Pops!

Humorous and Dramatic Interpretation (DI and HI) are much like a one-person show. An individual takes on multiple roles, convincingly portrays these characters, and tells a coherent and engrossing story. Playing a character, as demanding at it can be, is only part of the challenge. A performer must pop between numerous characters fluidly and without pulling the audience out of the story. The following tips will help a performer polish their pops so rank is not lost to a technique that takes seconds.

Know the Piece and Characters Cold (script, lines, voice, physicality)

Without memorization nothing else is possible. A person just cannot properly work pops with a script in hand. Doubting oneself, losing the full use of a hand, thinking and not knowing what happens next are all reasons why trying to practice pops without being off book fails. Being memorized benefits for the precise inverse reasons as why being on book is detrimental. Pops take seconds; constantly having to think of what line and character comes next slows pops substantially.

Also, many performers find it helpful to pop when they fully understand the characters and lines they speak. Being unwavering on how a character speaks and their standard physicality (stance, posture, gestures, foot/leg placement, etc.) helps with improving pops. Again, knowing something in-and-out is completely different than having to think about what needs to occur. The more natural a character and their speech feels to a performer, the quicker the pops.

Keep it Tight

Another factor that influences the speed of pops is the size differences between characters. In Dramatic Interpretation this is usually less of an issue as stories and characters are more realistic--physicality closely resembles “normal” people. Humorous Interpretation however makes use of huge characters. Much is done to distort the body to embody giant caricatures. For example, a tiny character will result in a performer being hunched over, arms close to the body, and legs somewhat together to be as small as capable. While a bulky, big person usually is portrayed as having a wide stance, arms perhaps curved to resemble a belly, and the body as puffed as possible to absorb space. Anyway, for newcomers to DI/HI using such extremes in physicality will result in slower pops. For any performer, novice or varsity, start a season with pops kept tight (physical differences less extreme), and gradually increase/decrease space as one becomes quicker and pops faster.

Label Characters

To practice pops some performers find it useful to label characters with an assigned number or letter (or names can be kept; whatever is preferred). Such as the Police Chief being either “A” or “1.” The rational behind this labeling process is that if a performer becomes blank while in rehearsal the person on book can call out a letter/number, maybe even cue with a line, and the performer can get back into the piece with more ease. Another way to use this technique for rehearsal would be to have someone call out numbers/letters/names at random and have the performer pop between characters quickly. This is a tool to see how well a competitor actually knows their characters AND to test their ability of popping without flaws.

Work in Sections

A simple way to practice troublesome pops/parts is to break the piece up into sections. Looking at a smaller bit of the whole is less stressful than trying to correct an entire performance at once. If pops between certain characters are causing particular difficulties (like a rapid-fire scene between two people), find a section that is of greater comfort and maybe slower paced to practice popping between those characters. One could even use that section of comfort and perform it in double-time to mimic the swiftness of the hard area; then switch to working on the tough section when more confidence is gained.

Slower, Slow, Fast, Faster

Unless naturally gifted, a veteran, or highly caffeinated most people will be slow when beginning to learn pops. One method to improve quickly is to slow the speed of pops, fully mentally/physically map where one needs to move, and then gradually increase momentum as one masters a various speed. This tactic of advancement is made better in that by gradually increasing speed a performer gains confidence along the way and most likely can increase to be faster than if starting out at an unachievable pace to start.

Energy

However brooding or gradual a Dramatic Interpretation picks up pace, nor how tired a performer feels, once a DI or HI loses energy than everything is lost. A piece can posses a slow place and still burst with energy and not feel sluggish. When a competitor is unable to bring energy to a piece then not only will the performance itself drag, but so will pops. Keep the energy high by feeling the scene and connecting with the characters and the audience.

Practice

There is little to add to the cliché “practice makes perfect” except that it is incredibly true. If a performer is serious about improving pops, then the only way to do any of the above techniques is through devoting the time to practice.

Humorous VS Dramatic Interpretation

Aside from characters’ physical size differences, there is one other noticeable distinction between pops in DI and HI. Dramatic Interpretation pops are often meant to be almost unnoticed, a smooth and swift transition from one character to another as the story continues. (Unless there is a dynamic being utilized of loudness and softness in the vocalization of characters. Then popping to silence or shouting can be effective.) As such, most DI competitors cut pieces to avoid lengthy back-and-forth dialogue unless it pertains to a build. Humorous Interpretation however frequently uses pops as a source of comedy. Popping between drastically diverse physical forms, to silence, a weird position, rapidly fast exchanges, all and more use pops for humor.

Heels

It is advised to not wear stilettos for popping. Actually, any heel in general can be not only dangerous (sliding on tile; being caught in carpet), but distracting with the “click” noise. Unless a competitor feels compelled to wear heels, flats are safer and softer to the ears. Although, if deciding upon heels chose some with enough support and wide enough heel to offer balance.

Perfecting pops is a tiny way a competitor can add detail to a performance. Displaying that much dedication to offering polished pops is a sign of being a perfectionist and indebted to a performance. And delivering fast, clean pops is not impossible. Adhering to the above advice is sure to help any level of competitor with crafting as wonderful a performance as can be given.