Duo, like any relationship, is a joint effort. There will never come a period when one partner's performance is more pivotal than the other. Not to say that judges or coaches will not label one of your pair more effective. Honesty is cold, but a necessity, and the actuality is that sometimes one of you obviously will have more experience, be better cast, or have a flashier, dominating role (which can be a curse or source of rejoicing pending on how well you can do power roles) . Does that divide the Duo into the "stronger" and "weaker?" Unquestionably no! One can be doing a perfectly fine job but not hear the accolades due to their partner's shinning star. But keep at the forefront of your mind that without a unified Duo pair any partner's shinning star would be obscured by clouds and lost.
It is spirit crushing though to hear how "inadequate" you or your partner are on a regular basis. Constructive this criticism might be, it does become a burden of Atlas proportions when you either feel as if it is your fault that the Duo is not a hit or that your partner is getting poor reviews unjustly. There is one solution to seeing a reduction of these comments. Overall Duo improvement. An infinitesimal detail that will take time. Thankfully, there are solutions readily available to alleviate the burn of divided Duo reviews, while improving:
- Reminding yourselves this is a partnership. Once one of you forgets that a Duo is composed of two people who share equal responsibility in the partnership, then your Duo becomes a one-man-show with a sidekick. Most Duos follow a rule of duality; blatantly obvious in Comedies. Duality is a fancy word for the concept of without one you can't have the other. Life needs Death. Light needs Dark. The Straight character needs the Eccentric one. A fantastic Duo will have a balanced dichotomy that work as one. Therefore, without you playing the "sane" neighbor, for example, your partner's totally mad, Kramer-esque neighbor would be ridiculous--you need the balance to create some semblance of reality. If you forget this rule of duality, and let one power showboat, then The Force will suffer a disturbance.
- Tell yourself you do not suck and believe it. This is more for the bruised ego of the Duo partnership; tell yourself you are good. Your partner will tell you this nonstop, and most likely you will nod and agree to their face while thinking they are grossly wrong. Stop it. You have got talent. Once you accept that some people will not like your interpretation, you can move on and try for your personal best. The more comfortable and trusting you are of yourself, the more likely it will be for you to forget your insecurities and not only perform better but also begin the polishing process. Acting is subjective anyway. For instance, with every collection of people who adore Diane Keaton, there will be a handful that proclaim her to be a horrendous actress. Doubt that keeps her from believing in herself. Trust your judgment, deliver your best, and continue to want to best yourself.
- Be supportive and strong. If you are the one receiving the majority of negative comments while your partner garners only praise, the main focus you should have is to congratulate your partner and not become a living tragedy. Do not evoke a pity party upon yourself. So you have earned some poor reviews? Take what advice you can and strive to improve. Remaining stagnant will further nothing. If you have been deemed the strength of the performance do not gloat. Do not belittle your partner or place blame. Neither of you should ignore the elephant either. Acknowledge the comments and work together to enhance the Duo.
- Experiment within reason. Try new ways to do a bit from the piece. A Duo should always be evolving anyway, so this is not a breakthrough in practice logic. A concern with alterations is changing things so much the purpose and vision is lost. Keep what works, improve upon sections that are close, and scrap what is awful. Further, all those character related negative comments--hear them but do not adhere as though they were law. Different judges have their own preference for acting and ergo a person can be given, say, five various ways to play a segment of dialogue. Take what you will (what works for the character you envision), and leave the rest for nothing more than dried ink of no consequence. If you were to listen to all suggestions it is easy to become overwhelmed and not know what you are doing anymore.
- Remind yourself why you do Forensics. Whenever you have an onslaught of harsh comments it always is a good idea to take some time to remind yourself why exactly you get on a bus at 6 AM to compete in a nerve-racking competition that steals you from the sunshine every Saturday. It's the rush of performance, the command of language and ideas, the laughter with friends, the control yet flow of self in a round, the anticipation of break postings, and--of course--checking out people in snazzy suits. A bad Duo comment might be bitter for the ego, but one comment does not eradicate the complete and utter joy being involved in Duo/Forensics brings.
Speaking from experience on both sides of the Duo partner spectrum, whichever spot you have been forced into is tough. To be the "weak" and attribute all failure to yourself, or to be the "strong" and lead an injured partner back into confidence when you never lost faith in them is always going to be hard. Hopefully this advice saves a Duo from prolonged stress and heartache.