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Walt Whitman High School Speech & Debate Team
Congress, as the name may imply, is a simulation of the U.S. Congress. The event focuses on speaking clearly and eloquently about your side of the legislation under consideration. The speeches are usually very short -- 2-3 minutes -- and the legislation is usually on topics that the various students in the Chamber propose. Unlike the other events, Congress involves large groups of people (20-25) within one round so you get a chance to speak in front of a larger audience early on.
Lincoln-Douglas Debate (LD):
In LD, two debaters face off in front of a judge about a values-based topic that changes every two months. LD puts a premium on analysis, philosophical reasoning, and substantive preparation, and less on smooth presentation and style. Past LD topics have covered the death penalty, nuclear proliferation, torture warrants, standardized testing, international and constitutional law, and free speech/hate speech.
Public Forum (PF):
Public Forum, the youngest debate event, involves two-person teams. Topics change monthly and are usually drawn from the news. The format is designed to be accessible to a community audience, and is distinct from LD in its emphasis on quick thinking and effective public communication. PF'ers compile statistics, historical background, recent developments and other data on a new topic every month and must be prepared to argue all sides. Past resolutions have covered policies including military conscription, budget balancing, alternative energy, immigration, health care and college admissions.
In this event, the performer memorizes a speech that was written and delivered publicly by someone else. The speech can be famous (such us Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream"), but doesn't have to be - often competitors work hard to find lesser known speeches. The goal is not to mimic the original speaker; rather, the competitor should reinterpret the speech through his/her delivery, offering a new perspective while maintaining the same general feel. This event is only open to 9th and 10th graders.
In this event, competitors write and memorize a ten-minute persuasive speech that informs the audience of an important social problem that exists in society (i.e. inequalities in the workplace due to sexual orientation). Orators are judged on both the content of their speech (i.e. is it informative and credible while incorporating humor and entertainment value) and their speaking presentation. This event is the closest we offer to actual public speaking - think an Obama type speech - and thus helps competitors develop research, writing, and presentational skills.
Each round, the speaker draws a random topic and has seven minutes total to prepare and perform a speech on the subject. Topics range from serious current events to meaningful quotations to silly or off-beat topics like “fruits of the day” or “holidays.”
The speaker draws from one of three questions on current events and has 30 minutes to prepare for a seven-minute speech on that topic. The speech includes sources as well as analysis, and is generally evaluated both for knowledge of the topic and for construction of the speech in limited time. Sometimes the event is decided between foreign policy topics and domestic policy topics.
Interpretation of Literature:
The goal of interp is to bring text to life and provide a unique perspective on a piece of literature through performance (acting) . The performer can choose literature in any form, from a play to a novel to a speech, as long as it is officially published. The performer then "cuts" the script down to a ten-minute performance. They can take out sections, but cannot add any material - all words in the performance must come straight from the script. Props and costumes are not allowed.
This type of interp revolves around character development - that is, the ability of the performer to create deep, believable characters that the audience can connect with. Often, DI's are monologues with only one character, however many performers incorporate more than one.
As the name indicates, this event focuses on humor. HI's often consist of multiple distinct characters, ideally ones that are cartoonish but also slightly grounded in reality. Performers often must focus on quick changes between characters ("pops"), creative blocking, and use of sound effects or other cool tricks (optional).
Unlike other types of interp, this is a two-person event. The selection can be dramatic or humorous in nature - in fact, many good duos try to incorporate both. The extra person allows for more creative blocking, often leading to more movement and better use of the stage. But there are still limitations - partners are not allowed to look at each other or touch each other during the performance.
Oral Interpretation (Prose/Poetry):
This is the only interp event that is not memorized - instead, performers reference a small black binder that contains their selection. The focus of the event is on narration and vocal patterns, with little physical movement. Competitors alternate between prose and poetry as the tournament progresses. Prose is any literature not written to be performed (plays, musicals, etc.). Poetry can be in any style or form - the performance can consist of a single long poem, or a compilation of multiple shorter poems with a common theme ("a poetry program").
The Whitman Speech & Debate Team is a not-for-profit collaboration of parent volunteers, student team members, and coaches.
All funds raised go directly to team expenses.