Speak, when will it ever shut-up?

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I have not competed on the speech circuit for four years but I can still tell you some of the more popular pieces from my area: The Trotsky Variations, that one with the funeral parlor where the girl is grieving over her husband’s death and an ignorant guy comes and gets her to do some keening, numerous O.C. pieces, that one with Kitch, and Speak. Maybe I am biased because I did not have to sit through many rounds with numerous competitors doing the same comedic pieces, but I do remember wishing Speak would be silenced. I understand the appeal. It has a story that relates to the female majority of Prosers, has good structure, and an interesting narrator. You really do feel for the girl and wish with every fiber she speak to free her soul. But that does not change that I can tell you the basic plot of that story without having ever read the book. Girl gets horribly raped, girl feels ashamed/gets ridiculed/suffers depression, girl finally confronts her assaulter and finds inner peace (if I am wrong on any of this I apologize but it has been four years). I am not trying to make light of rape; it is a terrible experience I would wish on no one, but it is easy to see why it would appeal to the Prose circuit.

HOWEVER, at what point do you say that the piece needs to be retired? Recently I became aware that Speak is still “novel” and considered a solid, good piece for Prose. Really? I hardly remember many Prose pieces from high school, but I remember Speak. How many times have I seen that piece performed with roughly the same cutting? Enough that I remember the basic plot and have absolutely no interest in reading the actual book anymore.

This brings up a great question: how long can a piece keep getting recycled before it is retired? Indefinitely I suppose. As far as I know there are no rules that regulate the usage of a piece in regards to how often it can appear on the circuit. That leaves it to self-restraint and humans as a species have little; especially in our present society. We like everything NOW and when we see a good thing we try to emulate it with fervor.

I may be playing the Grinch, but I feel as a performer I would try to be original in my work. I understand that certain pieces will always be in use. BUT, can’t we all agree that if a piece has been used over and over for years it is time to let it rest? Pick up an old favorite. Discover a new classic. Find a new cutting of the popular pieces. Anything! I feel that this repetition not only tires the judges’ nerves but also wears on the piece. Speak explores the consequences of rape, and as horrific as rape is, if one hears of it on loop one becomes somewhat desensitized to it. ANYTHING when on repeat becomes trivialized. As a thinking species, we have to pull ourselves away from the grisly nature of certain events and occurrences; otherwise all we would do is weep in the fetal position from the cruelty of life.

Alright, so this blog is not entirely about Speak. It was my hook. But my point still remains: overuse of a piece is a wonderful way to bore your audience/judge, become a copy-cat, and turn a serious issue into a yawn. I know going green is popular, but must we practice excessive recycling in speech?

If they want to score badly with an overused piece, let them...lower numbers for us :)

Do you EVER see a boring charlie and the chocolate factory, or Wizard of Oz winning duo anymore? No, you don't. Same reason you never see Speak win.

hahaha, good point!  Let people use overdone material--makes it easier for the rest of us!

I've always wondered, do you think that even if someone had a good cutting and great performance of an overdone piece, would the judge deduct points based on the grounds that they are tired of seeing that piece?  Is that even ethical to give a lower rank solely for that reason?  I guess someone would have to be really refreshing with the piece to even stand a chance.       

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