How to cut: 10 steps to a perfect piece

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There are only so many 10-minute monologues out there. When you’re breezing through the tiny pamphlets in your team’s portfolio or the shelves at your local Barnes and Noble, don’t give up if you can’t find the perfect piece. After all, you’re inches away from a valuable resource: plays.

A well-cut play (or even a book, depending on your district’s rules) can be your ticket to semifinals, finals, qualifying tournaments, a theatre scholarship, you name it. As a judge, I’ve seen some pretty amazing cuttings of dramatic skits, Broadway musicals and even Shakespeare plays. A great cutting shows not only your insight as a performer, but also your ability to take on more challenging material without fear.

Brevity is important in speech because you have a time limit, and you want to make the most of every moment. Here are 10 tips for successfully cutting a piece.

1) Choose a script. Read some plays or watch a few films to scope out what’s available. Search online for screenplays you can order. Make a list of your strongest points as a performer and try to find a manuscript that incorporates as many of them as possible. Check out LisSchemensky’s “How to Choose A Piece” video ( for more great tips on finding a winner.

2) Research the rules. If you’re not sure about the rules concerning plays and cuttings as governed by your district, consult your coach. Don’t waste hours of your life cutting “Chicago” only to find out that the NFL just banned all pieces that mention jazz or liquor. (Relax, it didn't.)

3) Read the script. The whole thing. Yes, even if it’s a 250-page-long play, you should at least skim through all of the pages to make sure you’re not missing out on a great line or a tragic element in the character’s story.

4) Ignore previous cuttings. If you already have a great piece that just needs tweaking, stick to it – but if you’re starting from scratch or working on a major revision, you should construct your own cutting without referencing other adaptations of the script. You’ll end up with an original end product that better suits your requirements as an actor.

5) Make it your own. This is your chance to make the piece perfect for you! If you can’t sing, cut out the singing parts. (Please.) If you can’t do that Scottish accent (and you don’t feel like portraying the character as a mumbler or a robot), delete some of his lines – or omit his part altogether if the piece makes sense without him.

6) Consider structure. Every good speech piece has an intriguing beginning, a story that builds slowly and reveals new things about its characters, a climax, and a swift conclusion.

7) Eliminate unnecessary/repeated lines. If a character repeats herself over and over in a paragraph, just get rid of the repetition. You want to make a point, but you don’t want to bore your audience to tears with redundancy.

8) Don’t fudge. While it’s tempting to rewrite the ending to a story by pulling phrases out of the script and restructuring them into your own “better” version, it’s not exactly the best way to communicate the author’s intent. If your piece seems incomplete, consider using actions to illustrate moments that aren’t included in the script.

9) Edit. Ask other people (your teammates, your coach, an English teacher, your mom, whomever) to read your new cutting and offer constructive criticism. As a performer, you should always expect and respect feedback, and you should never waste time by going into a competition with a cutting that’s not ready.

10) Have fun. Cutting a piece is a rewarding experience for any actor. Enjoy it!

cutting is important for two reasons. First, as you said, it gives you the chance to be unique and to express your ability as a performer. Secondly, cutting allows for diversity which is imperative to stand out in any of the interp events. There are way too many repeats and that can easily be mitigated by creative cutting of longer pieces.

Steps 4 and 5: best advice EVER! Everything else is kinda standard, but those steps are what makes it YOUR piece.

I personally think number 5 is funny and true but number 9 most of all is important. There have been times where I read through one of my novices's scriots and they make no sense to me, but it did to them, and once we went through it together we found that it made more sense in their hand and we had to clarify the story more. Which is why Duo teams should cut as a team, its easier to get a more clear cut that way.

Great advice zeque, cutting as a team is a great way to start out a season together as well and ensure you and your partner are on the same page from the beginning. (PS: Welcome to ForCom! :)

thank you :)

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