Avoiding Shock Pieces

Drama can be defined as a genre of fiction that is of a serious tone and involves conflict. Nowhere is it described as being a fictitious tale of death and destruction. Yet, many Dramatic Interpretations (DI) automatically turn towards the more shocking subjects with severe problems when in actuality there is little to be gained. Though there is temptation, the reality is selecting a horrific tale is not a safe choice to garner a win. There are several reasons why this is so, as well as several alternatives to an overly dramatic piece.

First, one of the tasks a performer most achieve is connecting with the audience. For an audience to connect there needs to be a relatable circumstance and main character the audience can identify with. In other words, a person must see a part of themselves within the piece--or at least be able to place themselves within that world. Choosing an overtly dramatic piece can limit the percentage of the audience capable of connecting to the performer. Chances of the audience having lived through this extreme circumstance, knowing someone who has, or even having mused over the conflict will be low. Obviously, a wonderful aspect to drama is introducing the audience to a new reality they may have never contemplated. Yet, the situation has to be familiar enough so that the audience can travel with the performer into this new realm. But if the place the story goes is too obscure, disgusting, or dark the audience might not take that journey. Consider how universal a potential DI piece is before selection.

Second, a performer must be aware the more harsh and cringing the plot, the more apt for the audience to draw away and alienate themselves. People are naturally sympathetic towards others, but feeling pain for another is draining. And after three other emotionally taxing Dramatic Interpretations, it seems logical that as the round progresses the audience will be less likely to react fully towards every consecutive DI. Simply put, there is only so much sympathy an audience can exude. As a defense to all the tragedy, a person might begin to become numb towards the terror. This phenomenon might also occur because the audience has been trained to accept the shocking, so now extremities are considered almost expected within a round.

Third, performing a piece that is graphic in nature can also alienate an audience for being an uncomfortable subject. Usually a round of Dramatic Interpretation is full of relative strangers. Visual recognition may be present, but rarely are the room’s fellow competitors friends. Performing a gratuitously nauseating piece in a classroom on a Saturday morning with strangers is plain awkward. These people cannot hide in the ambiguity of darkness. Nor did they elect to witness a performance of smut. Essentially, putting an audience through torture so one can perform an intense, shocking moment is not the way to victory.

So, if a Dramatic Interpretation piece should avoid being too severe, what are some compelling topics that can work? Well:

Love (lost, unrequited, break-up, ect.)
War Stories
Historical Context Pieces (pieces about history)
Disorders and Diseases
Relationships (family or friend related)
Stories Involving Pets
Economic Hardships
Personal Struggles and Hardship
Career Problems
Marital/Relationship Problems
Finding Oneself
Losing Track of Reality
A Heist

And so on.

A Dramatic Interpretation does not need to be a disturbing experience. Drama can be derived from most situations in life…and not solely the most extreme of situations. Drama can be found in a story of a son trying to earn the respect of his father. Or a botched kidnapping. As long as there is conflict, there is drama.