Dramatic Interpretation Subjects You can Live With

Going to a Dramatic Interpretation round shouldn’t make people squeamish. But at this point, many competitors and judges have said they've become sick and tired of watching performances that make everyone in the room cringe and wonder why the person would choose such a morbid script.  

It’s been discussed on ForensicsCommunity several times – why do so many students end up performing pieces about abuse and murder? These pieces are usually overdone, and they often make others in the room uncomfortable. There are hundreds of scripts in the world that deal with other issues. So, for those of you who are seeking pieces about subjects your audience will appreciate and be able to identify with, here are a few suggestions of topics and themes to watch out for when looking for new scripts:

Disease or disorders: In DI, many pieces focus on a character or characters with cancer or Alzheimer’s – Wit by Margaret Edson, Therac 25 by Adam Pettle, Tradition 1A by Howard Rice and The Apple Doesn’t Fall by Trish Vradenburg are pieces that come to mind. These scripts are powerful because audiences can connect with the characters on a personal level -- most people have family members and friends who've been affected by disease and its challenges. They also touch on other themes -- the significance of family, finding meaning, and finding ways to overcome struggle.

Historical Figures: One thing I’ve seen a few speech competitors pick up on is that most prominent historical figures have either written about themselves or have had books written about them. Biographies and memoirs can be an excellent resource for DI enthusiasts who want to find a fresh piece no one else has ever done. Read a biography of someone who overcame immense challenges -- Helen Keller’s autobiography is incredible – and choose some of the most moving passages. You may need to do some additional research on the characters you’re portraying, but it’ll guarantee you a fresh, memorable piece. 

War Stories: This one isn’t as easy as it sounds; it’s not going back to one of the simplest conflicts that exists in theatre. In most pieces I’ve seen dealing with this subject, it’s about placing yourself in the shoes of a character who is facing the effects of war firsthand. This is also a very personal subject for some people, which will allow you to connect with your audience. A few notes: Make sure to get your salutes and other physical signals right. Do some research on the time period your piece is set in to ensure you’re on the right track with your blocking. There are some beautiful pieces about World War II out there, as told by nurses, drill sergeants and soldiers in the line of fire.

Love Stories/Lost Love: Look at stories like The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks, The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger and The Dead by James Joyce. They’re powerful, moving and sad (three elements of a terrific dramatic piece), but not especially disturbing. Try to find a dramatic piece that incorporates romance, unrequited love, or two lovers being separated because of some mysterious circumstance. 

Also, keep in mind that several of these subjects can be combined -- Therac 25 is about two cancer patients who fall in love; The Notebook is a love story and a war story. Find something that speaks to you and use it well. Don’t forget that basics such as a solid cutting, smooth character pops and strong character development should be essential in your interpretation of the script. Choosing a piece that explores subjects outside the typical realm of DI will allow you to stand out and enjoy your performance.