Dramatic Interpretation: A Perfect Script?

The strength of any performance can be linked to the strength of the script.  This is not to say an okay script will result in an okay, or even bad, DI.  Nor will a spectacular script yield a phenomenal piece.  Dramatic Interpretation is far more involved and complicated to be based on such generalities.  However, for a great Dramatic Interpretation to be created, there must be good source material from which to grow.  When looking for a script there are several considerations to mull over:

  1. Is the source material legal? There are rules on where you can get your script from.  The range may be broad, but you do not want to find yourself "scriptless."  Dramatic Interpretations, as stated by the National Forensics League, must be of "cuttings from published-printed novels, short stories, plays, poetry, or any other printed-published materials."  Essentially you have an almost limitless venue of where to find materials--just be sure the work has been PUBLISHED and PRINTED.
  2. Do you love it? A Dramatic Interpretation is a relationship between you and your script.  And much like a relationship you would have with a friend or girlfriend/boyfriend, there are good relationships and bad ones.  Why invest your time in a piece that you are lukewarm over?  Would you date or befriend a person that you simply saw as mildly interesting?  NO, NEVER!  It's a waste of time for all parties involved.  A Dramatic Interpretation without heart is what will ruin even a polished piece and leave the audience feeling your performance was lacking.
  3. Can you picture yourself as the characters? You have found a script that is enticing and you are thinking of making a cutting.  Ask yourself first: can I picture myself as any of these characters?  Remember, you are not only casting yourself in one role but multiple.  If most of the characters are not in your acting range then sorry, this piece is not in your future.  You can love and be intrigued by something yet not be compatible.  And that's okay.  Just know when to walk away.
  4. Do the characters have range? As you are playing multiple people it is advised to select a piece with well-developed characters.  There are several reasons behind this.  First, well-done characters make your job as an interpreter easier.  Do you really want to have to chisel away at a wooden persona, trying to find what makes them distinct from everyone else?  Second, having characters with varying personalities showcases your acting skills.  Playing characters that are the same would be self-imposed typecasting.  An example of how limited you become is as follows: Christopher Walken is well-known for playing that random, lovable, odd character that shows up half-way through a movie to add a laugh (or for his role in The Deer Hunter pending on your knowledge of 70s cinema).  Having a cast of basically all the same people is like having a cast of nothing BUT Christopher Walken.  Characters would not pop nor show any skill you may possess in playing different character types.  Finally, a similar cast is dull; it's like having to eat the same meal over and over.  People like variety.
  5. Is it good storytelling? Reflect back on any story you love.  Why is it so dear?  Surly the plot is compelling.  Realistically though all stories can be stripped away to several basic tales.  The Boy Meets Girl story?  The Buddy Adventure story? The Lost Love story?  Of course there are variations and twists, but nothing is 100% new.  What really makes these tales unique is how they are told.  Good stories have developed expositions (introductions), rising action with juicy conflict, a mind-blowing climax, gripping falling action, and a d√©nouement (conclusion/resolution) that leaves you thinking.  Dramatic Interpretation is a condensed version of a story so it is possible to take an alright plot and cut it to perfection; if you are crafty.  But your job will be less complicated with a solid story to begin with; cutting is challenging when there is little of the source material worth keeping.  Besides, most works that are mediocre stories in full will just be mediocre DIs. 
  6. Can it be cut? Some longer works are not meant to be cut.  They might be too long to shorten without losing potency or they might not offer a selection that can stand alone.  Another problem is finding a script that works with Dramatic Interpretation's nature.  Are multiple characters possible?  Give a piece some thought and ask yourself if making a cutting is realistic.  If "no" is a reoccurring word, my apologies. 
  7. Is it dramatic enough? This does not mean is the story focused on murder, drugs, rape, AIDS, etc.  Drama stems from conflict, plain and simple.  A strained Father-Son relationship qualifies as drama--it can be excellent drama.  No, what this refers to is that moment.  That Dramatic Interpretation moment, usually the climax, where you get to unleash your inner dramatist.  Things "get real" and it is your chance to pretend you are performing in an Academy Award winning role.  Never over-do this moment, but be sure your piece offers you an opportunity to show your dramatic, peacock plumage.
  8. Is it universal? Be sure to find a piece almost anyone can relate or connect with.  This DI is just not for you but for your audience as well.  If they cannot form a bond with your piece, it does not matter how fantastic you are, you will not do as well as you can.  However, do not sacrifice quality or a work you love merely to appease the crowd.  Just remind yourself that the story only you adore will most likely not place.  General rule, if your team and coach enjoy it you should be golden.

Although numerous, asking yourself these questions while on the hunt for a piece can help you find one that not only you treasure but one that can work in DI as well.  Discovering a Dramatic Interpretation piece that meshes with you, while being of fine quality, will make your prospective work more enjoyable and easier.  Good luck and happy hunting!