Practice to "perfection"

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Fact: practice makes perfect possible. It would be truly ignorant, and silly besides, to say practice will make anything perfect. Nothing can be completely perfect. That is why we strive for perfection; to obtain the dream of the unobtainable. It is the ideal we seek. Everything and anything is simply us striving to reach this ideal. Why do you think playing hard to get works so well?

Regardless of what was stated above, all of us—this includes myself—will continue to attempt to be better and as near perfect as possible. If practice is the vessel towards this angelic grace, what sort of practicing works best? I would like to say anything is great, but that is not entirely true. It is possible to practice the wrong techniques and procedures. Terrible, I know. But knowing you can practice wrong should help you avoid THAT horrific blunder.

Everything listed below are tricks I would use to help me when I was doing Prose/HDA/acting. I refuse to give a 100% guarantee that these tactics will be successful for you. I do promise they will help you become more aware of what it means to practice, and opening your mind WILL help display the path to speech enlightenment for then you will know how to enrich yourself.

1. Get back to basics and look at the text of the piece! Every question you have regarding performance/interpretation can most likely be answered within the text. The language is key. Look not only at the cutting you use but the WHOLE WORK! If you have never read the whole work your cutting is from, do so. Little nuances, ticks, secrets, etc can be revealed in what is not in the cutting. Further, remember to look into the subtext and re-evaluate the current interpretation. As the performer of the piece, it is your task to own the piece; master it and know the hidden of the work so the audience feels the depth.

2. Utilize the judges’ comments. After every tourney you should be going home, reading the notes, and then determining what remarks speak to you and which are “useless” in terms of your goal for the performance. You might not like everything judges say, but they are an outside voice from either alum or a total forensics outsider (which has merits in that they can give you a clean opinion of the piece without any prior forensics knowledge convoluting their minds). Besides, if several judges give you the same comment it might be wise to try to improve upon their remark so you rank well.

3. Get friends and family involved. Sure, you always need some private practice time, but having others observe you is a great way to hear input from observers. What you think works often does not. Get some people together, have them take notes as you perform, and either collect the notes, have an open discussion, or do both to get some constructive criticism. You can also do this as a team event and have people rotate up to perform. Note, I do not list coaches because you should be meeting with a coach at least once a week—-that should be a given.

4. Video record yourself. This can be one of the most challenging tactics to practice ever devised, but you will see/hear everything as the audience does. Every awkward movement, every stumble of the tongue, every odd tick you never knew about—-it is all there for your enjoyment! Get a pad of paper, a pen, and take notes as you watch. I would watch the recording a few times and with each viewing focus on specific issues. For instance, the first view can be for general notes. The second could focus on vocals. Perhaps the third on movement? Maybe the fourth on odd behavior. And so on. Also, remember to stop groaning over how odd your voice sounds, and think like a judge!

5. If you do not have a video recorder a mirror works as well; full length preferable. You will not truly be able to take notes of your performance, but you can at least see what your audience sees. Jot some notes down on paper to remind you of issues to work on and use the mirror to try to correct visual mishaps.

6. A tape recorder is also a beneficial tool. I personally hated looking at myself perform. My philosophy is that when I am performing and mentally/emotionally “there” whatever expression comes to my face is honest and natural for the moment; I do not try to screw my face up for specific bits. I do however stress on my voice. When I did speech I always had my tape recorder at the ready so I could analyze how my vocal work affected the delivery and message of the piece. Tape recorders also allow for you to try new vocal tactics and compare them from a listener’s perspective.

7. Variation can also be a useful tool for practice. Doing a speed run for instance can test your knowledge of the work and how well you think under pressure. If you are involved in a duo, improvisation of a scenario as your character can help you truly embody them. Try a run with an accent. It does not matter. The trick is that by doing practices with an odd quirk or under a given scenario you are testing how well you own your piece and character(s). If you can add in something irrelevant and still succeed you own your material. Also, adding variation keeps practice fun and offers the possibility of new insights when the piece might be getting stale.

8. Practice only matters if you are actually working properly. This statement is threefold:
A. You find what really needs to be improved, focus on that, and work out the kink. Spending valuable time on little, pointless improvements while larger issues prevail is a waste of time and will hardly help your rank.

B. Practice needs to have some consistency. For instance, once you have memorized and interpreted your piece, if you expect to break after only 30 minutes of practice a week you are in for a shock. Unless you are ridiculously good or lucky you will not. Memorizing never stops. Interpreting NEVER stops. PRACTICE NEVER STOPS.

C. Once you get to a comfortable place where large problems have been resolved, remember to not get comfortable. There are always nit-picky details that can be bettered, and the later in the season you get the more these details matter. By then most people will have good pieces. It is in the details you are judged.

Chasing the ideal can be stressful but never forget what you want: to be perfect for that glorious instantaneous moment. That moment of clarity and serenity that often eludes performers can only be had through practice. Without the work, you will spend all season struggling and frustrated, trying to grasp why your rank never improves. Stop moaning and get practicing!

Even if you dislike watching yourself perform (who doesn't?), you should attempt to film yourself and evaluate yourself. People are their own harshest critics. If you see ten things that need to change immediately, that's probably several more than what an outsider is going to see.

Remember though, we are overly critical of ourselves, so most likely we are better than what we give ourselves credit for :^)

I enjoyed days when my whole team would watch performances going to tourneys that weekend and write a few notes on a note card to read over. Some of the things were "useless," but having that many new eyes on the piece usually produced a handful of constructive improvements.

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