally, of imitation.

You have seen this performer—the one where they literally think they are Martin Luther King Jr., or Stephen Colbert, and emulate every facial tick.  Declamations of this sort are unoriginal, fake, and ultimately flat because a dramatic imitation is hardly ever as good as the original.  Besides, once you begin to imitate a speech, all anyone will have flashing in their brains are clips of the remembered speaker you are trying to become.  The event of Declamation is an interpretative one anyway, so this clone nonsense will only work against you.

So what is one to do if they wish to research the video and avoid simulation?  Simple.  If you are fortunate to locate a video of your speech being performed watch it and take notes; as stated previously.  Take what you have learned from the video and adapt it to the interpretation work you have done with the source material.  It is recommended to INTERPRET PRIOR TO VIDEO VIEWING to avoid adapting your interpretation to the video.  Focus on YOU at the beginning of the Declamation process and add “The Other” speaker until you have made the piece your own.  Be sure to keep vigilant for “The Other” creeping into your performance as you become more lax during the season.

So what are you going to be?  An original or a cheap imitation?