Duo Interpretation (Duo)/Duet Acting (Duet)
Event Description (Duo):
Two competitors team up to deliver a ten-minute performance of a published play or story. Using on-stage focus, Duo Interpretation competitors convey emotion and environment through a variety of performance techniques focusing on the relationships and interactions between the characters. No props or costumes are used. Performances may also include an introduction written by the students to contextualize the performance and state the title and author. Performers MAY NOT use two chairs, MAY NOT make eye contact, and MAY NOT touch each other.
Event Description (Duet):
Two competitors team up to deliver a twelve-minute performance of a published play or story. Using on-stage focus, Duet Acting competitors convey emotion and environment through a variety of performance techniques focusing on the relationships and interactions between the characters. No costumes are used. Performances may also include an introduction written by the students to contextualize the performance and state the title and author. Performers MAY use two chairs, MAY make eye contact, and MAY touch each other.
Considerations for Selecting Duo/Duet Literature:
When looking at literature, a Duo/duet entry must consider how the literature would work for both members of the team. Duo/duet Interpretation strives for a balanced performance with both partners being integral to the development of the piece’s characters, relationships, plot, and more. Duo/duet Interpretation allows for students to do humorous, dramatic, or pieces that combine both into the performance. Considerations for selecting a topic for a Duo/duet Interpretation should include age, maturity, and school standards.
Traits of Successful Duo/Duet Performers:
When considering what event you should choose, or which direction to point a student when selecting an event, below are some general traits of successful Duo students to keep in mind:
- Combination of comedic and dramatics kills
- Enthusiasm for choreography
- Strong listening skills
- Willingness to co-create
Duo/Duet. The event everyone wants to do with a best friend. In truth, while the appeal of duo/duet might be performing with a friend, this approach may not be best. Duo/duet is about balance. Partners need to complement one another stylistically, have a similar skill set and work ethic. Chemistry is an important element of duo/duet, but chemistry outside of a practice/performance setting does not always translate to chemistry when practicing or performing at a tournament. Be sure to share your goals with your coach as they help you through the process of getting started in duo/duet. Duo/duet is an event that can be dramatic, comedic, or a combination of the two. With a ten minute/twelve minute time cap, and a requirement of an on-stage focus, Duo/duet is one of the most unique forms of performance. The main objective is to maintain a sense of balance between performers that focuses on the relationship(s) between the characters they create.
There are two ways to go about finding a script: You can either let the choice of partner influence the material you want to perform, or let the selection determine the ideal partner. Go to your local library, visit the bookstore, check out children’s stories, or search for plays with two or more characters. Look for a simple story told in a simple way. Complex plots are hard to follow, especially if there are more than two characters in the selection. Remember: you have ten/twelve minutes to tell a story. Don’t pick anything too abstract or complicated. Keep in mind that each partner should be assigned to a specific character(s), and that you should not switch between characters throughout the performance. Know the strengths and weaknesses of the team. If the piece requires a lot of physical tech, or vocal variance, and a partner struggles with this, it might not be the best idea to choose that selection. Finally, it’s always a good idea to watch the latest duo/duet rounds. Duo/duet is an incredibly diverse event. Watch a nal round to get a feel for the stylistic di erences that are found throughout the event.
Structural Components of a Duo:
TEASER • 0:00 – 1:30
Previews the topic and mood of the selection
INTRO • 1:30 – 3:00
Explains the purpose of the performance
EXPOSITION • 3:00 – 3:30 Introduces characters and setting
INCITING INCIDENT • 3:30 – 4:00 Sends the con ict into motion
RISING ACTION • 4:00 – 7:30 Complicates the con ict
CLIMAX • 7:30 – 8:30
Emotional peak of the performance
FALLING ACTION • 8:30 – 9:30 Resolves the conflict
*Follow the same structure for Duet, just over 12 minutes instead of 10.
When you cut a duo/duet, make sure partners agree on the objective of the story. Establish what the climax should be, and from there, construct the story leading up to it. Make sure that the lines are balanced, and remove redundant lines, or chunks of the story that are not integral to the plot of the cutting. Consider what the visual representation of the piece will look like, taking into account that duo/duet is meant to be performed with an onstage focus. Denote in the cutting changes in pace, where to take beats (pauses), and important blocking moments. Partners need to discuss why the characters are doing what they’re doing.
Standing it Up/Practicing:
Often, if the appropriate amount of time was spent reading, cutting, and analyzing a script, memorization will be easier. However, it can still be a challenge. Here are things to keep in mind. First, brains are a muscle. The more time a person practices memorizing, or simply memorize things, the better s/he become. Memorizing is a process. Next, memorization is physical. Sitting down staring at a script, re-reading the lines will not be bene cial. Memorize the script with the intent to perform it. Type up a clean version with only nalized text and blocking. Then, tape it to the wall to actively memorize. Read the lines aloud moving with them as indicated by the cutting. Partners should be in front of a mirror, so they can evaluate the e ectiveness of their movements. This is particularly important in duo/duet because “clean” blocking, or blocking that is de ned, motivated, and executed with precision, will factor into the rank in the round. It is helpful to memorize a scene at a time, building o of the previous scene. Partners need to remember that a character is responding to what a character said before. Conceptualize the lines as a conversation to help memorization. Because Duo/duet is a dialogue heavy, relationship focused performance, it’s important for the characters to listen and react to each other. Notice how friends engage with each other when they talk. Facial reactions, gestures, and other nonverbal response are a huge part of communication. Make sure that each character is engaged in the performance, even when they aren’t speaking. Having well thought out, motivated reactions can bring a Duo/duet to the next level. Once memorized, the duo/duet students and their coach can then build o of the choices that’ve been made for characters. Adjustments to blocking, characterization, and line delivery can be made.
It may sound cliche, but con dence is key! If the legwork has been put in, con dence is a natural product. Competitors should walk into that round with heads held high, ready to show the world what they’ve got! Trust what has been created. Do what was practiced, and if feeling compelled to “try something new,” the coach should be consulted. Consistency is key. It’s hard to evaluate what to change in practice if the performance in the round is completely di erent than what was worked on for the past few weeks. Pay attention to other performers. Smile, and be a warm, inviting audience member. Partners should not conspire with each other during the round! If there’s something they need to tell each other, it can be said after the round in private. There is nothing worse than getting up to perform and having an audience that either stone faces you, won’t look you in the eye, or is clearly more concerned about talking to their partner than paying attention to the performance. Think of it this way: each round is about 60 minutes. Ten/twelve of those involve a duo/duet performing, the other 50 are for your duo/duet to listen, learn, and support your fellow competitors.Keep a notebook for between rounds. Sometimes, another person’s performance will be inspirational, and it’s a good idea to have a notebook handy to write down new ideas. It’s also nice to know who your duo/duet competed against in each round. A duo/duet should review their ballots after the tournament, and then they can go back through their notebook and compare their ballots to their notes. Between rounds, duo/duet students should figure out what room they will be performing in next. They should congratulate competitors on a good performance after the round ends, and make friends during downtime. They should be gracious, and keep criticisms of other performers to themselves, even if someone else tries to start a negative conversation.
A great source is Interpretation of Literature—Bringing Words to Life by Travis Kiger and Ganer Newman. They cover cutting, characterization, blocking, and the structure of a story. Additionally, if this is your rst time doing Duo/duet Interpretation, go watch a nal round of Duo/duet! Observe the rounds not only as entertainment, but keep your eyes peeled for selective cutting, characterization, and blocking. Ask yourself, how can I apply similar techniques to my performance? How can I build off of what this duo/duet is doing? The best way to learn Duo/duet, outside of actively doing it, is by watching and learning from other performers. The textbook, nal rounds, and more can be found on www.speechanddebate.org.