As I'm judging the big George McGovern Invitational Forensics Tournament (follow on Twitter! #mcgovdb8!) in Mitchell this weekend, I recall with pleasure a scene from a Region interp contest in Harrisburg Tuesday that reaffirms my love of high school speech activities.
Region Interp contests can get pretty tense. Kids compete plenty hard at the weekend invitationals, but at those contests, you get to perform several times, and there's always the consoling thought that if we don't win here, we can go back, practice, and take another swing at finals next weekend. At Regions, students get one shot at the stage. The top kids in that one-shot performance go to State; the rest go home, done for the season.
There were two boys from Vermillion who presented a duet parody of Twilight. It was sharply executed and funny, skewering one of the most popular elements of contemporary teen mythos. I got to judge that Duet round, and I ranked the Vermillion boys first, complimenting them on producing a performance that wasn't just a competent interp performance but a real crowd-pleaser, the kind of show that could build buzz at a contest.
Talk about buzz. A couple hours later, I handed in my final ballot for the humor round, grabbed my hat, and headed for the door. In the commons area, I saw a crowd of interp contestants—lots of eager young people in black suits and skirts, a seeming hybrid congregation of Broadway hopefuls and MBAs. They were gathered around the two boys from Vermillion, who were performing their duet again. It wasn't a round; there were none of us adults writing critiques or marking ranks. Kids who'd missed the Duet round (Prose and Oratory happened at the same time) had heard about the Vermillion boys' duet and asked them if they'd perform it again. The Vermillion boys, surely flattered and recognizing a great chance to practice in front of an audience, acceded to popular demand. As I walked by, I saw kids from other schools running over to join the crowd and watch this funny impromptu performance.
Now think about this: when's the last time you went to a football playoff game and saw kids from one team asking the kids who just beat them to demonstrate their flea-flicker again, just for their enjoyment?
I love interp and all the speech events that I judge in South Dakota. I get to see kids making good speeches. More importantly, I get to see kids making connections, sharing their skills, and developing true respect for each other and their talents in the heat of competition.
High school speech contests: still the best way to spend a weekend!
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