Comedy v. Tragedy – Open to Interpretation

"Woe!  Woe to me!  I have to do my funny piece after a tragedy!?"

I hear it all the time.... Students doing dramatic material bemoan the fact that funny wins.  Students doing funny material hate walking into a room where judges are wiping away tears.  If Dramatic Interpretation and Humorous Interpretation are separated into different rooms, the conflict doesn't occur, but I maintain that there is room for every place on the emotional spectrum in Open Interpretation...

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Drama, Drama, Drama!

I believe the strength of your speech can be linked to the strength of your script (what you have created for competition). However a Dramatic Interpretation is far more involved and has much more depth to be based on script alone. For a great Dramatic Interpretation or a dramatic Open, Duo, or even Original Interpretation to be created, there must be rich content from which to grow. When looking for a script, piece of literature, or play there are several considerations to think about:

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Interpretive Speech – Bringing Literature to Life – How? (Part 2)

Last time we discussed Interpretive Speech, as well as WHY it's important. Today we will discuss HOW to bring interpretive speeches to life!

So HOW do you get there?

The art of interpretation doesn't just magically happen. There are a few key things you must have to be able to put your piece together.

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Interpretative Speech- Bringing Literature to Life – What/Why? (Part 1)

How would you define ‘interpretation?’  Would you say, “Putting your own spin on something” or maybe “Giving your own perspective?”  That would be correct.  Perhaps you would go further and suggest that an ‘interpretation’ seeks to explain the meaning of something, and that would also be correct.  Google Dictionary gives synonyms like: elucidation, exposition, and clarification.  Our competitive speech leagues usually define ‘interpretation’ along the lines of “bringing literature to life” for the purposes of their event structure, and that encompasses all of those approaches above!

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The Power of an Introduction in Your Speech

I used to look down or thought an introduction at the beginning of a Speech really didn't matter. Shame on me! For those of you unsure what an Intro/Introduction is- it is the part of your Interpretive Piece where you introduce or set up the Speech. Perhaps you think it is unimportant or just a bunch of redundant information. My analysis has changed... I now think it is very important. I actually think those that do an intro, and do it well, have an advantage. So let's analyze the power of an introduction of a Speech...

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Stereotypes v. Stock Characters in Interpretive Speech

Advanced interpretation is not equal to advanced interpers delivering their material in a speech and/or forensics competition.  Advanced interpretation is instead marked by subtlety and skill more than by experience.  Admittedly, experienced speakers tend to have more skill, but very often they apply that skill in such a way as to emphasize their own largess rather than to expose believable and relatable characters in believable and relatable conflicts.  One hallmark of those doing truly advanced work is their ability to differentiate between stereotypes and stock characters.

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The Interpretive Triple Pass

Perhaps you’ve seen the new Beauty and Beast film this year.  I’m not going to lie; my daughter and I were GRIEVED that Dan Stevens had to be written out of Downton Abbey in order to take on the role of the Beast for this film, but he was perfect!  In numerous interviews, he talks about how he had to fuse several technologies in order to get the full role of the Beast layered into the film, and it struck me that this triple-pass to building a character follows the way I often coach kids in building their interpretive characters.

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Character Development

How well do you really know someone?  What’s their story? What’s their background? We are midway through the season… And I want to see competitors fully engaged to their characters in their Interpretive Speeches (this includes Biblical Presentation). At this point competitors should have a sense of who their characters really are. I can tell when one is performing a memorized speech and when one is truly visualizing and understanding each and every character. I want every competitor to bring it to the next level. This is the difference between performing and acting.

Kristi and I have developed a resource to bring your Interp to the next level! Our Character Analysis and Worksheets help competitors really process who their characters are. Warning- research and actual thought process may have to be done.

Let me give you some examples- If you are playing the part of a child with cancer- you may want to visit a hospital with cancer patients. Are you connected and understand what they are going through? If you want a character to have a German accent, you may need to go on YouTube to learn how. If you are trying to develop your character of Wilber, in Charolette’s Web, you may need to dig deep to understand loneliness and what a friend would really mean to you. This may sound over the top, but really understanding and developing your characters is pivotal for a well-rounded piece. For my students, this is what I want them to achieve, I want them to understand what they are trying to represent. This is part of the lesson of being in Speech- understanding people or characters in a whole new way.

Our worksheets bring you through the process of developing YOUR characters. The reason I stress your is because, I should not see the same Interpretation twice. Your development of characters should be unique. If you don’t know who your character is or who they are trying to represent- you need to go through the process of figuring it out. The worksheets will help you with…

Emotional Development

Character Analysis


Physical Development

and more!

Here’s what people have said about our worksheets…

“WOW – The Character Analysis and Worksheets is a super helpful document! I was familiar with the concept of character development, but this fleshed it out so thoroughly! It really does separate those performers who have done the work and those who haven’t. It takes the character from two dimensions to three!” -Parent

These worksheets helped me develop my characters, so I could really visualize who I wanted them to be.” -Student

“I wish I had these when I started Speech years ago!” -Student

My hope is that at the end of the season, students will have more than just “a Speech”. That they will have accomplished more than just memorizing a piece of literature, a play, script, or section of the bible. My hope is for students to have a deeper understanding of characters and people. That this experience in Speech will impact them, as well their audience, for the rest of their lives.


Creating Unforgettable Characters


If you are competing in any Interpretive Speech, creating believable characters is fundamental. Characterization is the vessel for demonstrating your interpretive skills. Our Character Worksheet can help you analyze each individual character. As you create your characters, there are a few specific aspects you should develop. Remember, although there may be a whole book written on your character, you have a time limit. Also, your creativity in the development of characters is ultimately up to you! Have fun! Get to know these people… You're going to spending a lot of time with them! Remember the goal is to make your characters memorable so your judges can tell them apart, as well remember them. Here are some things to consider...

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