Fairfield Ledger

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Neighbors Growing Together | Mar 24, 2018

Students perform individual speech routines

Friday night performance warm-up for state
By Andy Hallman, Ledger news editor | Mar 05, 2018
Photo by: ANDY HALLMAN/Ledger photo Harper Fiske recites a piece of prose, “The Pacific.”

The Fairfield Public Library was the scene of singing, acting and improvisational humor Friday night.

The performers were members of Fairfield High School’s individual speech team, who put on their annual FHS Speakers’ Night as part of Fairfield First Fridays. It tied into the theme of this month’s event, titled “Youth Art: Celebrating Our Creative Future.”

The students have been honing their performances for several weeks, and used Friday as an opportunity to prepare for the state competition. Of the high school’s 20 entries, 15 earned Division I ratings at the district contest Feb. 24, and that means they will get to perform March 10 at the state competition at Cedar Rapids Kennedy High School.

Students participate in a number of categories. Some read poetry. Some write their own speeches on subjects dear to them. Others prepare a song, while some have only minutes to plan a performance before they take the stage for improvisation.

Though the performers are only teenagers, they are not afraid to address mature topics. Mira Pappin recited a poem on contrasting views of war. Mich Putnam gave a performance on the horrors of sexual assault. Other performances were more lighthearted, such as Gunnar Mattson acting out a piece of prose titled “What if the Shark from Jaws Kept a Diary?”

The Ledger had a chance to catch up with a few of the students after Friday’s performance.


Harper Fiske

Sophomore Harper Fiske read a piece of prose called “The Pacific” about a 14-year-old girl and her sister, who was released from a mental hospital.

“The piece comes to terms with the fact that the girl is related to her sister and she’s going to have to live with her for the rest of her life,” Fiske said. “Everyone has a different version of normal, and hers is having a sister who’s not like everybody else.”

Fiske said she’s been interested in breaking into drama because she’s played so many comedic roles in school plays. She liked the message in “The Pacific,” which spoke to her personally.

“I’ve had people close to me who are not the regular definition of normal, but I learned from a young age that that’s how families are,” she said.


Megan Higgins

Sophomore Megan Higgins performed a solo musical theater rendition of “The Wizard and I” from the Broadway musical “Wicked.” She found it while browsing through musical theater numbers online for mezzo and soprano parts. She asked FHS speech team instructor Fred Hucke what he thought of doing a piece from “Wicked,” and he suggested “The Wizard and I.” The song was performed by Idina Menzel, famous not only for her performance in “Wicked” but also for performing in “Rent” and for singing “Let It Go” in the 2013 film “Frozen.”

“We thought this song would be a good one to try out, even though Idina Menzel is very tough to be compared to,” Higgins said. “I saw ‘Wicked’ last summer, and it was incredible.”

Higgins said the piece has several challenging sequences of notes, and the high notes are at the top of her vocal range.

“I had to think about the acting a little bit to develop the character, because at this point, she’s just found out that the magic she’s had her whole life that she thought was a curse is actually a blessing and a gift,” Higgins said. “She’s trying to imagine that her life won’t be so bad after all.”


Mitchel Melvin

Senior Mitchel Melvin performed an improv routine that had the room in stitches. A few minutes before he went to the front of the room, Hucke gave him a short list of themes to choose from. The ones he chose were a burglar, a painter and a computer that comes to life. Melvin improvised a skit in which he played all three characters, his only prop being a chair. That mirrors what improv actors must do at competition.

“We have three minutes to draw our slips of paper and choose our characters,” he said. “Once we have them, we have three more minutes to plan what we’re going to do.”

Melvin said oftentimes ideas don’t start flowing until just before he takes the stage. In fact, he usually blanks out for the first half of his allotted planning time.

“I try to think of what voice I want to give each character, and once I have the voice figured out, the voice gives the personality to me,” he said. “A lot of times, I’ll do someone who sounds like a chain smoker, and that gives me all the traits I need.”

Even though the nature of improv means having to think of characters on the fly, it is a skill that can be honed through practice. Practice helps him develop a wide array of characters and voices that he can draw from when faced with only minutes to plan a skit. Plus, it instills good habits, such as remembering to demonstrate one’s character traits through acting and not just telling.

“You don’t want to say ‘I’m a painter’ at the beginning and then never return to that,” he said. “You want to show that you’re a painter.”




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