Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The World of Competitive Speechifying

All right, the updated Singles Cast List has stalled out yet again; big shocker, I know. Instead, I've been caught in a "remember that time in high school when . . ." loop. Right now the bulk of my nostalgia is focused on my years in Competitive Speech.

I suppose I should start with a brief primer on the different Competitive Speech events for the uninitiated. The basic speech events (in OK, anyway) were:

  • Prose: reciting a prose piece using no movement or gestures
  • Poetry: reciting a poetry piece using no movement or gestures
  • Humorous Interpretation (HI): one person performing a comedy piece with limited movement and voicing at least two characters
  • Dramatic Interpretation (DI): one person performing a dramatic piece with limited movement and voicing at least two characters
  • Humorous Duet (HD): two people performing a comedy piece with unlimited range of movement and characters and two chairs as props
  • Dramatic Duet (DD): two people performing a dramatic piece with unlimited range of movement and characters and two chairs as props
  • Extemporaneous Speaking: persuasive speech based on a randomly drawn topic with limited preparation time; split into Foreign and Domestic categories.
  • Standard Oratory: reciting a memorized speech written by someone else
  • Original Oratory: reciting a memorized speech written by yourself
  • Monologue: one person performing a brief comedy piece with one character and a brief dramatic piece with one character
There was also two forms of debate (Lincoln-Douglas and Cross-Ex), but almost nobody from Wyandotte ever participated in that aspect of it, and I avoided it like the plague (too much preparation and thinking-on-your-feet for my tastes) so I can't speak about it much.

Out of the other events listed, I competed in all except for the two interps. I think my favorites to do were Prose and HD, since they kind of played to my strengths; in Prose I just had to tell the story in a compelling way and was able to pick things that were a bit dark and unusual, while in HD I could let my goofy side out but also had a partner acting goofy onstage with me; I don't think I was very confident in my ability to carry an HI off without that backup, and so I avoided it in competition, only performing Roald Dahl's Jack and the Beanstalk (which I had done as an HD) as an HI at talent shows. My first HD was with Diva, a piece called "The Treehouse;" my character's name was Harold J. Snugglewumpy, or a reasonable facsimile thereof; I can't for the life of me remember her character's name; I do, however, remember how there was another group from our school who also did the same piece, and how the girl in that group had a very unique line reading. I think just about anyone else on earth would see the line "Hey, why are the guys all running around shouting 'Harold's got a girlfriend, Harold's got a girlfriend' over and over?" and do the chant in the typical sing-song style (HAR-old's GOT-a GIRL-friend, HAR-old's GOTa GIRL-friend); she, however, recited it like it was all one word, with the pitch and volume jumping up only on the last syllable: haroldsgotagirlFRIEND, haroldsgotagirlFRIEND. Kind of freaky.

I also enjoyed doing Extemp, insofar as it really didn't require any preparation at all. Oh, sure, our speech coach wanted us to read papers and magazines and clip out articles about world events to use as references, but we were way too lazy for that. I know at least one girl from my school made up some quotes for a competition at Welch, citing some fictitious man's opinion from a fictitious man-on-the-street interview, concluding the fiction with the line "And why does Mr. Fake-Name's opinion matter? Because he's an American that's why!" . . . pretty sure she placed, too. My all time favorite Extemp question was at a tourney in Commerce: "What does God think about pre-marital sex?" That was a fun one to do, since our prep-room was the school library, which gave me access to a Bible to find the relevant scriptures. My most frustrating question (outside of ones where I honestly had no clue what the questions were talking about and had to fly by the seat of my pants) was one about the Olympics, wherein I mentioned that they had decided to stagger Winter and Summer games, and the judges criticized me for because they just knew that they weren't going to split up the games; not having any physical sources with me, I couldn't dispute their disputations. Probably the most embarrassing Extemp story I know happened to one of the girls from my school, who got a question about whether the electoral college should be eliminated or not, and proceeded to do a speech about universities; the judges waited until she was done to tell her "Um, just so you know . . ."

As for the other events, I didn't mind DDs, was bored doing Standard Oratories, wrote my Original Oratory "The Nerd's Soliloquy" the day of competition, and pretty much loathed doing Monologues with their half-serious/half-comedy/all-eyes-on-me-and-me-alone set-up; only did most of these because Mrs. S. insisted that we take at least 3 things to each tourney, and once you'd qualified for Regionals in an event, you couldn't compete in it again except in "Champ" rounds, and there weren't that many tourneys that offered those.

As I've mentioned before, my first year in Competitive Speech was also the first year for my school to have the program; the bulk of the material we had to draw from in the beginning was provided by Gargamel's speech program, which was nice since we didn't have to start from scratch, but bad in that they were basically Picher's hand-me-down pieces which everyone and their dog had already done. It always bugged me when I'd get my score sheets back and they would compliment me on my performance but rip me apart for doing such an over-done piece; in retrospect I can understand their pain. After all, if I never hear "The Nightingale and the Rose" or "A Sandpiper to Bring You Joy" again in my life it will be too soon.

"Sandpiper" is the worse of the two for me, I think: "Nightingale" drove me crazy because I had to hear the same girl do the same over-dramatic reading of it at umpteen competitions, so I always hear her very Shatner-esque reading of it in my head: "The . . . Nigh-ting-gale . . . sang." Painful the first time around, becoming more excruciating with each additional viewing. "Sandpiper," on the other hand, never bothered me all that much until one round of the Prose prelims at State. I recognized one of the girls in the round and knew that she was doing "Sandpiper," which I'd heard several times before at that point; since we knew what order people were supposed to perform in, I excused myself to go to the restroom while she performed so I wouldn't have to hear it again. I waited outside until I heard the polite applause that followed most performances, and then let myself back in. No sooner had I sat down than the next person to perform got up and launched into (you guessed it) "A Sandpiper to Bring You Joy" . . . as did the person after that . . . and yet one more before the round was over. And then I get comments about doing an "overdone" piece like "The October Game" which I never heard anyone else perform . . . but I digress.

One thing that speech students become very good at very quickly is finding ways to entertain themselves during the long, long wait between rounds; some tourneys were notorious for having interminable waits, with Miamuh's being one of the worst; I don't think a single year went by that we didn't go delirious sitting around the cafeteria, waiting for the names for the finals to be posted. And, being Competitive Speech students (which is really just another way of saying Drama Geeks), our methods of entertaining ourselves were usually loud, often silly, and frequently involved mocking and/or mimicking others; some of these mimockeries were debuted at tourneys and then brought back for an encore back home. I can still vividly recall Diva's rendition of an overly-dramatic monologue she witnessed which began with the performer saying (in a raspy voice), "The first time I saw an abortion, the baby was sucked [inward gasp of air] . . . from the mother's womb," and ended with the screamed phrase "The babies! THE BABIES!" It's hard to do it justice in print

I wouldn't say that I was that great at Competitive Speech, but I wasn't that bad either; I rarely took first place, but there was seldom a local tourney where I didn't place in the top three in at least one event. The only time I remember ever placing first was at my very last speech tournament my Senior year in Picher; I took first in Poetry with my reading of a piece by that world-renowned poet, "Weird" Al Yankovic. But, while placing at local competitions was common, placing at Regionals was less so; out of three Regional competitions attended (the one my Senior being skipped due to my trip to Mexico), I only qualified for State at one, and then just barely, thanks to Mr. Green Rabbit's Foot . . . but that's a story for another time.

Like, tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

Repressed...memories...resurfacing....oh, the horror, the horror.

Anonymous said...

That last one was me. still figuring this crap out.

Cap'n Neurotic said...

Glad I can help reopen old mental wounds long since forgotten: it's what I'm here for!

Redneck Diva said...

How did I KNOW that Cedric would be the first to comment!? Only beaten by me because I've been gone all day, btw.

Ohhhh the tears from the laughing! My gosh, could THE BABIES have been more overly-dramatic, ridiculous and eventually overdone by me? Geesh, but everyone still laughed like loons. Or maybe that was polite "Good Gosh Make Her STOP" laughter and I interpreted wrong.

I dug out some old pics from the Oologah tourney (was that regionals?) where you and Cedric kidnapped my green teddy....remember that one? I think I posted one on my blog several months ago.

Oh I'm definitely going to have to do a post like this, too. Mind if I copy? gotta admit we had fun, dude. Let the memories rush back, my friend. It only hurts for awhile.

Cap'n Neurotic said...

Copy away, Diva, copy away; I'm sure you'll post a few things I'd forgotten about. Plus, it's always intersting to hear other P.O.V.s

And I don't know about anyone else, but I can verify that my ROFLing at THE BABIES was 100% genuine.