Multiple Characters and Their Interactions

Humorous and Dramatic Interpretation (HI and DI) might have a full cast of characters, but it is up to the one performer to accomplish the feat of getting the audience to suspend disbelief and accept one as many. Frankly, transitions will always be apparent, but the interactions between characters must be seen as plausible and filled with charisma. The audience cannot view one character’s lines as independent from the words before. To accomplish this goal there are a few approaches a performer can undertake which goes beyond the obvious of knowing the characters as individuals.

Character Relationships

To create authentic moments of character interaction there needs to be an understanding of how the characters relate to one another. In a play, actors are afforded the luxury of being able to work with another actor (usually). They can react and respond to what the other actors emote in a way faithful to their character. In DI and HI however the actor is not given this perk. The performer must build relationships between people though only the one actor exists. When a piece possesses multiple characters this task can get unruly. Therefore, to simplify the process--and organize their thoughts--a person could make use of a Character Relationship Chart. An example of one would be (apologies for the text-based chart):


To fill in the relationships, treat this an any other basic graph (such as an Allele chart or the multiplication table). Fill in a description of how A (the column of names) feels about B (the row of names) and what motivation would accompany that. An oversimplified, ONLY emotion based example of this could look like:

Edgar_|_happy__ |_disappointed _|_in love__
Gene_ |_remorse_|_disappointed_|_shame__

Thus, Edgar is happy with himself, he is disappointed in Gene, and he is in love with Ellen. Gene is filled with remorse from something he did to Edgar, is disappointed in himself, and is shameful when he thinks of Ellen. Ellen is unsure of Edgar, pities Gene, and feels lost. A Character Relationship Chart might be time consuming, yet by doing the work a performer will help transform their HI/DI into something honest and driven through the character interactions.

Motivation and Tactics

As mentioned in the above section, every character relationship is pushed by a motivation. Using the example above, Gene’s remorse towards something ill he had done towards Edgar might cause Gene’s overarching motivation throughout the piece to be “seek forgiveness.” This goal will influence most encounters between Edgar and Gene. It is also important to note that for each break in a piece (a break being a stand-alone section that could either be its own build, its own scene--basically something that is not disturbed by a character’s entrance or introduction of a new idea) there most likely will be a slightly different motivation for that precise moment which helps to achieve the goal of the overarching motivation.

Once the breaks and motivations are discovered begins the thinking of a tactic to accomplish this motive. A tactic should be a strong verb. As acting is made of an actor playing an action, the use of a distinct verb easily understood is crucial. For instance, using Gene “seeking forgiveness,” there might be a scene where Gene needs to “gain Edgar’s confidence” so he “employ[s] flattery” as a sign of showing Edgar as superior. There could be a stronger verb/action to play still which might work better, but this is the general idea.


Once the relationships, motivations, and tactics have been developed the performer must use them within the performance. Essentially, while working on characterization and thinking of line delivery a performer should incorporate their interaction work. It is that simple to add this as a layer to individual character interpretation. In fact, by being relationship and motivationally conscious a performer has both strengthened the reactions happening after pops and between characters, but they have also added more depth to individuals. Characters are no longer separate entities but honestly belong to a world with other characters.

Further, when practicing pops think of how these interactions might influence a pop. For example, simple changes in timing can add complexity to a piece that basic back and forth popping cannot offer. (Timing, such as having a pause prior to line delivery with a facial conveying a reaction to a pervious line, or showing a character mentally prepping to speak with another character with which conflict exists, or maybe “interruptions” or as close as possible with one performer, and so on.) Planning these moments of eerily Duo interactions will add sophistication and polish to any DI/HI.

Finally, work towards a build. Comedy and Dramas both thrive from interactions that go someplace. Use the lines, motivation, and tactic(s) to craft a build that works with the piece. And do not be afraid to have characters at different levels; treat HI and DI as a Duo in this regard. For instance, if one character is losing their composure and gradually raising their voice, it is okay to have the reaction of the other be a restrained yet tense and anger filled reply (as if they were holding back). This form of interaction may become challenging if the scene is complicated and long, but the effort is worth it for the payoff of a beautiful and meticulous interpretation.

Working towards believable character interactions when there is only one performer is an admirable goal for a Humorous or Dramatic Interpretation piece. Regardless of genre, the technique towards creating and developing character interactions remains unchanged. It all resorts back to basic interpretation, only now incorporating a relationship instead of focusing strictly on an individual.