A dramatic reading is an assignment commonly given early in public speaking classes to increase students' comfort levels with speaking in front of an audience. You are typically required to select a short reading and communicate its message through expression. While reading someone else's work to a group might sound intimidating, you can have fun presenting a dynamic performance by choosing an appropriate text and carefully crafting your physical and verbal delivery.
Choosing a Selection
For your reading, choose a piece that fits your personality, talents and comfort level. If you are nervous about the presentation and want to lower your inhibitions, you might consider reading a children's book and showing the pictures. If you are more comfortable and enjoy reading out loud, you might pick a famous speech like the "Gettysburg Address" or a selection from a novel or short story. Be careful to consider your audience as you make your selection. Choosing something with bad language or offensive content could distract the audience from your presentation.
Your instructor may require you to present a brief introduction prior to your presentation, according to the website "Study Guides and Strategies." This introduction should note the title and author of your piece, as well as any context audiences might need. One approach is to write your introduction the same way you would if you were writing an essay on the same piece: Use an attention-getter to hook audiences, then explain the context and the message that the reading presents. Memorizing your introduction or writing it on a notecard can also enhance your professionalism as a speaker.
The act of merely reading out loud becomes a dramatic reading when you use your voice to interpret the words. As with any speech, you should speak clearly and slowly, enunciating the words rather than blurring them together. The interpretative element enters when you vary the inflection and pacing of your voice according to the text's meaning. Reading quickly, for example, communicates heightened tension, while slowing down conveys a softer, more reflective mood. You can also take advantage of the power of silence; carefully placed pauses can create suspense and drama for listeners.
Making eye contact is easy in a standard presentation or speech, but in dramatic readings, it can become more complicated. Although you are reading out loud, you need to be so familiar with the piece that you can look up at the audience regularly without losing your place. You can do this by highlighting and taking notes on the text, including at what points you will make eye contact and any physical gestures that might enhance the meaning. Even if you aren't required to memorize the piece, knowing it well will make you more comfortable and prepared.
Kori Morgan holds a Bachelor of Arts in professional writing and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and has been crafting online and print educational materials since 2006. She taught creative writing and composition at West Virginia University and the University of Akron and her fiction, poetry and essays have appeared in numerous literary journals.