Prose: Sticking Out

If you were to sit through three rounds of Prose Reading there are a few consistencies you might observe.  One might be the somewhat hilarious attempt to appear to be reading when everyone in the room knows the piece is memorized.  Alright, that is not really "hilarious;" in fact when done well it becomes apart of the performance and is hardly noticed.  The other might the type of selections chosen for the event.  Prose often becomes dominated by very intense, very dramatic, choking sort of stories.  It is not unknown that there is an idea that drama is harder than comedy.  This writer is not hear to debate this philosophy (though, personal opinion concludes both are challenging for their own, individual reasons).  Just let it be stated that most Prose readers select a straight-up drama as a piece in hopes of displaying their skills and emotionally moving the judge/audience to love their performance.

HOWEVER, your humble writer firmly endorses the use of a comedy-drama hybrid; a dramedy if you will.  Here is why:

  1. THIS will show your range.  Dramas and Comedies both have a listing of particular skills required to shine within that respective genre.  Comedy involves timing and a willingness to fully embrace playing a fool.  Drama takes the ability to push yourself to mental extremes of sorrow while not letting yourself become a melodrama.  Both however can be summed up as an actor's dedication to playing an action.  That's all it ever is--you playing out an action to achieve a want.  Also, both genres use their lead in a way to teach the audience a message--comedy through laughter, drama through catharsis.  Anyway, if both genres serve generally the same purpose (this is a generalization because there ARE distinct differences) then why not use the two genres together to show your range?  If an actor can make you cry and laugh within a few minutes that is impressive.  So try it. 
  2. More engrossing.  8-10 minutes of straight comedy and drama is tiring.  Period.  Full-out comedy can be hilarious, but could leave the audience wanting a purpose.  All drama is mentally exhausting.  Finding a balance between the two is an excellent way to keep your audience engaged with your Prose selection.  Not only are you offering some jokes to keep the mood light and draw in your crowd, you also give them the sustenance they want and deserve.
  3. Stand out.  As stated earlier, many Prose readers choose pieces based on whether or not it can get the audience to cry.  If so many people are trying to find tear-jerker dramas then why join them?  Being a sheep will not get you noticed.  It must be noted that truly exceptional dramatists can select a moving, difficult drama and succeed.  But that is because they are masters.  For most of us, this writer included, selecting a piece that is unique for it's story and use of comedy and drama can give you the edge to be remembered among the forest of sappy pieces and drama professionals.
  4. Use your skills.  Some people are prone to excel in either comedy or drama.  To exclude yourself from using your deadpan delivery for the sake of drama conformity is ludicrous.  Know what areas of performing you are good at.  Test and challenge yourself in new ways.  EXPAND YOUR ABILITIES!  This is the only way to improve as a performer while capitalizing on what you can do.

Hopefully this list of reasons has convinced you of the benefits of being different.  Not only do you help your Prose but you help yourself.  And genre mixing does not have to stop with the blending of comedy and drama.  Horror and mystery stories have been used in Prose Reading as well.  These can work if the story is strong enough and possess enough dramatic elements.  Theoretically, ANY genre can work as long as it makes for a fantastic 8-10 cutting.  Experiment.  Note, the mix doesn't necessarily need to be 50-50, just with some variation!  There had to have been a reason why Prose requires two pieces to be used during tournaments.  One for consistent break-pieces, the other for chances like this where daring to be "weird" may pay off.