MORRIS – An audience of students and supporters of the Morris Community High School Speech Team experienced a range of emotions Thursday night. One minute they were laughing, the next they were crying as they watched teammates act out what they are scheduled to perform today at the regional competition in Coal City.
Senior Kirsten Bridgeman performed a dramatic interpretation about a woman with Tourette syndrome that has earned her multiple first place awards at this season’s meets.
“The piece is very physically demanding,” she said. “I not only have to strain my voice but also repeat motions of my body jerking.”
She put a lot of time and effort into her performance to make it realistic, researching and watching videos online to perfect the acting required to pull off the performance.
Coach Andrea Gustafson said she helped Bridgeman do a lot of the research so she could perform the piece truthfully and do it justice.
“It’s an advanced piece,” she said. “She’s really good at it.”
Gustafson said speech teams have changed over the years since she herself was a speech team member.
“Research is at their fingertips now, they don’t just read about it,” she said. “They can get tips from past state winners.”
She said while they are encouraged to watch, they are aware they shouldn’t copy pieces but instead learn what makes a performance in their category good.
YouTube is where senior Eric Robinson went to research his role for his Humorous Interpretation event.
In Robinson’s speech he takes on “Almost the Bride of Dracula” and reduces the play to an 8-minute speech where he plays not only Dracula but also Dracula’s mother and the three women he almost marries.
“The accent is the most difficult part, although I picked it up well,” he said. “Listening to different people portray Dracula on YouTube helped me to pick up on the speech.”
Gustafson said the most difficult part for a speech like Robinson’s is keeping the characters straight throughout the entire performance.
“Humorous Interpretation is difficult when they take on a play and instead of creating one character they have to create several,” Gustafson said. “They also have to not be afraid to look silly.”
Looking silly and getting laughs is not a problem for Robinson, who said he is relatively funny, which makes the presentation not a huge stretch for him.
“It’s awesome making people laugh,” he said. “The people who perform in my event laugh and I get to laugh when they perform.”
There are 26 students on the regional team and 52 students on the entire speech team.
Most of the students perform the same piece from the beginning of the season in November through the end of the season, which can lead them through regionals to sectionals and eventually to state.
“I’ve done relatively well with my speech, but I’ve made a lot of improvements over the last couple of weeks,” Robinson said.
The team works with Gustafson and assistant coaches Denise Gaska and Eva Schutter, as well as past speech team members who come back to help out, and they work with each other to improve.
“What really impresses me about this team is how much they help one another,” Gustafson said. “They’ve had a lot of success, and they are so collaborative.”
Bridgeman said being on the speech team has taught her how to publicly speak and given her confidence when she needs to give a speech in one of her classes.
“It will help me as I move on to bigger and better things,” she said. “I plan to pursue speech in college, and being on the team has prepared me for that, as well.”
Robinson said on top of confidence, he believes it will be applicable to other aspects of day to day life, as well as in college.