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Beginning Interp Where Do I Start?. Coaching Interp can be the most fun you’ve ever had, or the most stressed you’ve ever been! Here are some tips to (hopefully) get you pointed in the right direction. First Things First – What is Interp ?.

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beginning interp where do i start

Beginning InterpWhere Do I Start?

Coaching Interp can be the most fun you’ve ever had, or the most stressed you’ve ever been!

Here are some tips to (hopefully) get you pointed in the right direction

first things first what is interp
First Things First – What is Interp?

Interp refers to the events that require the performer to take on one or more personas other than his/her own. They include:

Humorous Interp

Dramatic Interp

Duo Interp

Poetry Interp

Prose Interp


humorous interp
Humorous Interp
  • Will be funny
  • Cut from a play or a book
  • Monologue OR multiple characters (monologues often do not do well in this event)
  • Often uses “sound effects”
  • Requires “popping” from character to character

My two cents: Most HI is all about funny, funny, funny, with no real desire to make a point or have a message. I struggle with this, but the truth is the goofier/sillier/sometimes trashier you can make it, the better it will do in competition.

    • Possible questions you might have…
      • What are sound effects?
      • What is popping?
dramatic interp
Dramatic Interp

Cut from a play or book

Must have some elements of drama

CAN have humorous elements (I think this is one of the most common misconceptions about DI)

Monologue or Multiple Characters

Should use “popping” if moving from character to character – but it is often slower and less obvious than HI

Performers are expected to bring the character to life by mimicking his/her actions and movements.

My two cents: Monologues work much better in this event, but this doesn’t mean a multiple character DI won’t do well. Also, do not be afraid to put funny things into the DI pieces – real life is both funny and serious, so these kinds of DIs tend to work very well on both the state and national level.

duo interp
Duo Interp

Can be two or more characters

Cut from a play or book

Performers cannot make eye contact or touch

Can be humorous or dramatic (or both!)

Requires a lot of choreography

My two cents: Duo can be a ton of fun, but it is very difficult to choreograph. You have be creative and make sure that the scene keeps moving, but has a clear story-line. Some duos are all about flash and comedy and no substance, but if you watch the DVDs of national level duos, you will see that the ones that balance the comedy, the humor, and the choreography are the ones that do the best.


Can be one long poem (narrative story)

Can be a program of several poems on a similar theme

Can be a program of several poems by the same author

Uses a manuscript – cannot be used as a prop

Performer cannot move around other than slight shifting below the waist

My two cents: The manuscript events are the most populated events in the state. Kids think they are easy, because they get to have a book, but learning how to balance a performance with creative use of the manuscript can be very difficult.


Can be cut from a book or short story

Uses a manuscript (cannot be used as a prop)

Cannot move (other than slight shifting) below the waist

Should have a unified story-line

Can be humorous or serious (or both!)

My two cents: The best prose pieces have a little bit of everything in them – a little humor and drama. Try to keep them as age appropriate as possible on the middle school level, because that makes a big difference there! On the high school level, don’t be afraid to take risks if you trust your students to pull it off – sometimes they pay off big!

**Ask me about! 


Is often multiple character

Stories can be taken from folk tales, legends, books, children’s books, or various other sources

Performer can move about the stage freely

Cutting should have a clear plot and tell a complete story

Student must act like each character using different voices and body movements to delineate

My two cents: Storytelling often does very well when it is “over the top”. Performers need to be very uninhibited and willing to take risks and be SILLY to do this event.

junior division events these are fundamentally different than the senior division
Junior Division EventsThese are fundamentally different than the senior division!
  • Duo Acting (as opposed to Duo Interp)
    • Two characters only
    • Actors can use a table and two chairs
    • Scene is actually acted out
      • Students can touch
      • Students can look at each other
  • Interp of Literature (as opposed to HI/DI)
    • Must have multiple characters
    • Students cannot move below the waist at all
  • Solo Acting (exists ONLY in junior division)
    • Can be ONE character ONLY
    • Students can use a table and one chair
cutting pieces
Cutting Pieces
    • Though there are lots of sites out there who will have ready made cuttings for you, you will find the most creative, freshest pieces by reading and cutting your own.
    • Use or trips to the bookstore to find fresh, new material.
    • Don’t be afraid to cut your own pieces. Most of you know what makes a good story – go out and find one!
  • Use ready-made/used cuttings for new/novice students
    • Don’t be afraid to use pieces over again for kids who are just learning
    • Don’t be afraid to use pieces you have seen other kids doing – especially if you think you have a kid who can do it just as well or better
    • Don’t be afraid to ask for help – the coaches in the state with years of experience also have years worth of pieces they may not mind letting you borrow or at least suggestions for where to find great material
okay so how do i get started
Okay – So, how do I get started?
  • Read the WHOLE book/play/story.
    • You will never know if you are getting the very most out of a piece of literature unless you read the WHOLE thing.
    • Sometimes most of a cutting may come from only one chapter or part of the book – but the overall message or point of the literature will often be found in other parts, so you don’t want to “miss the point.”
  • Read with a pencil or pen in hand and mark the parts you really, really want to include in the cutting.
    • Don’t cut from library books – it is so much easier to cut a piece by writing in the book.
    • Mark with brackets, underline, or highlight what you want to include. Mark EVERYTHING you want to include – even if you know it will be WAY TOO MUCH!
    • If you don’t want to mark up your book, you can do the fold pages method – but that kind of cutting is very hard to “reproduce” if you happen to lose your eventual digital copy.
how to cut a piece continued
How to cut a piece - continued
  • Make photocopies of the parts you want to use.
    • Once you are done “cutting” all that you want out of the entire work, photocopy every page you cut.
    • Put the photocopies pages in order the way you want the piece to flow (this does not always mean in the order they appeared in the book…)
    • Cut again, because the original cutting is probably 30 plus minutes!
  • Take your first timing of the piece at this point.
    • Once you know just how long your first real cut is, you will know how much more you will need to pare out of the piece.
    • At this point you will probably already be cutting out some of your favorite parts, but you will eventually have to sacrifice much to get that cutting to 10 minutes!
yes there are more steps
Yes, there are more steps…
  • Cut more – time again – cut more - time again…
    • You will have to be willing to let go of even some of your most favorite parts!
    • Don’t forget you are trying to tell a PART of the story in only 10 minutes – you aren’t going to be able to tell the ENTIRE book…
    • If after the fourth cut (third timing) you are still over 10 minutes it’s time to call in outside help…
  • If it is STILL overtime, give the cutting to a trusted colleague to make sure it actually makes sense and have them suggest other cuts – you may be too close to the literature by now!
    • You may be able to trust a VERY experienced upperclassman with this task – but that is rare in most beginning programs.
making it flow
Making it flow…

Don’t forget you are allowed to add transitions in to make the piece flow in a meaningful way. You cannot WRITE parts of the piece, or paraphrase big chunks of plot, but you can add in transitional phrases or words to keep the cutting from being choppy.

You cannot misrepresent the author’s intent or story, but you can re-order events if the original work told them out of order, or if you are trying to present only a certain part of the story and want to leave out other parts that don’t advance your cutting.

coaching the performance
Coaching the Performance
  • You can only do so much…
    • The students have to have faith in themselves and you.
    • The students have to willing to try new things – even if they think they are “embarrassing”
    • The students have to be uninhibited (especially in HI, Story, and Interp of Lit).
    • You have to be willing to get up and show them – even if you think it is “embarrassing”
  • Working with the manuscript
    • Don’t be afraid to think outside the box
    • It should be used to enhance the performance - not just sit there on the student’s arm
    • There is a thin line between enhancing the performance and using it as a prop – find that line and push your student right up to it.
popping and voices
Popping and Voices
  • Popping
    • In HI, pops should be clean and FAST
    • In DI, they are more subtle and more like a “melding”
    • Should include foot placement and stance or position
    • Have students practice in front of a full-length mirror
  • Voices
    • Dialect tapes are very helpful with this
    • If they are mimicking a celebrity, they should watch that person on YouTube or the Internet as much as possible until they get the voice down
    • Voices for different characters should also be consistent and change with the pops…
      • I have my students highlight the different characters with different colors, which cues them mentally to change their voice and their stance when the color changes (this works great for HI and Interp of Lit)
last bit of advice your best resources are
Last bit of advice… Your best resources are
    • With membership you can get FREE videos of this past year’s national final rounds in Duo, HI, and DI – I cannot tell you how much this resource alone has helped my students
  • Every chance you get, you should be watching rounds (especially if you are new) and your students should be watching rounds to get ideas for new pieces
    • Even if you don’t want to do a piece that someone has already done, chances are that author has written other things that are also good…
  • Online cutting stores like Speech Geek; Tibetan Tree Frog; Mushroom Cloud Press; and Brooklyn Publishers
    • These pieces are usually quality, but remember anyone/everyone else can get to them, too!
  • YouTube is also a great resource for finding tapes of performances or great poetry that you can put into programs for your students.
stay away from
Stay away from
  • Forensic cutting membership services like – they are never as good as what they promise and you will simply waste time and money trying to find new pieces there.
    • Truth is you may spend a lot of money on dud books, too… I can’t tell you how often that happened and still happens to me, which is why I like going to actual bookstores or where I can actually read part of the book to see if it is worth my money.
  • This has been a lot to take in… If you have questions I did not answer or get to email me or my assistant Bill Thompson anytime at:
  • You can also get help and advice from any of these following individuals:
      • (NFL Chair; KHSSL Board Member)
      • (KHSSL Board Chair)
      • (Bill Cooper, KHSSL Director)