Speech teams prepare for virtual contests

A computer screen might not be the typical medium for a high school speech contest; but it’s one that will be used this season. As contests grow closer, speech team members are preparing pieces and group performances to showcase for judges. 

English teacher Catherine Bettag is one of the coaches for the team, and said that while COVID is definitely an adjustment, the students have risen to the challenge. “We are off to a slower start than normal. We had to wait for guidance on what contest would look like, if there were changes in events or if the order of competitions was changing before we started. Despite that, we have some great groups pulling together some amazing performances,” Bettag said. 

Preparing for virtual performances, the students rehearse with Bettag twice a week and also on their own. “We have the opportunity to perform virtually, whether it is synchronous or asynchronous this year. Aside from the recorded categories (short film, radio broadcasting and TV news), we have never been able to submit a recording of a performance before. We are also able to Zoom students in for the first time this year. In previous years, if you were sick, you had to miss contest. Thanks to being able to perform virtually, that is not the case this year,” Bettag said. 

Junior Charis Crozier is leading one of the ensemble groups and said that she is excited to work together with her teammates to produce something they are proud of. “I came up with the idea for what we would do, and now me and one other person in the group are actually writing the piece that we are going to be performing. I wanted to do a serious piece this year, and I also wanted to write what we would be performing. The piece is about The Four Horsemen personified having an end of year board meeting talking about their numbers for the year, as in the number of casualties caused by each Horsemen respectively,” Crozier said. “I came up with the idea for this piece very obviously because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Four Horsemen being Death, War, Famine and Pollution. Normally the fourth one is Pestilence, or disease. I did NOT want to have the main focus be the pandemic, and so I changed it to Pollution, so all in all, we have a board meeting between these entities that have a great effect on the world at large. There is comedy but with very serious undertones and real statistics.”

Although speech members are excited to be able to perform, Cozier said that they will miss the rush of live performances and the memories that accompany them. “I think my favorite memory in speech has to be last year’s state contest at Dubuque Senior High School. That school is a gorgeous building, and it was such an important day, and everything about everything that was happening was amazing. My favorite part wasn’t even the competition itself but what surrounds it. We were all together in the gym awaiting results for different groups performances. We all sat in a pretty large circle together at our camp. Everyone was under blankets, eating snacks, having fun. We decided to play Evil Apples, which is basically digital Cards Against Humanity. And so here we are together enjoying each other’s presence, high on adrenaline from the day and the atmosphere, and, gosh, it was just so much fun,” Cozier said. “It’s probably not the most exciting memory to read about, but it’s important to me. Something more exciting would probably be the same day when I was about to go onstage for the very last scene, a very somber and emotional scene, and I just started bleeding from my ear and couldn’t do anything about it but hope that I didn’t get any on my costume or the stage and get off as fast as possible when it was my time to exit. That was a pretty funny experience.”

Junior Jamie McDowell is participating in both ensemble acting and reader’s theater and said that rehearsals are starting to intensify. “Preparing for a contest is a lot of work in the weeks leading up to a contest. We tend to start a bit slow and pick up speed over time as we get closer and closer to the contest,” McDowell said. “This year we don’t have this luxury as we don’t have as much time. We have started our cramping time where we try to meet any moment we can get.”

The ultimate goal, according to McDowell, is to make it to the All State competition. McDowell credits coach Bettag with making rehearsals enjoyable and worthwhile. “Ms Bettag has been one of my favorites teachers, and she has such a way of building a connection with each student, and that connection helps so much during our rehearsals. Bettag makes it clear that our health and our well being comes first and will check in with us if she thinks things are off. She’s such a kind soul in ways I can’t even explain,” McDowell said. “Ms. Bettag has this ability that has honestly made things so fun but at the same time she can push us to help become better at what we want.”

McDowell encourages all students to try out for speech if they can. “Speech is such a fun experience. It’s such a great way to see if you like acting or find new things like improv and more,” McDowell said.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.