Duo competition has a range of styles. There is Duo Interpretation that forces a level of creativity with eye contact and touch forbidden. There is Duet Acting where partners can directly interact--sometimes with a table and two chairs! As if there couldn't be any more variations there is Duo with binders. Some leagues, such as in Louisiana, follow the rules of Duo Interpretation...but with binders. It is best described as a cross between Duo and Prose/Poetry. If you find yourself in a league where binders are required, here are some helpful tips on how to best utilize your black book.
- The right binder. The type of binder used in Forensics is a roughly 10", black, 3-ring binder. There are no rules stating color, but as most Interpreters opt for black (black blends and hides well, therefore focusing attention away from the object in your hand) it is advised to follow the norm. Choose to be the odd color, such as navy blue, and all your audience will think is how your binder is so blue. Some judges even deduct points for appearance. Be a rebel with your piece selection's originality, not your binder color.
- Paper. You have a black Duo binder. Coordinate your appearance with some black paper to place inside. Obviously the typed out paragraphs of your piece will be on white paper, but glue those blocks of white onto black paper. Construction paper is resilient and strong. Black colored loose-leaf works too. It is suggested for all paper types to laminate your pages to prevent them from tearing. Plastic sleeves are also okay, though they tend to be slippery.
- Content. Do not cram too much text onto a page. Fit what is appropriate for a scene or moment and use a page turn to help show that you are moving to a new idea/scene/setting/etc. Many competitors find it easier to break up text into manageable paragraphs as well to avoid losing one's placement. Further, though your Duo binder has pockets DO NOT carry papers within them unless they are folded and hidden within the pocket. Visible paper looks sloppy and can be distracting if a it is a bright color or there are multiple papers flapping around.
- Cradle your Duo binder. Find a comfortable grip for your binder. Most Interpreters hold the binder in their left hand, spine held firmly in hand, the edge of the left flap nestled in the nook of your arm's bend (or roughly there). This provides a hearty hold with maximum mobility. You can move the Duo binder around without fear of it slipping! Keep in mind to hold the binder at a comfortable height that allows for "reading" without hiding your face--either from looking downward (too low) or from covering your face (too high). Duo binders should also form nice looking angles from the amount it is open. For example, a straight-line flatness is not only ugly but makes movement near impossible while displaying your pages and whatever is stored in the pockets. Also, do not keep your binder too closed or people will begin to wonder how you read the pages.
- Use your arm and Duo binder. Just because a binder is being held does not mean your arm is incapacitated. You can not get too crazy or you will look awkward, but you are fully entitled to hug your binder to your torso in suspense or open your arms wide for emphasis. You can grip the top of your binder with your primary gesture hand (if I hold the binder in my left I would grab the right flap's top with my right hand). Never abuse binder use. Never use your binder as a prop. But do not let your binder inhibit your mobility.
- Work with your partner. This is Duo! Any mirrored blocking must be done in sync. Practice to make sure any duel movements involving binders are synchronized. Binders are semi-large, solid objects and thus help the audience in determining if a movement was done together. Also, plan and practice page turns as one Duo unit. The more together binder blocking is the cleaner and more polished your Duo will be. Even the opening and closing of your binds (during the opening, introduction, and end) need to be rehearsed and done in unison.
Duo binders can be limiting if you choose to let them. Think of your binder as an extension of self and as a way to further prove how connected and polished you and your Duo partner are. Therefore, the binder can be an instrument of success if executed properly.
For more binder info, see this article on page turns and these videos (How to Hold a Duo Binder AND You're Little, Black Book Parts I and II in the video selection box) for everything else you could ever question knowing.