How to Succeed in Duo Without Really Trying

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To succeed in Duo there a few key things that you really need to dominate:

  • Pick the right partner! Sometimes our best friend, does not make for the best partner. And a significant other is never a good idea! While my partner was perhaps not the MOST dedicated to practicing as much as is needed, he always came through in a pinch and committed 100%. We had a really good chemistry that gave our pieces a lot of life. Nothing is worse than watching duo teams that were created by the coach without regard for personalities or appearance. Finding a good duo partner is like finding a soul mate-- they need to complete you. They need to be able to diminish your weaknesses and allow your strengths to really shine and you need to be able to do the same for them. It's an important balancing act- yin and yang, if you will. I was always anxious and eager and competitive while my partner was much more relaxed and zen-like, which gave us a really good balance; I could sing, but my partner was a better dancer. He could make funny faces and I could do different voices. You need to have all different skills that work well together. You also need to have the same goals, which is generally breaking first, but moreover, to be really polished and master your piece.
  • A really awesome, well-cut, not over-done piece. This is really the key to success in any speech category, but is especially useful for Duo since people do the same pieces over and over again and after awhile, all of the creative blocking and cutting has already been done. Stay away from anything by David Ives- they have ALL been done and are dead in the water. I would say the same thing for Neil Simon. And never ever do "Fences" or whatever that piece was about the white trash named Jessie with the gun to her head. David Mamet is a little too controversial- you can't cut out the "foul" language because then the pieces fall flat, so stay away altogether. Try to find up-and-coming playwrights or lesser known pieces. Best thing to do is dig around at a drama book store. If you don't have a good script, you've got nothing.
  • Try to perform as more than one character each without making the piece muddy. If you and your duo partner both have the ability to do character pops (transitioning from one character to another), then do it! You'll have more flexibility with the pieces you can do and it'll be more interesting than if you both played the same 2 characters the whole time. Just be sure that everything is really clear and the story is intact.
  • Creative blocking! The only rule in Duo is that you can't look directly at your partner or touch them, but that doesn't mean you stand side by side and stare straight ahead the whole time. Make use of the space you have! Find new and creative ways to interact without contact. You should still spend the majority of the time next to each other, but be sure that you take some risks. Also, you can look at each other during the intro, so this is a good way to show that you have chemistry with your partner and it allows you to sort of sync up before you begin your piece.
  • Practice, Practice, Practice! In Duo, timing is EVERYTHING. Every pair has a different way of succeeding in this way. Some are really methodical, count out every move to the millisecond and never diverge from the plan. Others are more haphazard, relying on the rhythm of the piece and on how well they know their partner. Both of these methods can either work beautifully or backfire horribly, so its best to use a little bit of both. In order to achieve this, you have to practice non-stop. You need to know your piece inside and out-- the dialogue, the blocking, the pauses, everything! AND just because you go to a tournament and take first doesn't mean the practicing should stop. You can't get rusty or lose your connection. I always found that the best time to take out major opponents was at the first tournament after winter break because no one did anything during this period, but if you work at it while everyone else is away, you'll come back and blow everyone out of the water.
  • Just have fun with it. While Forensics is a sport for geeks and is uber-competitive and full of pressure, if you don't enjoy what you're doing, why bother? If you're not having fun, it'll reflect in your performance.

None of these ideas are new or innovative, but they're some good basic rules to follow. Good luck!


These are great basic rules to follow! Finding a complementary partner is probably some of the best advice any speechie should embrace.

My league never had duo, but a lot of these basics apply to duet acting as well. Although, reading this makes me wish IL offered both!

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