Tips on Interpretation
Based on material in Breaking Down Barriers: How to do Individual Events


1. Select a piece or pieces of literature.

2. Read the literature.

3. Focus on a thesis--a specific angle.

4. Cut the piece to fit this angle.

5. Choose the section for your teaser.

6.  Write your introduction.

7. Check with your coach about your cutting.

8. Mount your pieces into a plastic folder.

9. Practice your piece in front of peers and your coach. Be sure to time your presentation.

10. Fix the piece and your presentation based on feedback from ballots.



Choose a high quality piece of literature (story, poem, drama, etc.). Contemporary pieces that use humor or action and that address important social or political issues usually do best. You will present for 5 minutes (intramural competition), 8 minutes (high school), or 10 minutes (college competition).

Your speech should include the following:

1. Begin with a "teaser"--a short (1 minute max.) section of a piece you will present. Choose a section that grabs your audience's attention and makes them want to know what happens next. You present your piece by reading from a manuscript (usually a small black book).

2. An introduction that you write. The introduction should

1. Explain what is and will happen in the piece (just enough to allow us to understand and to interest us without giving away the piece's conclusion).

2. Develop the theme in the piece--what point or insight does it offer listeners? Be specific about this theme. An example of a theme would be, for the movie Platoon--how naiveté gives way to the reality of war. Connect this theme with events in the piece you will read without giving away the content of the piece entirely.

3. Explain the importance of this theme; how is this theme helpful or useful for your audience?

4. State the name of the piece and the author's name.

3. Presentation of the piece. You continue to read from your manuscript. Present with sincere meaning. Really get into the piece. Develop different voices for the different characters. I strongly suggest that you practice in front of a coach before giving the presentation.

4. The Conclusion. When you are done with the presentation--you close your manuscript and indicate you are finished by bowing your head.



1. The quality of piece you chose should be strong--is it interesting?; is it written well?; does it address an important issue or offer significant insight on something important?

2. The quality of your reading of the piece should be strong--do you read with intensity, feeling and sincerity (as opposed to flat, melodramatic or off-key delivery)?; are your characters noticeably different from each other?; are your characters given personality that adds to the piece's meaning?; does the narrative and reading bring out the theme you say is in the piece?

3. The quality of your theme should be strong--did you demonstrate an understanding of the piece?; is your theme specifically linked to the piece?; did your theme offer insight that people would find unique and helpful?

4. The clarity of your introduction and cutting (the sections you choose) of the piece should be strong--is it clear what is happening in the piece?; does the cutting focus on and develop the theme?



1. Pick pieces with themes that will resonate with your audience; pick pieces that are good fits for who you are and for your acting abilities.

2. Go to and look up good pieces

3. Go to your library and look up good dramatic pieces--stories, plays, poetry

4. Talk to your coach; talk to teammates; talk to your school’s drama teachers



1. Work on how you present characters so that they have unique voices, full personalities, gestures, mannerisms, etc.

2. Work on how you use your book; use it to cover your face in a scene where you are hiding; use it to peak over to indicate you are looking over a fence; etc.

3. Cut out sections that are not adding to the theme and interest of your piece.

4. Refine your introduction so that it accurately identifies the point of your piece.

5. For duos, get your timing right and movements right with each other.

6. Practice, practice, practice!!! Do it in front of friends, your coach, teammates, a video camera.