Dramatic Interpretation and the Dramatic Build

Reflect back to your most recent argument.  Play the fight over in your head from start to end.  How did it commence?  Did one of you just burst into the room, swords drawn, ready for battle?  Odds are, no.  Most disputes begin with a tiny disagreement, find a catalyst, and blossom into healthy debate.  Was this one of your better memories?  No.  But was there a clear, dramatic build that any play would be jealous?  Sure.  Whenever you are performing, regardless of genre, it is important to create builds.  A Dramatic Interpretation without builds soon becomes an over-the-top, one-note, false representation of life.  When crafting a build there are a few steps to take:

  1. A solid build comes from solid structure. A building would never be expected to stand with faulty ironwork.  Nor will a Dramatic Interpretation hold with a weak infrastructure.  A good writer will create a natural build for you and little tweaking will need to be done.  Most cuttings merely leave non-vital information on the floor and a build exists.  However, sometimes crafty cutting is necessary.  Be sure to begin with a BANG!, give the audience key plot points through rising action (that also grows the suspense through conflict), and end with a climax.  Keep in mind that while the WHOLE script follows a build so do beats (segments of a script that essentially can be performed alone--they have their own ideas/motives and thus divide your piece into manageable bits to practice). Mainly though you will be looking for overall structure and the beats will follow. 
  2. Make use of character pops. Much can be said on how pops create tension.  Sure, you can go from one character to the next and deliver a good DI.  But you can utilize your pops to add suspense.  Dramatic Interpretation is unique in that it allows for an argument to be shown but one character at a time.  The audience does not get to see an immediate reaction to dialogue so wondering how the other scene "partner" responds is full of anticipation.  Changing the tempo of dialogue, thus increasing the speed of popping from one persona to the next, adds momentum.  Gradually increase speed and you create a quickness to your piece, ready to explode.  Want to really mess with an audience?  Build the speed only to pop to a character who is so angry all they can do is fume.  This sudden stop will be jarring and leave your audience desperate to hear what that person needs to say. 
  3. Work the tempo. Mentioned above, the increase or decrease of dialogue speed helps make a build.  When we are calm we talk at a moderate pace, but when things get heated we tend to spit out our words.  Unless we are so mad we have a difficult time controlling our voice and we consciously speak slower to cool ourselves.  Either way, play around with tempo and create gradual increases in speed between characters to build to a climax.  Also, silence can be a great way to add tension and rattle your audience.
  4. Use your voice. No, you are not looking for a Dramatic Interpretation that screams being over-dramatic.  Even in an intense moment screaming is hardly ever the solution.  What you want to do is make use of your volume and pitch to add build.  Take how your characters normally speak and as temperatures increase so should their volume.  Gradually though.  Sporadic yelling is awkward and plain bad.  Further, use silence or hushed voices when your audience thinks yelling might occur (if used sparingly) and push your Dramatic Interpretation into grandeur.  
  5. Stress your tone. As we become more annoyed with someone how we speak is altered.  Our tone becomes harsh and sharp.  We try to dominate with our words.  Have your characters reflect this.
  6. Guidelines, not rules. There is no one way to manufacture a build.  Sure, the process listed above is generally how it happens, but the keyword is "generally." Every script is different.  You will have to read, analyze, and interpret what your author has given you.  If you start loud, drop to stressed yet almost normal speech, and then build are you wrong?  Absolutely not.  Play around and LOOK TO YOUR SCRIPT!  

The main idea to take from this is that jumping from level to level is bad form.  Yes, in extreme instances a level can be skipped, but that takes skill and a script that supports that choice.  You want a realistic Dramatic Interpretation that comes across as natural?  Mind your script and create a believable build that is within the text.