Interpretation Script Considerations

What is possibly the most important component to any Humorous or Dramatic Interpretation (HI/DI)? The script. The basis for all decisions in a performance resort back to the cutting and source material. Why does this character think and act thus? The answer is in the text. Why do the characters have to go to this destination? The answer is back in the pervious scene. Virtually every decision can be traced to an inference, analysis, or interpretation made from the script. Though the script alone does not make the performance award worthy, choosing the proper piece does help. When researching a piece, there are a few things to remember.

Is the Material Loved?

After an initial read through the very first question to ask is how one feels about the material? Is it loved? If the performer has only a lukewarm feeling over the text then move on and read something else. A performance will ultimately feel flat and false if the performer does not invest themselves fully into the material. Comedy and Drama need love and attention to work. Half-heartedly acting out a joke or dramatic scene between characters will lack energy and the necessary timing if the performer does not care. Further, what performer wants to work with a piece for months when from the beginning they merely like it? The analysis and interpretation will certainly not be completely done, which in turn will further impair the performance with the shortage of comprehension.

How is the Material?

Does the material have a clear story arch? Are the characters interesting? Does the humor come mostly from character persona or from the dialogue itself (this matters as a character actor will best be suited for character driven humor). Is it funny? Is the humor appropriate for Speech? Is the drama too shocking or is it compelling? Is this dramatic piece one-note and boring? Is the conflict revealed and resolved in a satisfying manner? Is this piece worth doing? Is it even good? All of these questions have to be answered before moving ahead.

Does it Fit While Offering Range?

Duo scripts ask a partnership to look for work that not only brings out the talents of both, but also lets one person’s strengths cover the other’s weaknesses. Humorous/Dramatic Interpretation is not offered this benefit. There is only one performer that must fulfill the needs and requirements of all characters. Thus, when looking for a script find something where it is not a stretch to be cast in all roles. (Clarification on what is meant by “stretch:” there is humor to be had when a person has to reach--like switching genders or an extreme age alteration. Although, it must be noted that for DI there is less opportunity for extreme bending as dramas tend to be based more so in reality and thus require gravity within a performance. Simply put, a DI or HI performer must be able to fully visualize that character and portray them believably in order for that unlikely casting to work in the context of a piece. If the role feels excessively fake then the performance of that character will just be bad. And not awesomely so.)

Also, seek out pieces that allows for one to use a large spectrum of their skills. If a person can sing, dance, vocally impersonate, mime, etc. then find a piece that has characters that support these skills. These actions do not have to be explicitly written into the script. If the text supports an interpretation where a character does a funny jig, and the performer can do a jig, then this piece might be perfect.

Further, in HI search for a piece that is not wall-to-wall zaniness. Pieces that have heart and offer moments of real drama, followed with a gag, are typically the best pieces to perform for HI. They allow not only for an increased chance of audience connection through real moments, but they also offer a performer an opportunity to flex their acting abilities. The more range one can reasonably showcase in a piece, the better. For Dramatic Interpretation, look for pieces that offer solid dramatic builds done well. This means avoid a piece of monotone levels (everything is depressing) or one which relies too much on being melodramatic as that can become unbelievable and comical. For all pieces, search for truth.

Can it Be Cut?

This is basic enough. If the piece cannot be cut to fit time while retaining the essence of why it is an exceptional piece, shelve the material. Unless a person has the time to attempt making a challenging cut work, wasting a week or two on an “impossible” cut will only decrease analysis, interpretation, and practice time.

Does This Take Risks?

Boring pieces are uninteresting and not worth anyone’s attention. In the context of this paragraph boring is equal to safe. A performer who has previously done a piece similar to the level and theme of this “new” text is limiting themselves. Attempt a challenge! Try out new characters. Experiment with new techniques. Push oneself to improve. Sticking with the familiar not only stalls self-improvement as an actor, but also can result in a performance that feels rehashed and not completely engrossing. If it has been done before there is less motive for the actor to invest themselves into the material. They feel because they have already investigated these themes and similar characters that they know how to act the part. How bland!

In addition, a piece that is new to a performer can still be safe for the audience. There are some stories that have been redone and repeated so often that the audience can most likely predict the outcome. There is ultimately no conflict because the audience feels as if they have been through this story before. Therefore, look for a piece that also challenges the audience and gives them the unexpected. Even taking a risk by throwing in a risqué, though appropriate, joke can be all that is needed to capture the audience’s attention. Or selecting a drama with an unusual, less-done conflict/theme can also challenge.

Is it Shocking or Unable to Relate With?

DO NOT CHOOSE A PIECE RIDDLED WITH SHOCK HUMOR/DRAMA. There is nothing hilarious about performing material that is “funny” only because it surprises the audience. It is okay to have one or two edgy jokes placed within a well-rounded piece. That is a risk. But potty humor is not competitive material. Further, it is dull and unoriginal to choose DI’s based solely on the material being so disgusting, unnerving, or depressing that it is a “guaranteed tear-jerker.” Using a formulaic, familiar sob-story to gain audience sympathy is boring. A competitor might win a round, but they will soon lose to more original pieces that truly stick with an audience.

Finally, ask if the piece is universal? Can most audience members find something to connect with in the piece? A great Humorous Interpretation will be capable of mixing humor with sincerity so that the audience can sympathize with the characters or possibly even see themselves within the characters. Likewise, a great Dramatic Interpretation will offer a dramatic story an audience can connect with, while delivering some humor to draw them in and keep the energy levels high.

Finding a piece that works with and for a competitor is the ultimate goal in finding the perfect piece. Find something that caters towards one’s own abilities, and odds are that that piece will provide for a tremendous season. And by using the above guidelines as a means to whittle to the best piece, a performer is most certain to find what they seek.