One Clap Speech and Debate

Long Winter's Clap 9: Dramatic Interpretation Event Overview (Feat. DI Tips from Bailey Patterson)

February 14, 2021 Lyle Wiley / Bailey Patterson Season 2 Episode 43
One Clap Speech and Debate
Long Winter's Clap 9: Dramatic Interpretation Event Overview (Feat. DI Tips from Bailey Patterson)
Show Notes Transcript

Welcome to A Long Winter's Clap: 12 Days of Speech and Debate Event Overviews and Resources.  This episode is dedicated to Dramatic Interpretation, and we are featuring some excellent tips from Kelly Walsh Speech and Debate alum and actor extraordinaire, Bailey Patterson.  Be sure to check out Bailey's tips and other resources for Poetry on our website.

If you have any ideas or requests for topics to explore on the One Clap Podcast, shoot Lyle an email at or check out our blog and social media here:
One Clap Website:
Facebook: @oneclappodcast
Instagram: @one_clap_podcast

Be sure to subscribe, rate, and review the One Clap Podcast.  Watch for new episodes of One Clap, Rock On! Debate, Coach Connection, and Speech Love!

Support the show

Hello there, friends!

Lyle here - your snowball heavin’, sugarplums dreamin’ host of the One Clap Speech and Debate Podcast.  The holidays may be past us, but the winter most certainly is not… and, I come once again bearing gifts!

Welcome to A Long Winter’s Clap - 12 Days Speech and Debate Event Overviews.

For these episodes, One Clap will be delivering event overviews and resources that I hope will be helpful for novice judges, coaches, or competitors.  

What’s going on with these shows?  Well, for each ep I will provide a quick overview of the chosen event, a couple of spicy and sweet tips for each event from expert coaches or competitors, and links to helpful resources to help you rock your performance on our website.  These overviews are not meant to be comprehensive, but should hopefully give you some information on each event and then provide resources for an independent deep dive for listeners who want to learn more.

Settle in for a helpful event-overview gift for your speech-loving ears from One Clap Speech and Debate!

Dramatic Interpretation

Dramatic Interpretation
Aka DI
Aka Drama
…is an individual event in which a competitor chooses a short story, a play, a cut piece from a larger text, or just any other published piece - and interprets this piece in a performance up to ten minutes long.  It is, of course, meant to be a dramatic performance.

Here is a description straight from the NSDA:

“Dramatic Interpretation, contrary to its name, is not all about drama. While dramatic elements are key aspects of the event, melodramatic, or overly-sad selections are not ideal choices for performance. DI lacks props, costuming, sets, and other luxuries seen in various forms of performance art.  Students who choose to compete in Dramatic Interpretation should focus on suspending the disbelief of the audience by portraying a realistic, emotional journey of a character(s). The performance should connect to the audience.

Students who do Dramatic Interpretation may perform selections on topics of serious social subject matter such as coping with terminal illness; significant historical situations, events, and figures; as well as racial and gender discrimination, suppression, and oppression. Students should select pieces that are appropriate for them. Considerations for selecting a DI topic should include the student’s age, maturity, and school standards.”

Much like Humor, Drama is a one-person scene, but instead of going for Humor, a Dramatist goes for something more serious.  But, like Humor, Drama requires a mastery of characterization, a strong understanding of the heart of the chosen piece, a disciplined approach to timing and blocking, and a whole lot of practice and nuance.  Dramatic Interpretation presents a variety of unique challenges for student competitors.

Additionally, Dramatic pieces are touchstones for student emotional growth and understanding.  Dramas can be powerful, impactful, and inspirational in the careful hands of a student competitor.

Here are five quick tips from distinguished Drama superstar Bailey Patterson - a Kelly Walsh alum and now graduate assistant for the Communication and Journalism Department of the University of Wyoming .

Five Tips for Dramatic Interpretation 

1. Choose a script you love. It’s difficult to create a compelling piece if it focuses on content you aren’t  passionate about. 

2. Visualize the world your character inhabits. Who are they talking to? How heavy is the object they’re holding? What does the room they’re in smell like? When you visualize the character’s environment you can more authentically imagine their experience and your audience will find your performance more believable. 

3. Earn your dramatic moment. Cuttings that are dramatic for the entire ten minutes feel redundant and often become boring, even if the subject itself is interesting. Create a build in your script cutting to one clear climax. A steady progression to the saddest or angriest part of your piece is much more thrilling than a story that’s all sad all the time. 

This leads perfectly into tip #4 which is...      

4. Volume does not equal emotion. The impulse of a performer in dramatic interpretation is to yell, sob, even scream. While these choices shouldn’t be avoided altogether, find the moments of comedy, quiet, and even joy your character experiences and feature those in your performance just as much as the more serious moments. 

And finally #5... 

5. Do your research. It’s okay if you don’t identify with your character (or characters) 100% of the time, but you need to understand their needs, wants, and motivations at every point in your piece. For example, if you’re portraying a victim of the opioid crisis but don’t have experience with this yourself don’t just spend time memorizing lines and rehearsing your blocking. Research the history and stories of those who actually experienced the opioid crisis in some way. Remember, your character may be fictional, but they embody real-world experiences and it is your job to share their story to bring about meaningful change.

If you’d like to hear more from Bailey on One Clap - you are in luck!  I will link to her interview on One Clap.  I will also link to other episodes which may support Dramatic performers.   I will also  link to other helpful resources for Dramatic Interpretation on  If you have or know of more resources for students, coaches, or judges - reach out and let me know.  I’ll link to these resources on the website as well! 

If you have an idea or a request for One Clap Speech and Debate, shoot me an email at or reach out on the One Clap Speech and Debate Podcast website or social media - linked in the show notes.

This New Year, maybe consider supporting One Clap Speech and Debate by checking out our patreon page linked in the show notes.  You can partner with me on this journey for as little as 1 dollar a month and stop patronage at any time!

Be sure to subscribe, rate, and review the One Clap Podcast wherever you listen!  Watch for new episodes of One Clap, Rock On! Debate, Coach Connection, and Speech Love!

Thank you for listening, best of luck to everyone out there competing at tournaments, and Clappy New Year from One Clap!