Something that I think is important for all pieces, especially dramatic ones, is an idea I have called singularity. Yes—I’m almost certain that singularity is already a term that has something to do with physics (though I’m not entirely sure what). Well, I liked the word so I stole it for my own personal usage. Singularity is—like most complex ideas—a difficult term to simply explain with words in an article. For this reason I’m going to tell a story that I hope helps to explain the idea.
When Ryan and I were preparing for nationals our senior year, like most people, we had a minor scare with how long we were running. With all the things were we adding and changes we were making, we somehow started running roughly eleven minutes every time without fail. When faced with this challenge Ryan and I did not panic and we sought to find the easiest way to cut down our piece without taking anything out of the cutting (we had just recently got the cutting exactly how we wanted it). After some time I figured out a solution to our problem; I decided I would write down every scene and how long it was. Depending on how important the scene was would determine if we spent more or less time with it. We had seventeen scenes in our duo ranging in length from a minute and a half to twenty seconds. With all the numbers in front of us, it was easy to do the math and figure out what scenes needed to be cut down and by how much. Ryan and I solved this problem using simple math, but we were left with an even bigger problem after solving all our time troubles.
Ryan and I didn’t fully understand how much we were trying to stuff in our piece until we wrote down every scene in order. We had almost twenty scenes that we wanted to perform in (hopefully) ten minutes. Ryan and I started to worry that our piece would be choppy or that it would feel segmented—that it wouldn’t feel like one singular piece. Whenever Ryan and I were faced with a problem we found the best thing to do was simply to talk it out. We would determine the problem and isolate the most effective way to solve it.
After a lengthy conversation we came up with a simple idea to prevent our piece from being choppy. This idea would eventually evolve into something much bigger.
We determined that the best way to prevent our piece from being choppy was to make the ending of each scene very similar to the beginning of the next scene. We would try to make the mood, tone, and energy of the end of the scenes all match up with the beginning of the next scene after. In this way we would almost buffer each scene together and make the piece seem more united—more whole. Normally this would be easy for a piece to pull off… but the ending of our duo scenes involved murder and death. Ryan and I really had to go to the extreme to make certain scenes fit together.
The idea had to be executed very specifically with our piece. We had to blend everything just right and had to come up with numerous techniques to make our piece singular. And because we had to utilize this concept so entirely with our piece, we ultimately realized how useful it is in relation to speech. We realized that it could apply to acting as an idea as well!
How many times have you seen someone have an unusual outburst of emotion? As a judge it’s something I see more often than I would like. But what really bothers me is when this happens and is then dropped and not mentioned at all.
For example: someone yells about how nobody likes them, and then—suddenly—they talk about how their cat likes them. The character they are portraying is completely oblivious to the outburst. They almost make it seem like the outburst never happened.
Things like that cannot just be dropped. In fact, they have to stick with your character for the rest of your piece. Human beings don’t just drop things—sometimes it’d be easier if they did—but they don’t. How many times have you cried profusely only to immediately stop and feel better? Almost never? Thought so. That’s how emotions work. For the most part humans don’t feel very strongly about something, realize otherwise, and drop the emotions completely. Humans hold onto emotions for a very long time—the character you’re playing has to be this way as well.
Everything in your piece needs to be connected—everything needs to be a singular string of actions and reactions. This is why I use the term, “singularity.” If you think about the emotions of your character from the beginning to the end, then the emotions should all connect to each other. Things that happen in the beginning of the piece should still be in your characters mind towards the end of the piece. You should never only think about emotions at one point in the piece. You must think how all the emotions play out in relation to each other. Every emotion in your piece is connected—everything is related.
Singularity is something that should always be kept in mind when putting together and perfecting your piece!