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  • Chris Wilkins

Prepping for Quals

This week I started a new semester of college, and I happened to find myself in a Philosophy class. One of the first assignments we were given involved reading the first meditation of one of Descartes’ works. The main point of the piece was that things completed by one single person are ultimately much better than things completed by a group of people. Well… I think Descartes is boring—really really incredibly boring. However! Reading his works (well, actually I used Spark Notes) did make me think of a good article to write.

It is starting to get to that point in the season where people are having their National Qualifier tournaments. There was one in Des Moines this weekend, my schools qualifier is in two weeks; now is the time for many people to make that final push to try and qualify to the national tournament. The only trouble is I feel as though people try to do this in a wrong way. When you’re working with a limited timetable there are two things you want to do in order to get the most done in the smallest amount of time. I also believe this to be the most efficient way to get things done.


You have to start fixing broad things and then work your way up. It works like a pyramid, you have to fix the foundational things before you can fine tune things. For example, it doesn’t make any sense to work a scene for three hours only to realize that your duo is overtime and that you need to cut that scene out. That’s time wasted, and we don’t have any time to waste! Quals is coming up soon. I recommend recording yourself, watching yourself and taking notes of things you think you can fix before Quals (note: be realistic. Don’t try to fix more than you can). Once you have a definite list of things to fix you should probably fix things in this order:


The first thing you should do is fix your cutting. If you’re overtime and need to cut things—do it. If things aren’t clear in your piece and you need to clear them up—change the cutting. Change the cutting first so you don’t need to fix it further along the line.

Also! Always plan in advance when you’re cutting. It’s better to be under time than overtime. If you’re under time you have time to play with, you can hold moments longer or add more blocking. If you’re overtime… you’re setting yourself up for failure. It’s always easier to put something in than it is to take something out.


After the cutting is fixed you want to change your blocking. Need to redo a fight scene? Reblock it! Need to change up your environment? Do it! Change all the blocking so that—by this point—your cutting and your blocking is in place. Also, if you’re lucky, you’ll still under time at this point.

Characterization, Delivery, and Emotions

The next things to fix are delivery and emotions. If you want to change your character up a little bit you should do that too. Go through and heighten the points that need to be worked on, change your tactics up, color your sentences and polish your delivery.

Understand that it’s important to fix things in this order. If your cutting and blocking are in place, it’s much easier to then focus on emotions and delivery. You have to fix the foundational things before you can fine tune things.

The second thing that is crucial to getting things done is working by yourself.

Yes, you have to put in time with your piece WITHOUT the help of a coach.

You need to work by yourself. I don’t know anybody who does this well. And yes—I get it—it’s SO hard to get things done when you’re working in a room alone. Your mind wanders, you get bored, you start messing around; that was half of what I did at practice (I have the worst time trying to focus). Here’s the thing: now is not the time to mess around—now is the time to get things done! Like Mister Descartes said, things completed by one person are much better than things completed by many.

Too many people think that now is the time to cram in sessions with your coach. While coaching sessions are necessary and helpful, lots of people believe that working with a coach is all they need to do to succeed. These students will show up to practice, work with a coach, get a lot done and then leave. They’ll show up to their next practice and nothing will be better because they don’t take time to practice things on their own.

You can’t improve your performance if you don’t take time away from a coach to perfect the things you and your coach worked on.

Do you know how hard it is to remember everything that comes up during a coaching session? It’s almost impossible. Especially if you are trying to perfect tiny details, which—if you’re practicing for your qualifier—you are doing. Work with a coach, if you have to take notes during the coaching session, and then go work by yourself to perfect everything you went over.

You can get much more done working by yourself than you can working with a coach. If you have a specific list of things you need to fix, you can get things done even faster.

Getting things done in interp is a process, and finding a way to perfect that process is not easy. The best thing you can aspire to be when working on interp (especially under a time limit) is efficient. You don’t want to refix things you’ve already worked on and you don’t want to work on things in a bad order—an order that makes working on things hard. Try to fix things from the bottom up, and don’t just do this all with a coach. If you want to qualify you have to put in the time and work to get there. So if you do, make sure the work you put in is done efficiently.

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