Dramatic Interpretation

Purpose of Dramatic Interpretation

Dramatic Performance, often known as Dramatic Interpretation (DI), is an individual event where the student memorizes and then delivers a selection of drama. The student cuts the work selected for use in Dramatic Interpretation from a single source and a choice of published novels, short stories, plays, poems, or screenplays. Contestants should choose from an excerpt of literature that is suitable to the contestant’s personality and maturity. The student performs the piece to convey the meaning of the dramatic literature orally through characterization and narration.

Students do well at DI by working to perfect the flow, function, and drama of the interpretation. Character changes within the performance are used to enhance the performance, and students use useful body language and voice manipulation to convey the characters. Success improves as students better understand all of the characters, their relationship with others, and what they want from the other characters.

Structure and Rules for DI

Selections must be dramatic. Coaches and students must have the source available to the tournament director upon request. Judges accept photocopies for the presentation. Failure to present a copy of the original literature upon request will result in the disqualification of a said contestant in one round.

The competitor must memorize the presentation and may not use props or costumes.

The participant may not use a cutting from the same source that he/she used in an event before the current school year or during the current school year in another type of performance. The student must use the same selection throughout a particular tournament but may not use the piece for another event at the same tournament.

An introduction is required in which the performer states the author’s name and the work’s title. The speaker gives any other necessary information and uses a few words to set the tone for the interpretation. Usually, the performer provides an introduction after a minute or so of the piece has been delivered, at a natural break-point.

For continuity of the cutting from a large piece of literature, it may be necessary to add transitions to the work. However, at no time may the selection change the intended gender of any character or change the original intent of the author’s work. The time limit is ten (10) minutes with a thirty (30) second grace period.

Tips for Success in Dramatic Performance:

  • All pops, or character transitions, are to be smooth, quick, and fluid
  • Interpretation is most of what you will be ranked by, so know the plot, the characters, the theme, and everything about the piece
  • All gestures, stances, facials, vocals/intonations need to support that character (and needs to be unique to that particular character), help tell the story, and be clear
  • Diction is important
  • No moving—you must stand in one place but are allowed to change stance for different characters
  • Eye contact is a must

What is Dramatic Interpretation? More Links:

Excelling in Dramatic Interpretation: An Advanced Guide
Dramatic Interpretation: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know

Video on the Elements of a Dramatic Interpretation