- Chris Wilkins
I Don’t Believe in “The Perfect Piece”
A problem you run into a lot as a coach is your students wanting to find a “perfect piece.” I cannot even count the number of times a student has come up to me and said that he/she wants to change their piece, or that they want to look for a better piece. On a few occasions, I have agreed with these students and started searching with them for a better piece. But the trouble is (more often than not) these students have not worked hard on their pieces and simply want to change because they aren’t winning.
There is a time and place for changing pieces, but I believe that too many students believe in the “perfect piece.” That mythical play or book that is a guaranteed ticket to out-rounds at nationals. So many people want a piece that fits them perfectly, one that provides all the right opportunities to do well.
Honestly, I don’t believe the “perfect piece” exists. I believe this because I went though my own search for the “perfect piece.”
At the beginning of my senior year I wanted desperately to make the final round of nationals in duo interpretation with my twin brother Ryan. This is something I wanted every year I competed in interp, but only had the chance to truly pursue during my junior and senior year. A few months before the beginning of my senior year, Ryan and I managed to compete all the way to semi-final round only to be knocked out by much better duos. We were happy with how we did, and we ended up finishing twelfth overall. But now, at the start of our final year of interp, things were different—there was much more at stake. We only had one final attempt to make it to that final stage, and we wanted to do everything in our power to make it happen. To start our journey to the final stage, Ryan and I (like so many others) were convinced that we needed to find the “perfect piece.” We searched high and low, read books, plays and movie scripts, and did our very best to find the one piece that fit Ryan and I better than anything else. We spent months searching, and long the way there were many suitors, but none that truly felt “right” to us. Eventually, we ran across an interesting dramatic play titled Hello Herman. There were many things we liked about it; however, there were many more things that we hated about it. For starters, Ryan and I believe we would do our best with a humorous duo! We also thought it would be impossible for people to take us seriously doing a dramatic piece where we weren’t playing brothers or siblings. There was an excessive amount of violence in the piece, numerous death scenes, and I had never truly competed with a dramatic piece before. Like every other piece we came across in our quest for the “perfect piece”, we eventually pushed Hello Herman to the side and continued to search.
It was a few weeks before our first tournament and Ryan and I still had not found a duo. We were running out of time and options. Our coach sat us down for a meeting and told us that we had to do Hello Herman. It was the best thing we’d found so far, it had some potential, and our in-state competition would never see Ryan and I doing a dramatic duo coming. Ryan and I agreed to this under the condition that we would switch pieces later in the year—that we would do Hello Herman for now, but would find our “perfect piece” later in the year. We worked hard on Hello Herman and started winning a lot of in-state tournament, but we still put a majority of our focus on finding a new piece. We did not believe Hello Herman would get us anywhere at Nationals.
We found a couple piece after settling on Herman, but after working on them for a while we realized that they too were not perfect. We ended up scraping a few duos that we tried to put together, and in the long run we were stuck with Herman.
We did not truly stop searching until a few weeks before our national qualifier. After months of competing with a piece we settled for, we finally accepted that we could do well and compete with it. Once we realized that we were going to stick with Herman, we started working on it harder than ever. We reworked the cutting, changed our transitions, added blocking, heightened and tweaked the emotions, did everything in our power to make it the best piece we could. In the end our hard work paid off. The rest, as they say, is history.
Through our whole journey, I learned something about the “perfect piece”—in almost every single case… it does not exist. Hello Herman did not fit us, but we took it and made it our own. We worked hard to make it original, and did our best to use our specific talents to make the piece better.
What you do with your piece is so much more important than the piece you do. I’ve seen terrible pieces make finals because the kids were performing them very well. I’ve seen great pieces get last because the kids didn’t do anything with the script. Don’t get wrapped up in finding the “perfect piece.” You could spend the entire season searching for it and end up with nothing. Good interp isn’t determined by how good you are at choosing a piece; it is a product of your own determination and hard work.
If you ever feel like your piece isn’t good enough, remember this: Ryan and I won nationals with a piece we settled for. I am so happy that Ryan and I chose not to switch pieces, I wouldn’t have it any other way.