As junior Avalon Barr stands “center stage” in a Mercy classroom, she begins to recite her prose excerpt from Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper, transforming herself into a young girl with cerebral palsy as her first character, and continuing the 10-minute scene with countless other voices, positions, and characters. Oral Interpretation, the category of forensics which Barr competes in, is an acting category where one memorizes a prose and poetry literature selection and interprets them for the judge, using only a small binder to hold as a guide. This category, as well as many other categories in forensics are performed without the use of other actors, props, costumes, or makeup, making it a challenge for the actors to paint a true picture for the judges.
Other popular categories in forensics are Dramatic Interpretation, similar to Oral Interp but instead the actor recites a scene from a movie or play; Dramatic Duo, exactly like Dramatic Interp but instead with two actors; and Extemporaneous Speaking, a category where one creates an on the spot response to a critical question in the world today.
The Mercy Forensics team, comprised of girls ranging from sophomores to juniors joined the team to enhance their passion for acting and public speaking. To become eligible for the team, a prerequisite class of Oral Interpretation must be taken sophomore year. Being a team sport, the forensics team also awards its best performers in each category a varsity letter at the end of each season.
A varsity letter and the opportunity to compete at the Grand National Tournament are two major perks driving each performer to excel in her category.
“It’s a big goal for everyone to qualify for Nationals,” said Barr. “Only three competitors from each category qualify to go, so I think it’s a big deal.”
This year, Barr and 13 other Mercy students will attend the Catholic Forensics League Grand National Tournament in Washington, D.C. over Memorial Day weekend (May 25-28).
Although the experience at Nationals is a fun time to bond with the team and improve one’s skills as a performer, the process to make it to that final stage is very lengthy.
To prepare for weekly tournaments with performers from other Catholic schools in the area such as Orchard Lake St. Marys and U of D Jesuit, actors choose a 10-minute piece from their category and work tirelessly to ensure its memorization. Most actors keep this piece for all tournaments and do their best to prime it for the final competitions, especially National Qualifiers. This is the tournament that determines which actors will compete at Nationals, choosing only the best three performers from each category.
Although the competition rooms are only school classrooms with few people inside, competitions can be very tense.
“The nerves are unreal for me, but they get better with each round,” said Barr who is now a two-year veteran on the forensics team. “I remember for the first tournament I was so nervous that I could hear my heart beating in my chest as I walked up to do my piece.”
Barr and the other team members surely credit their accomplishments to their team as well as their coach, Mrs. Isabelle Moore.
“We all owe a lot to her for teaching, helping, and supporting us along the way,” said Barr.
Though forensics is a demanding sport, Barr has had an unforgettable experience both years she has participated on the forensics team.
As the season ends, Barr and her teammates are proud of their accomplishments: qualifying for Nationals and improving as performers.
“I think it’s truly rewarding because we all put so much work into our performances,” said Barr who loves to convey many emotions with her pieces. “It’s so cool that I can take words on paper and create a story with my actions.”