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Introduction to Coaching

Dramatic and Humorous Interpretation Events

Acting is the ability to behave absolutely TRUTHFULLY under the Imaginary Circumstances.

Sanford Meisner

Mr. Meisner advised, “Don’t be an actor. Be a human being who works off what exists under imaginary circumstances.” For many years, Sanford Meisner’s principles have guided our interpretation coaching. We have never felt an interper should perform literature without thoroughly reading, researching, and imagining what it is like to “live truthfully” as a character in their story. Thornton Wilder, the playwright, concurred when he observed, “The most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a ‘human being’ is to bring literature to life through performance.” We believe the sharing of stories has a magical ability to bring people together through the art of interpretation. 

As coaches, we want the best for our students; we want them to learn, grow as performers, and hopefully find success in this competitive arena. Each Interpretation event has specific rules as well as subtle differences. While the NSDA serves as the guidepost for the national events and competition rules, it is essential and useful to understand the various events offered and the regulations specific to your state or region. This NSDA coaching guide will focus on the National Speech & Debate Association Dramatic and Humorous Interpretation events. Still, the techniques discussed here are useful in all Interp events.

The first task in coaching Interpretation is to learn the rules and regulations specific to that event. It will eliminate headaches and heartache later on if both you and your students understand the event’s rules in which they desire to compete. It is awful to have to disqualify a competitor for a rules violation, but it is even more so when the coaches’ response is, “I didn’t know that was against the rules.”

The NSDA High School Unified Manual is the best source for guidelines and event regulations. The other source essential to consult is your own state’s event guidelines.

Our goal for Introduction to Coaching: Dramatic and Humorous Interp is to provide you, the coach, with some broad guidelines, to help your students choose the best Interp event for their abilities, find appropriate literature suitable for both the event and the student, create the story they want to tell, develop their characters truthfully, and create a believable setting/environment and blocking that is true to the character(s) and the story they want to tell. We have been working together for 25 years. Much of the material, ideas, and techniques in this course were developed in collaboration with fellow coaches and colleagues at the schools and camps (UTNIF and GMIF) with whom we have worked over the years.