Fairfield Ledger
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Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 17, 2018

Speech team to perform for public

Performances Friday, Tuesday, then state competition Feb. 3
By Andy Hallman, Ledger news editor | Jan 25, 2018
Photo by: ANDY HALLMAN/Ledger photo Fairfield High School speech team head coach Fred Hucke, left, cracks jokes during rehearsal for the choral reading group performing “The Princess Who Kicked Butt.” Members are, from left, front row: Carson Taylor, Ellie Baker, Samara McLain and Braden Howell; second row: Colton Crowl, David Wallingford, Ella Phillips, Hope Hawkins and Shaelyn Thompson.

The public will have two chances to see Fairfield High School’s large group speech team perform in the coming week.

The 43-member team will perform some of its acts at 7 p.m. Friday, and the others at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the FHS Auditorium during “FHS Nights of Theatre.”

Fourteen of the 15 events the team entered earned Division 1 ratings at the Iowa High School Speech Association’s District Large Group Speech Saturday, meaning they advanced to state. They will use these two public performances as a chance to sharpen their skills before the state competition Feb. 3 at Linn-Mar High School in Marion.

Friday’s and Tuesday’s performances are free and open to the public, but donations are accepted to offset royalties, scripts, entry fees and several miscellaneous expenses.

Head coach Fred Hucke practices with the various groups for about 2.5 hours each day after school. The Ledger had a chance to sit down with a few of the students during Wednesday’s practice to learn about the parts they play, why they went out for speech, and the challenges they’ve overcome to perform on stage.

 

David Wallingford

David Wallingford is a senior who has been on the team since he was a sophomore. That year, his English teacher saw potential in him as a performer, and asked him to join the team.

“He gave me a gentle shove into it to see how I’d do,” Wallingford said. “I did pretty well, and I made a lot of friends along the way, so I kept doing it.”

Wallingford did musical theater his first year, and then expanded into both musical theater and choral reading the following year and again this year. The musical theater he’s in this year is “Big Fish” and the choral reading is “The Princess Who Kicked Butt.”

“‘The Princess Who Kicked Butt’ is a fairy tale about a king and queen who have a kid, and they ask a fairy what the kid’s name is, and everyone gets the name wrong, so the kid grows up wrong and proves to everyone that she’s the princess who kicked butt,” he said.

Wallingford plays the king, which is the sort of role he has become accustomed to. At 6-feet tall with a big, booming voice, Wallingford is often cast as an authority figure.

Memorizing lines has gotten easier with a few years of practice. He said it only takes a few days of practice to get all the words down.

“Big Fish” is the story of a father who tells fantastical tales to his son, who believes them to be lies, and has a falling out with his father. Wallingford plays the part of Karl, a giant, who plays an important role in the father’s stories.

Wallingford doesn’t necessarily come from a theatrical family. What pulled him into it was having so many friends in the program.

“I think I’ll do this after high school through community theater,” he said.

What’s the greatest challenge of being on the speech team? Wallingford said it’s staying calm, and helping others do the same, on contest day.

“Everyone is stressed out, and if they don’t have their lines down, they’re panicking,” he said. “If you have everything down pat, you have to help your classmates. It’s challenging to keep a cool head.”

Wallingford had worked closely with former instructor Kevin Hosbond, who left at the end of last school year to teach at Grinnell. Before he left, members of the speech team watched a slideshow from Hosbond’s tenure. He said that was one of his favorite memories from his career in speech.

 

Michael Hunt

Michael Hunt has been on the speech team all three years he’s been in high school. He’s doing mime and musical theater.

“I’ve done mime every single year, and it’s my favorite thing,” he said. “I’m also a board member on our school’s mime club.”

The mime production is called “Apollo’s Ransom: The Downfall of Icarus and Daedalus.” The story of Daedalus and Icarus is a popular Greek myth that recounts the escape from Crete by the crafty inventor Daedalus and his son Icarus. Hunt plays the role of Icarus, and he’s joined in the play by his brother Phoenix, who is also his stunt partner. Coach Noel Wotherspoon picked the play, and the students modified it.

“Myths are open to interpretation and different ways of being told,” Hunt said.

But how do the students tell a complicated 6-minute story without speaking?

“It involves a lot of facial expressions,” he said. “You have to know where the [imaginary] objects are. The stereotypical mime thing is hitting a wall with your hand, so you have to train your body to react to hitting objects that aren’t really there.”

Hunt plays the role of the incredulous son in “Big Fish.” He said the most challenging part of musical theater is getting his confidence up.

“I can be as confident as I want in my own room, but when I go to sing in front of somebody, my voice drops an octave, I can’t get my pitch right, and I have so much stage fright when I sing by myself. I have quite a few solo lines, so I had to learn how to sing them without tensing up and being afraid.”

The most rewarding part of being on the speech team is telling moving tales that elicit strong emotions from the audience.

“I typically do well at making people cry because I can play a good sad character. I’m not as good at comedy,” he said.

 

Ellie Baker

Ellie Baker is a junior in her second year on the team. She is in choral reading and reader’s theater. For the choral reading, “The Princess Who Kicked Butt,” Baker plays a horse with an unusual name: “hates everything.” She didn’t come up with it. In fact, it’s a bit ironic since it’s the exact opposite of her personality.

“I’m usually seen as a person who’s always cheery, but I like this role,” she said.

Baker, as the horse, carries the princess on her back as the two of them attempt to defeat an evil enchanter. In the reader’s theater, “Fighting Females of the 44th,” Baker has a medley of small roles. She plays the part of a Scottish fisherwoman, talking about how fish have died from the overly warm waters. She also plays an operator, and narrates the countdown of a self-destruct button.

“For the operator, my voice is high and nasally, and for the self-destruct button, I have to go deep,” she said.

Who inspired her Scottish accent? An unlikely source. Not a singer or an actor, but a mixed martial artist named Connor McGregor from Ireland. Baker doesn’t watch mixed martial arts, but her parents do, and her mother encouraged her to listen to McGregor speak.

Baker opted not to be in speech her freshmen year, and her friends told her she was missing out on a lot of fun. When sophomore year rolled around, Baker gave it a shot, and she’s glad she did.

“I had way more fun than I ever thought I would,” she said. “I met a lot of new people and made a lot of new friends. They’re all really funny.”

Practices might be fun, but what about the contests? Baker said they’re not so bad once you realize you’re just performing in a room full of your friends and a judge.

“I had major stage fright my freshman year, which is why I didn’t do it. I couldn’t stand being in front of people,” she said.

Baker had known about her role in the choral reading for many weeks, but for reader’s theater, she had to fill in for someone else at the last minute. She took on her roles Thursday, had one rehearsal, and performed them Saturday.

“I did a lot better than I thought I would,” she said. “I don’t think I missed anything.”

 

 

 

 

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