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When you are performing an interpretive speech, you have an immensely difficult task ahead of you. You must convey the hundreds of descriptive words an author painstakingly typed on a page in a mere gesture. You must create the same fullness to your scenery as a cinematic masterpiece without cast, costume, or crew. You must rise to the quality of an awe-inspiring Broadway production as a one man show. 

If you are feeling faint of heart because this appears to be an impossible task, fear not. I have witnessed a multitude of interpretive speeches that compelled the audience with their raw beauty and left them in raptures. The question then becomes: how do you achieve that level of greatness? There are a variety of answers but one of the most critical is to over act. I recognize that this sounds counter intuitive. The term “overacting” may conjure up images of garish hallmark movies that leave you with an uneasy impression of awkward corniness. The reality is you will be hard-pressed to do that in an interp. You have to remember, in a theatrical production there is a wardrobe department, there are set designers, and there are actors and actresses portraying each individual character. As an interprer, you have none of that. It is just you. That is a fairly bleak picture for your judges, especially if they are comparing your piece to a classic like Pride and Prejudice, The Lion King, or Les Misérables. To compensate for this, you have to be larger than life. You accomplish this by elevating several key performance factors.

  1. Your expressions. Every time your character feels an emotion you have to not only convey it through your words but also through your face. Practice making a variety of facial expressions in the mirror to match every emotion you can think of. Make them larger than life. If you’re happy you should look ecstatic. If you’re sad you should look soul-crushed. Play up each movement of your mouth and every twinkle in your eye.
  2. Your vocal tones. Ensure you’re varying your voices for each individual character. Additionally, play around with your vocal pitch and tone. In times of intensity or excitement, raise your voice to be higher. If you want a moment to capture the attention of your hearer, drop your tone and volume suddenly. Make use of pregnant pauses. Silence and overly dramatic pauses can often speak far louder than words.
  3. Your physical movements. You are not confined to the actions that are described in your script. It is your job to be creative when crafting your scenes. A character should always be doing something engaging. When at all possible you should create large movements that can make use of all your space. This will help your speech feel bigger than life.

If you are intentional with each moment in your script and try to make them as meaningful as possible, that will come across to your judges. Your speech truly will be captivating. 

Allie Satterfield competed in the NCFCA for four years, and she was the 2023 NCFCA Moot Court National Champion. She is currently attending Patrick Henry College, where she competes in collegiate forensics and is pursuing a major in Political Theory. If you would like to book coaching with Allie, Click Here.  

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