I was competing in junior division at the Louisiana Tournament of Champions – our state tournament – and after a long weekend of practicing, performing, and running from round to round in heels, I was finally done competing. Exhausted, I went to watch the final round of Duet Acting.
Duet is an event that is not usually included in national competition, and is, in some states, not included in competition at the district level. It is a partner event, with contact, in which multiple characters are allowed. And basically, it’s awesome. Duet was the event everyone went to watch instead of Duo because it was more energetic and typically full of hilarious pieces. Think a contact version of H.I. with two actors and you’ve basically got it.
When I opened the door to the room, I considered turning around and leaving. It was completely packed; there were no empty desks, and students were sitting on the floor so they could still watch the round. After hesitating, I reluctantly walked inside and settled into a spot on the floor (my feet were killing me, after all).
The round started and it was everything I loved about Duet – great actors, a fast pace, immaculate character pops, a lot of absurd jokes, physical comedy and perfectly synchronized blocking. We all applauded at the end of a performance and I was laughing along with everyone else when two guys stood up to write their information on the board.
Everything I knew about speech was about to change.
They wrote the name of their piece – “Tigerland” – on the board. Tigerland, I thought. What a stupid name.
I was blown away by their performance. It was beyond any dramatic piece I’d ever seen – there were moments of humor in the script, but also an inexplicable sadness, and the connection between the actors was so developed, and it was clear they had practiced the piece a hundred times. During one scene, one of them played a drill sergeant, pacing back and forth with his back completely straight. He talked for three full minutes while his partner did pushups. I was impressed by their physical commitment to the piece, but it wasn’t until the last minute of the performance that I realized how much work they had put into the interpretation.
They did a battle scene in slow motion. Read that sentence again: they did a battle scene in slow motion. And believe it or not, they completely pulled it off. It was incredible. One of the characters was shot and killed while the other caught him in his arms and sobbed as he died. They timed it perfectly, and there was complete silence in the room for a full minute as everyone held their breath, waiting to find out how it would end.
After that round, I started to take speech more seriously. I realized there was more to speech and debate than performing in front of people and hanging out with my friends every weekend at tournaments. There is an art to acting and interpretation and cutting pieces, and it’s something that brings people together for ten minutes, experiencing something that can only happen once because it is unique every time.
Now, I know that Tigerland is a movie. I still haven’t seen it, but I’d be willing to bet the performance I saw would trump it easily.
Everyone remembers one fantastic speech performance. What’s yours?