Duo Script Cutting

Telling a story is an involved art.  There are numerous considerations to be made and the job can become discouraging quickly.  Yet, cutting a Duo script can be a painless task if you are aware of certain "must-haves" before you jump into the process.  Think of these as guidelines to creating a coherent, well-paced script.

  • Find the story. This applies less to those who find a short, ten minute Duo to perform, but for those who are taking from a larger work, this will be critical.  To create cohesion you will want to find the one story you are going to tell.  Plays, novels, short stories, etc. might have multiple themes within a work.  Usually one theme is more dominate than others, but nonetheless, you need to determine what story to perform.  Are you focusing on the main character's plot?  Or do you want to present a clip from the supporting characters' subplot?  What is the main message you wish to convey?  Find the one thing and build your cutting around that.
  • Character/piece development. Whether your Duo be ten minutes total or a cutting from a larger story, your characters and piece must undergo some development.  Audiences do not like to sit through a Duo and witness no progression.  The alteration does not have to be huge, but some sort of transformation should occur.  Most often, development consists of characters coming to a realization about a conflict and reaching a decision that changes who they are slightly/massively.  As you cut away, be sure to maintain character and plot progression.  DO NOT cut anything that is cathartic for a character!
  • Basic plot outline. Exposition (introduction of characters, setting, etc.) --> CONFLICT and Rising Action (the issue is discovered and problems arise due to the conflict) --> Climax (the height of conflict and highest tension; everything is unleashed!) --> Falling Action (things begin to settle down and a solution is sought) --> D√©nouement (the resolution/conclusion; things come to an end happily or not).  Never forget this and do not cut anything that diminishes the format.  Cut too much of a Duo's climax and your characters are left in a flat plot.  Obviously, some stories are told non-traditionally.  Flashback use is a good example of this; non-linear storytelling applies too.  Through the chaos is order that holds the plot in place.  (500) Days of Summer is a recent film example of how telling a story out of order can still have structure.  Trust the author and strive to uphold the integrity of plot their envisioned.          
  • Time. Find out the time restraints in your league and create a cutting that meets time.  Fail to do this and all is for naught.
  • Eliminate non-essentials.  If your Duo is pressed for time the first items to cut are the unnecessary lines and prattle.  Try not to cut too much of this dialogue because it adds flavor to a piece.  However, as your Duo speed improves with time these lines can be added back into the piece.  Think of it as this: a method to keep your piece fresh and exciting as the weeks press on!
  • Watch your partner's dialogue. As you cut you want to be certain of two things in relation to character.  First, that one character's dialogue is not being cut in preference of another.  This is Duo and both of you are to work together.  Deliberately cutting one's lines only leaves the other with more to say and leads to an unbalanced piece.  Second, when snipping lines be careful to retain sense.  Duo is a tennis match of words.  Cut one's speech and the next line might not make sense any longer because chances are it was a direct response to the previous line.  Editing and shortening long paragraphs of speech for a character usually is a safe way to trim.  Also, cutting out full segments of dialogue not too important to the overall plot can also be an easy way to cut while making sense.
  • Cut out a character. If you are a performing a Duo and find a scene you love but think you can't perform because a minor character appears momentarily, think twice.  Cutting the minor character out is up to your discretion.  This can be done by completely chopping that character's dialogue exchange, OR you can edit out what you do not like and keep lines you do by attributing them to another.  Be careful to not cut anything needed and when redirecting lines check that the new cut flows well, is easy to follow, and sounds like something you or your Duo partner's character would say.

Cutting takes time even when you are seasoned.  It is a process to say the least.  However, with these little hints and guides helping you, your Duo cutting should be an event of creation and excitement...and joy because when knowing what to do there is less second-guessing and doubting!