Becoming An Actor: Dos & Don'ts of Duologue ShowcasesDate: 6 January 2012
The dreaded duologue showcase is a staple of most drama schools, and a favourite of the casting crowd. It is the smallest big chance you’ll get to show how talented you can be, with a meagre three-minute slot in amongst a parade of lovers, arguments and conflict. There are no hard and fast rules as to what works and what doesn’t in these things; some like it punchy and quick, others prefer a subtler approach. However, here are a few self penned guidelines inspired by workshopping our pieces over the last few weeks.
DON’T pick a piece that begins with an expletive, or anything that is filled with them. This can be more difficult than expected. A lot of modern playwriting uses ‘bad’ language, if language can be categorised in such a way, to reflect a contemporary vocabulary - so it can be difficult to escape. Though many agents and casting directors don’t mind the odd swear word, if they’re being bombarded by it throughout a two-hour showcase it can get tedious. If it’s inescapable, try to temper it as much as possible without diminishing the integrity of the piece.
DO pick something with a bit of humour. Apparently agents/casting directors prefer a lighter scene. You can understand why, it takes a lot to earn a point of high emotion in a play - to try and earn that in three minutes would be a challenge for anyone! To me it seems counter intuitive after you’ve spent three years honing your craft not to show it off. That said, leaving people wanting more is better than leaving them full.
DON’T do a different accent. The majority of people coming to see you are, sadly, looking to cast you. The increasing amount of street casting that is going on pays testimony to that idea. Stick close to your own centre, within your playing range, and within your own accent. Maybe record a conversation with a pal and just use that…
DO stick to acting as much as you can. I’ve seen a fair few people muscle musical numbers into their three-minute duologue and even if you’re a stunning singer it’s always comes across a little desperate. Skills are brilliant things, and you can never have too many, but people have your CV’s in front of them. They’ve come to see you act. So act…. unless, you’re an awful actor.
DON’T talk about sex. There is a case for being attention grabbing and using scenes that talk about nudities and crudities but, chances are, it’ll turn more people off than on. Just imagine what it was like when you watched Titanic with your parents for the first time, forgetting that the film contains the scene in which Kate Winslet is sketched by DiCaprio, or the steamy moment in the car – that’s how you can make the audience feel if you’re permanently talking about lewd acts.
DO find something with an arc to it. You’re looking for something that gives each character a journey, preferably with a point of climax (not the Kate Winslet kind!) and resolution in it too. This isn’t always easy to find, but there’s nothing stopping you making a few careful edits. Don’t confuse climax with conflict though; so many showcases are filled with lovers endlessly arguing. If you’ve got writer friends then there’s nothing stopping you asking them to write something specific for you!
I’m sure there are many, many more ideas people have about what you should and shouldn’t be doing, but these are my top tips. Having said all that, you could absolutely break all the rules if it worked for you – the most important thing is that you feel, and consequently look, comfortable and confident on stage because if you don’t have that then you’ll probably find yourself being overlooked. And nobody wants that.
Do share any other ideas you have down below – with my showcase coming up in a few weeks I’ll be making furious notes of what you write!