The unexpected theatrics of speech

Alexis Kerr, Bailey Helmick, Rebecca Arteaga and Amanda Layfield perform “Lurking in a Miracle.” (Chloe Hernandez/Lariat)

Without much prior knowledge of the field of speech, I walked into the Speech and Debate Showcase on Friday evening expecting a team of serious faced, no nonsense individuals to show off pompous speaking skills to a bored audience. This could not have been further from the truth.

The self-realization of my ignorance and stereotyped driven thoughts came almost immediately as the first speaker of the night, Joshua Teincuff, was given two minutes to form a five-minute impromptu speech. The speech that came next captivated me through its use of anecdotes ranging from Harry Potter characters to the whistleblower from the Department of Health and Human Services, all of which boiled down the ever-important act of honoring the bravery one must possess to stand up and speak out against ideas they see as morally wrong.

As the speech drew to a close, I was still coming to terms with the realization that this night would be so much more interesting than anticipated.

The second speaker, Christiana Galindo, took control of the stage and the ignorance was once again shaken from me. She performed a dramatic interpretation of the story of a mother/son son relationship, and how the mother eventually came to terms with the death of said son. Humor transformed into tragedy which circled back to, if not happiness, acceptance and comfort.

At the speech’s conclusion, my fellow audience members and I were left teary-eyed and moved by the emotional roller coaster we were just put through.

Payton Dodd, the third speaker, took to stage and faced an audience still entranced by the poignant nature of Galindo’s dramatic interpretation. Dare I say it, she turned our frowns upside down through her hilariously satirical speech on the dangers of political lobbyism.

She embodied lobbyists everywhere and pointed out their selfish, egotistical nature through self-deprecating jokes that had an often-crude nature (to the audience’s enjoyment).

The final performance of the night was the Reader’s Theatre premier of “Lurking in the Miracle,” enacted by Alexis Kerr, Bailey Helmick, Rebecca Arteaga and Amanda Layfield.

This performance especially exemplified the theatric nature of speech as it included synchronized acting, singing, choreography, props, all of which the performers seemed to master. If there were any mistakes made in this run-through, it was barely noted by the audience.

Each and every performance showed me that my knowledge of the field of speech barely scraped the surface.

But, I was not the only person who was left stunned by this performance. “I was expecting to hear a dry debate on social issues, but I was pleasantly surprised by the artistic spin they put on the delivery of their messages” said Carmen Hernandez, Saddleback student, after the showcase had ended.

“I feel like when you hear the word ‘speech’ most people assume you stand behind a podium and read from notecards,” said Lucas Ochoa, Saddleback College Speech Instructor in charge of the team. “In reality, it’s about changing society for good, using our voices in performance.”

This point made by Ochoa that the performance nature of speech is the aspect that changes society really struck a chord with me. The reason each of the performer’s messages stuck so well with me is because of theatric quality. If each of the speaker’s topics stayed the same, but were explained through the stuffy, monotone way I expected them to the profound meaning would not be the same. I enjoyed the performance and therefore held onto the message being provided.

If you are like me and I did not view speech in any way other than boring, I encourage you to attend the next speech showcase. Whether you love or hate the theatricality of it, your perspective will be changed for the better.