Crying in DI: A Do or Don’t?

When I competed in Dramatic Interpretation in high school, I cried every time I performed. People would come up to me after rounds and ask how I made myself cry, and if that was allowed. In my district, crying was regarded by some judges as a prop and as an over-dramatic interpretation technique, but for me, it wasn’t intentional; I just found myself crying at the intense parts of the piece.

It was something that was almost impossible to avoid. During my junior and senior year, I worked very hard to discipline myself and find ways not to cry during D.I. rounds – looking up at the ceiling, trying not to blink, distancing myself from whatever was happening in the piece – but it was very difficult, and I still ended up tearful in the majority of my rounds.

This was especially inconvenient in pieces with multiple characters, because when I did my pops, I would be crying as one character, but another character was supposed to stay completely straight-faced. It didn’t make sense – which is why during my first two years on the team, I mainly performed monologues In D.I. to avoid confusing my judges.

Discipline is important in any theatre performance – after all, crying could be compared to any other habit, such as absentmindedly cracking your knuckles or twirling a strand of hair on one finger.

In many events, it can be helpful to take your personal mannerisms out of the character and focus on making his or her personality completely different from your own. This expands your abilities and forces you to learn new ways to express yourself.

But in some cases, eyes welling up with tears can bring a sense of reality to your performance that stops your audience in its tracks. When appropriate, this can be a moving tool that shows your audience you are genuinely invested in your character.

What’s the general consensus on crying in your district? Do people cry regularly in D.I., or is it prohibited?