Participating in a performance, whether as an individual or as a member of a group, can be one of the most exciting ways to enter the HOTRHF competition. The performance category is the only one in which you present your research live. A good performance must not only be entertaining; it must verbally and visually depict your historical thesis and its relevance to the national theme.
Before beginning your research, decide whether you would like only one performer or if your project will be more effective with a group. Remember that an individual performer will have to produce the entire 10-minute performance alone, and you must be able to memorize your entire script. Think carefully about the number and type of characters needed to communicate your major ideas. As you begin your research, you may find that some characters will assume more importance than others. Keep in mind that you must keep some balance among your characters and the amount of time they are actively involved on stage.
Steps to Creating a Successful Performance
- Choose a topic. Make sure your topic interests you and will work well as a performance. Can you imagine how one or more characters could communicate the major idea of your topic?
- Individual performance -- Can you envision how one person can communicate your ideas?
- Group performance -- Can you visualize how two or more persons can communicate your ideas? Can you find others who will have stage presence and will be able to perform live before an audience? Does the topic interest the others who might want to work with you?
- Research the topic.
- Use the best primary and secondary resources available.
- Using note cards, write important facts or quotes which you feel might be important to your performance. Be sure to include all bibliographic information on your cards.
- Write your thesis statement, supporting statements, and conclusion. Imagine how these might become part of your performance.
- Prepare a script. Brainstorm how the theme should be presented in the performance. If in a group, have each member describe different ways that necessary characters might interact. Remember that your performance must communicate your thesis, present supporting ideas, and reveal your conclusion. Everything that the judges see will be live and must relate to the theme. They will not be able to review a project backboard or read your script to determine what you meant to say.
- Write several drafts.
- Experiment with different action or characters.
- Run through the script. When you have chosen the best approach, read through the script with all of the performers to see that you have made the best use of your allotted time.
- It is best to aim at performing no longer than nine minutes, since audience reaction can affect your timing.
- Prepare your set. Brainstorm the different types of sets that might assist you in creating a mood or depicting your theme. Is there a prop that might be integral to your story? Keep in mind that some productions can be very effective without lavish sets. Also, remember that you will be traveling with your set and placing it on the stage yourself.
- Prepare your costumes. Determine the type of costumes that will enhance the mood you are creating. Make the costumes as authentic as possible. You need to be able to move easily in whatever you choose. Keep in mind that some productions can be very effective without fancy costumes.
- Prepare your blocking. To block a performance is to determine where you or your group members will stand and move as well as where your props and set elements will be placed within your performance area. Again, brainstorming all the various types of movements on stage can be helpful. Begin to experiment with different actions as you read your script aloud. Be sure that your actions support the mood you are creating and are not distracting. Keep in mind that some performances can be quite striking with little or no movement. Remember, too, that every movement and gesture should be significant; you don't have time for anything extraneous or distracting, however entertaining it may be.
- Practice, practice, practice. Work on your delivery. Speak clearly and pronounce all words correctly. Practice projecting your voice(s) so that your audience can hear every word. Judges will not be able to evaluate how you developed your historical topic if they cannot hear or understand you. Practice with your sets and full costume as often as possible.
- Make a video recording of your performance. Watch for problems in your delivery and in how you move around your set. If you are in a group, watch to see that you are working together and not detracting from one another's lines with unnecessary movement. Look for problems such as walking in front of one another when one performer is talking. This is a good time to ask a teacher to view the performance with you. Constructive critiques can be very helpful.
- Finalize your process paper. Check for correct grammar and spelling, length, bibliography, and title page.
Performances are the only "live" category of the history fair. You must make a lasting impression in your allotted time. Be sure that you have communicated your thesis and its relation to the theme. Your research must be evident. The most dramatic performance or best comedic timing are not enough if your underlying research is weak. As you can see, this category can be one of the most challenging, as well as the most rewarding.
HOTRHF Note: this page is current and up to date for 2014.