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North Tama Speech prepares for Large Group Districts

January 18, 2019
CJ Eilers - Editor ( , Traer Star-Clipper

Students in the North Tama Speech program are hard at work getting ready for the Large Group Speech season, which will kick off with Districts on Saturday, Jan. 19 at Pella High School.

This year, North Tama has 10 students out for speech in two groups: one for Improv and the other for Short Film. Each group will perform at Pella High at a set time before a judge, who will award the group a rating based on their performance. Groups who receive a Division I rating will continue to State, but the ultimate goal of any group is to later be selected for the All-State Festival at Iowa State University in February.

"We are normally an individual speech school with our students competing later on, but I usually have an improv group every year," Levi LaRue, who has coached speech at North Tama for eight years, said. "I enjoy the group dynamic, the group communication, and helping them figure out what to do to come to a goal together. Anyone can do individual, but it takes a special group of kids to get the job done."

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North Tama students Jesse Ford, Logan Finzen, Xander Finzen and Stan Miller practice their improv and group skills as they prepare for Large Group Districts at Pella High School on Saturday, Jan. 19.

The Improv group consists of Stan Miller, Jesse Ford, Logan Finzen and Xander Finzen, who practice with LaRue mainly on Thursdays before school. During a recent rehearsal, the group acted several fun scenarios on the spot to sharpen their skills, including a skit with ketchup-flavored popsicles and another hiking in the dark. Subjects are drawn at random, so one day the group could be acting out a burglary or a musical night at a nursing home another day. The actors get two minutes to talk through a scene before setting up with chairs and delivering a performance in front of a judge.

"You have to have consistency in the story while also escalating the plot," Miller said. "We watch other improv skits to figure out what we can improve on. With improv, you're in the scene and interact with the others as such. It's based on teamwork, building up on each other. You have to find people you're compatible with, but also have contrast with to keep audiences on their toes."

Miller joined speech last year as a freshman after watching his brother perform with another category in the past. Taking on Improv instead, Miller uses his ability to come up with ideas quickly and being "decently funny" to create a skit with his group in mere minutes.

"This is the current improv group's second year together," LaRue said. "They came in as freshman last year not knowing anything about speech. The first time they saw anyone else do this was when they went to contest, 20 minutes before their own. They've grown a lot and are starting to really gel together. It's just hard to get everyone here at the same time because of conflict of schedules."

North Tama will also have their Short Film presenting at District, with the group consisting of Christian Steinwandt, Brady Riechmann, DaLynn Pokorny, Andreas Weber, Sable Fehr and Sonja Toulouse.

"This will the third Short Film our school had done since I've been here and is a pretty new category in speech," LaRue said. "The group sat down, looked at a script and we figured how long it would be. We found a cast to fill the roles. They are in the process of filming. I'm a little hands off until they get done filming and then I will help them with editing, cutting."

While participation is as high as with Individual Speech, which comes after Large Group is over, these ten students and their two groups have enjoyed the creative process that starts as early as practicing in late November to the last two weeks before heading to Pella.

"I think speech is a great thing and more should be out," Miller said. "It's a good way to build up self-confidence."

After weeks of rehearsal, finishing touches and advice from LaRue, the instructor hopes his groups come away with their expectations met.

"I expect these groups to do better than last year and to improve on their material," LaRue said. "If we get I ratings, we go on to State. If not, we go home. As long as they are having fun and they feel proud about what they've accomplished, I'm ok with that."

Check back with the Traer Star-Clipper for results from Districts at Pella High School in the January 25 issue. Coverage will also be provided for Individual speech later in February.



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