SPEECH: Come and see what all the TALK is about!
"So it's called 'Speech Team.' Does that mean you just, like, sit around and give speeches or something?"
Not at all! (For an insider's look into the world of competitive Speech and Drama, click here to watch scenes from the documentary film Figures of Speech.)
Foremost, Speech is not a club. Rather, it is an activity sanctioned by the Illinois High School Association, not unlike football, basketball, and baseball. (Yes, the Speech and Drama Team is that competitive!) There are regular season tournaments, followed by a postseason (Conference, Regionals, Sectionals, and State). The technical name for this activity is "Speech Individual Events." But no matter what you call it, the concept is the same: Competitors are placed in a speech-giving or acting-oriented category; they prepare materials leading into tournaments; at each tournament, their performances are judged against other high school performers from across the state; winners receive trophies, medals, and sometimes even scholarship money.
Competitive speaking and acting is one of the largest extracurricular activities in School District U-46. Moreover, Bartlett High School has one of the most award-winning Speech and Drama Team's in U-46 history. (This dates back to the district's first Speech and Drama Team, which originated at Elgin High School in the 1940s.) Shortly after BHS opened, our Speech and Drama Team had less than a dozen competitors. Participation has since boomed, with an average of 50 or more BHS students on the team each season. Several years ago, BHS won the very first Upstate-8 Conference Championship for speech in the history of U-46. The team has since won three additional Conference Championships. We also do quite well in the IHSA State Series, with eleven Regional Champions, one Sectional Champion, eleven IHSA State Qualifiers, and four State Finalists in the records books.
The "sport" of Speech and Drama consists of 14 different categories (or "events"). First-year competitors are placed in one category. Varsity competitors are placed in two categories. Placement is based on an audition before the season starts. Some events require you to write your own persuasive or expository speeches. Some require you to take a topic given to you at the tournament and write a speech there, on-the-spot. There are categories in which you must dramatically interpret literature, "bringing to life" a short story or series of poems. Many events involve dramatic or comedic acting. You may have to act with a partner and minimal props. There are also monologue-oriented categories. Additional acting events require you to memorize an entire comedic or dramatic scene containing multiple characters—and then play all the parts yourself! There is a radio broadcasting event, and another involving poltical debate. Clearly, there's something for everyone!
Using the links below, you can watch clips of sample Speech and Drama Team performances. Each features an IHSA State Championship. (Please note: State Championship performances takes place in front of a large crowd. As you consider joining the team, do not let audience-size intimidate you. At regular season tournaments, students perform in small classrooms, with an audience of a half-dozen people.)
Click here to watch Dramatic Duet Acting (DDA). In this category, two competitors perform an eight-minute memorized interpretation of a dramatic play or movie script. There are only two props allowed: A table and two chairs.
Click here to watch Dramatic Interpretation (DI). In this category, a competitor performs an eight-minute memorized interpretation of a dramatic monologue or multicharacter script. (All characters are played by the lone performer, who uses different stances, body language, and vocal tones to make each role distinct.)
Click here to watch Extemporaneous Speaking (EXTEMP). In this category, when the competitor arrives at the tournament, she or he is asked a current events-related "debate question." The competitor then has 30 minutes to compose an argumentative speech that answers the question. The competitor must use research materials (downloaded files, magazines, and newspapers) that she or he compiles and brings to the tournament. The competitor then presents a seven-minute speech, using citations and direct quotes from sources, to argue her or his point.
Click here to watch Humorous Duet Acting (HDA). In this category, two competitors perform an eight-minute memorized interpretation of a comedic play or movie script. There are only two props allowed: A table and two chairs.
Click here to watch Humorous Interpretation (HI). In this category, a competitor performs an eight-minute memorized interpretation of a comedic monologue or multicharacter script. (All characters are played by the lone performer, who uses different stances, body language, and vocal tones to make each role distinct.)
Click here to watch Impromptu Speaking (IMP). In this category, a competitor is given a quote or a proverb at the tournament. The competitor then has two-minutes to prepare a six-minute speech on that topic.
Click here to watch Informative Speaking (INFO). In this category, a competitor composes an original expository speech that informs the audience of an idea, process, object, or other subject of topical interest. The eight-minute speech is written and rewritten throughout the season, and memorized by the competitor.
Click here to watch Oratorical Declamation (OD). In this category, a competitor memorizes and performs and eight-minute interpretation of a speech written or delivered by another person, such as a commencement addresses or a TED talk.
Click here to watch Original Comedy (OC). In this category, a competitor writes and performs an original eight-minute comedy sketch, featuring multiple characters interacting within some sort of plot. Obnoxious voices and silly storylines are absolutely encouraged! (Think "Kevin Hart meets Robin Williams.")
Click here to watch Original Oratory (OO). In this category, a competitor composes an argumentative speech that serves as a "call to action" for their audience on a topic of current significance. The eight-minute speech is written, rewritten, and memorized by the competitor beforehand. The speech should offer solutions to a problem in society.
Click here to watch Poetry Reading (POE). In this category, a competitor performs a poem or series of poems aloud, using vocal inflections, facial expressions, and hand gestures to convey emotion and communicate the message of the poem(s) throughout an eight-minute interpretation.
Click here to watch Prose Reading (PROSE). In this category, a competitor performs a short story aloud, using vocal inflections, facial expressions, and hand gestures to convey emotion and communicate the message throughout an eight-minute interpretation.
Click here to watch Radio Speaking (RADIO). In this category, a competitor is provided a packet of news stories at the tournament. The competitor then has 45 minutes to construct and practice a five-minute newscast containing world, national, local, and sports news, along with weather and a commercial. In competition, the performer reads her or his assembled script, and is evaluated on tone of voice, organization, clear enunciation with minimal stumbles, and a pleasant, professional delivery (much like a real radio or TV news anchor).
Click here to watch Special Occasion Speaking. (SOS). In this category, a competitor composes a speech that uses humor to convey an important message. The eight-minute presentation is written, rewritten, and memorized by the student beforehand. An "SOS" is lighthearted and entertaining. It is also written to address a specific group of people. ("Greetings, Student Council!..." or "Today, I'd like to speak to you, members of the National Honor Society..." or "It is my pleasure to address all incoming students here at Freshman Orientation!") The speech must highlight an issue that the "pretend audience" could address in real life.
Now that you know the ins-and-outs of this program, think about auditioning for the BHS Speech and Drama Team. Come see what all the talk is about!
THE TIME COMMITMENT
Auditions are held in October. Interested students must come to an Informational Meeting. There, they will schedule a specific audition time and fill out some paperwork. Once a team roster is posted, practices begin. Competitors must practice with a coach once a week, after school at an assigned date and time between Monday and Thursday. We also have required All-Team Meetings after school most Fridays.
We compete in tournaments across Illinois starting in November. The postseason begins at the end of January and continues through mid-February. As a team, we ride a bus to each tournament.
Contrary to popular belief, you can be a BHS Speech and Drama competitor and still participate in other BHS activities, so long as you are able to manage your time and keep up with commitments.
PLEASE NOTE: Because competitive Speech and Drama is an IHSA-sanctioned, activity, you will have to pay special fees. (In other words, the Speech and Drama Team is not free to join, nor is it a school club.)
Have questions? Contact Mr. Zoubek. He can be reached through email (email@example.com), or in person at "Speech Headquarters" (Room C313).