Sunday, March 15, 2015

Impressions of a Forensics Judge (Pt. 4) - Extemporaneous Speaking

Previous entries can be found here: Duo Interp, Dramatic Interp, Policy Debate

Today's entry will be about Extemporaneous Speaking. At TFA tournaments, this is split into Domestic and Foreign. Texas UIL does Persuasive and Informative. Regardless of the specific event, the performances are pretty much the same. Competitors draw three potential speech topics and choose the one about which they want to speak. There is a 30-minute prep period. Speeches have a time limit of 7 minutes with a thirty second grace period.

These speeches have become quite formulaic. Speakers spend between one-and-a-half and two minutes on an introduction. This is followed by three points, which are all given about 1:35-1:45 each. Remaining time is spent summarizing the three points without much of an actual conclusion.

Even more annoying is the Extemp Triangle. EVERY. SINGLE. SPEAKER. starts in a center position then moves (usually to the left) as s/he begins the first point. For the second point, the speaker moves the opposite direction (usually to the right). The third point will bring the contestant back to the center. Some will then take a step or two forward for the conclusion. It really becomes amusing when judging a round seeing speaker after speaker after speaker make the exact same movements.

The Extemp Triangle

I have also noticed that most of the speakers take a position that leans more to the Conservative side of an issue. This really surprised me.

Other than learning to make movements natural, my advice for those participating would be to make sure your facts are correct and current and try to incorporate some overarching theme if possible. I've had speakers give speeches about the effect of Haiti on crime rates in the Dominican Republic without knowing the two nations share an island. I had another speaker reference the young man who claimed to have made $77Million in the stock market without knowing that the story had turned out to be fake. On the positive side, I have had contestants organize their speeches around a themes of Road Trips, Making a Lasagna, and the acronym, GUN (in a speech about campus carry).

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Favorite TV Comedies

A thread in a Facebook group cause me to list my favorite TV shows of all time. I broke them down into Comedies and Dramas because comparing across genres is tough. Thus, here I present to you my top-10 favorite TV comedies:

10. The Big Bang Theory — Something about this show just clicks with me. I find it very, very funny. Jim Parsons is perfect as Sheldon, and the rest of the cast provides a solid ensemble.

9. Frasier — A rare spin-off that is better than the original series.

8. Malcolm in the Middle — Before he was Walter White, Bryan Cranston turned in a solid comedic performance as Hal Wilkerson. Also features a theme song and much other music by They Might Be Giants.

7. [Scrubs] — Turk & J.D. have what is probably the best bromance in TV history.

6. Newhart — "Hi, my name is Larry. This is my brother, Darryl, and this is my other brother, Darryl."

5. Sports Night — Great writing and under-appreciated acting.

4. Seinfeld — The Show About Nothing that speaks with the voice of Generation X.

3. Arrested Development — "There's always money in the banana stand."

2. The Office (U.S.) — Jim & Pam, Michael Scott, Dwight, and the rest. Pretty much hits every note right.

1. The Dick Van Dyke Show — After 50± years since it originally aired, this show still makes me laugh. Walnuts and inflatable rafts and introverted narcoleptic somnambulist brother, Stacey.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Impressions of a Forensics Judge (Pt. 3) - Policy Debate

When I first decided to start judging again, I had intended not to judge any C-X Policy debate. I did wind up judging a few rounds at one tournament, and my reasons for not wanting to were validated. To call this a public speaking event would be a farce. Policy debaters speak entirely too rapidly (called spread) and often too loudly. The ability to fashion an actual logical argument is lacking, and because of the speed, most of the Cross-Examination periods are spent asking opponents to repeat things they said in their speeches.

I actually struggle to think of any value to this event.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Catching Up on the Acting Front

I hadn't realized that I had left this blog neglected for more than 5 years. This post will catch you up on the shows I've done in that stretch.

In 2011, I played Marcellus in "The Music Man" at Garland Summer Musicals. The role is actually a tenor, but there were only two lines in "Shipoopi" that were above my range, so I did a little talk-singing to get through it. 

Mr. Laurence
Spring 2012 found me expanding my age range to play Mr. Laurence in "Little Women" at Rockwall Community Playhouse. This was the play, not the musical. The pic shows me with gray hair, but we changed it to white. I didn't get any pics with it that way. This was also when I had lost a lot of weight thanks to my marathon training and watching my eating. Alas, I have not kept the weight off.

Mr. Gatch
Mr. Toynbee
Just a few months after that, I was back on the boards at Garland Summer Musicals in the roles of Mr. Gatch & Mr. Toynbee. I had wanted to do this show for awhile, so that was nice. The only disappointment was that because of my dual roles, I wound up not getting to be in any musical numbers other than the opening. Because of the amount of gel that I had to use to get my hair slicked back and stay that way through Act 1, I had to take a shower as soon as I left the stage for the last time as Mr. Gatch. Then, the Director wanted me back as Gatch for the Curtain Call, so I had to pile it one again. My hair was fried, and I had to use baking powder on it to get all the residue out.

In Summer 2013, I got the opportunity to play one of my dream roles: John Adams in "1776". I was cast in the lead role at Rockwall Summer Musicals and enjoyed every minute of it. The only drawback to RSM is that shows only run one weekend for 4 performances. With the exception of the ponytail, which was an extension, the rest of the hair you see in the pics is all mine.
I took Summer 2014 off, but I got back up there in the Fall with my second ever production of "Rumors" by Neil Simon. Like the first time, this show was at Rockwall Community Playhouse. The difference was that this time, I was cast in the lead role of Lenny Ganz. I don't have any pictures from this one.

I don't know when I'll do my next show, but when I do, I promise to keep you informed.

Impressions of a Forensics Judge (Pt. 2) - Dramatic Interp

This is the second in a series of posts about my experiences over the past several weeks serving as a Judge at high school Speech/Debate tournaments. Part 1 (Duo Interp) can be found here.

Today's event is Dramatic Interp. This contest requires students to present a dramatic work of up to 10 minutes (with a 30 second grace period). It is a fairly straight forward concept. Here's what you can expect if you ever see a round: Somebody has died or is going to die and/or somebody has or will develop a physical or mental disability and in either scenario, it is usually the narrator's fault, OR somebody has been or will be raped.

Yep, that may sound more than a little cynical, but just because it's cynical doesn't mean it isn't true.

For those of you who compete, here are two things to consider: 1) Don't be afraid of silence; and 2) Sometimes getting quieter has far more emotional strength than yelling.

That said, if a piece/performance can make me cry (and only one I've seen has), it has a good chance to advance.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Impressions of a Forensics Judge (Pt. 1)

At the first of the year, I decided to get back into judging high school Speech & Debate tournaments after about a 15 year hiatus. I have judged every event in the past month and a half, and I have come to some conclusions about each of them. I plan to write a series of posts; each dealing with a specific event. Some events might get more than one treatment.


Fifteen years ago, this event didn't exist, so when I was assigned to judge the Finals at my first tournament back as a Judge, I didn't know quite what to expect. The first selection I judged was "Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks", and I thought it was really weird. The rules of this event require the two performers not to look at or touch each other. It creates some awkward blocking situations at times and can cause some confusion when the blocking or pantomiming (props aren't allowed) isn't completely clear.

Despite my initial dislike of this event, I think it has become my favorite after repeated exposure. I had the opportunity to judge the Final round of the North Texas Longhorn National Qualifier the past two days. The round was very strong and had, in my opinion, three teams that deserved to advance to Nationals. Alas, only the top 2 qualify, so one very deserving duo gets left at home.

The duo who won the qualifier performed a brilliant adaptation of "To Be Young, Gifted and Black" by Lorraine Hansberry and Robert Nemiroff. It was a tremendous blending of narrative and poetry as well as being emotionally powerful. The Final round marked the third time I had seen the team's interpretation, and it got better with each performance. This piece has become, for me, the Gold Standard of what Duo Interp can be. There is nothing wrong with the works that involve two characters in a more traditional dramatic structure, but it is this one that really showed me the potential for this event.

I had judged the members of the second place team in other events, but yesterday was the first time I had seen their DUO, and it was excellent as well. They performed an often humorous, but ultimately tragic piece called "Oz!" by Don Zolidis.

The team who wound up in third place (and who will serve as the alternate if either of the top two can't go to the National tournament) were performing in front of me for the fourth time. They, too, got better with each effort.

Judging this event also introduced me to two plays I want to read: "A New York Minute" by Michele Palermo and "The Old Boy" by A.R. Gurney ("Love Letters" "The Fourth Wall" "Sylvia"). 

Friday, January 22, 2010

Laughter in Row H

My good friend, Lonny, and I ventured up to Addison's WaterTower Theatre to catch their latest offering, Laughter on the 23rd Floor. The ensemble cast was terrific, and the show garnered a multitude of laughs from the nearly full house on Wednesday evening. I have seen very few plays by professional companies over the years, (The Odd Couple at Theatre Three, Shadowlands at Contemporary Theatre of Dallas, and A Christmas Carol at Dallas Theatre Center when I was in high school) and they have all been excellent, but this production stands out from the crowd. The pace was popping, and the set, staging, and lighting were all top-notch.

The show runs through February 7th. Even if you aren't usually a huge Neil Simon fan, you will regret it if you miss this show.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Streak is Broken

My high school's spring One Act Play my freshman year had been the last time I had auditioned for a play or musical and failed to get cast. My string of thirty-three straight successful auditions finally came to an end. The Director for Garland Summer Musicals, Buff Shurr, had called me a few weeks ago and asked me to come read for him for the role of Max Detweiler in Sound of Music. He called me Friday to let me know he had cast another actor.