Brandy Mayo and Jade Cook read from the team’s politically correct version of “Snow White”. Alexis Grieser practices her original oration, “Blame” in a break room at the State DDF meet on the UAA campus. - Molly Dischner

Skagway DDF team bonds at State Tournament

Seniors Alexis Grieser, Brandy Mayo reach finals in last meet


ANCHORAGE – In room after room at the state meet in Anchorage last week, Skagway School’s Drama, Debate and Forensics Team entertained and educated their audiences at UAA.
Freshman Jade Cook and seniors Alexis Grieser and Brandy Mayo recited memorized pieces (or made a speech up on the spot) more than 20 times at the competition. Their audiences ranged from just three or four spectators to more than a dozen people. And their topics ranged from fairytales to fairly serious advice.
By late Friday afternoon – more than halfway through the competition – coach Teagen Baldwin had good news. At that point in the competition, no one had done worse than third place.
Judges for the competition were mostly UAA debate students, with other students and community members filling in where needed. Each time a DDF student recited a piece, there was one judge. At the end of a round (there were three preliminary rounds for all of the events the Skagway girls competed in), the judge ranked the competitors and gave them written feedback, which Mayo said they would receive at the end of the meet, and open as a team.
“That’s our tradition,” she said.
Rooms had as many as six people, but Skagway never did worse than third.
In fact, Grieser and Mayo did well enough to each make finals in one of their events.
Grieser finaled in the oration that she had written this fall and practiced all season, called “Blame.” In original oration, students are asked to write a speech that is between eight and ten minutes long.
Mayo said that the speeches often address a problem with the status quo and offer a solution. Greiser’s problem was Americans’ inability to accept responsibility. She wove Reliant K lyrics, a parable about a cupcake and quotes from a variety of Americans into her eight minutes and change speech.
In the final round, the orations weren’t timed. When Grieser wasn’t worrying about the clock, she left enough room to laugh at the funny parts, Baldwin said.
“That was the best she’s ever done,” she said afterwards.
Mayo also did an oration, which was about manners.
Both said they chose their topics after lots of brainstorming.
“I can’t write about something I don’t care about,” Grieser explained.
Mayo finaled in extemporaneous commentary, which required her to draw a slip of paper with a topic, and give a speech on it 20 minutes later.
Sometimes she got lucky with the topics – like when she drew the game Settlers of Catan.
“I could talk about that game for five hours,” she said afterwards.
Other rounds were more difficult, like the philosophy round where she drew John Stuart Mills’ Marketplace of ideas. The final round was an entirely different challenge. Mayo was expected to talk about a political cartoon for her two- to five-minute speech.
Cook tried a drama event called Dramatic Interpretation.
“This is the real tearjerker stuff,” Baldwin described the category, and said it was first time coaching it.
But Cook acted out “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allen Poe, giving life to two separate, and believable, characters. Even her eyes matched whomever she was speaking for at any given moment.
The trio combined for their first event of the meet, called Reader’s Theater. In that event, competitors read (memorizing is not allowed, Mayo explained) an already published work. They chose a politically correct version of Snow White, which had the audience laughing.
Cook began a frog, a princess and other characters, as Grieser and Mayo were argumentative narrators with two views of the story. Every so often, they sang a relevant line or three from a popular song.
From outside the room, their short bursts of song sounded like a chorus larger than just the three of them.
Other teams combined multiple published works to create a story, and many incorporated song into their pieces.
Baldwin said that DDF is the best after-school activity she’s seen. She didn’t compete in it as a student, but said she thought the lessons and outlet it provided students was unbeatable. And, she said, it’s a chance for kids who don’t excel at sports to enjoy something they’re good at.
Mayo agreed. It was her last meet.
“I’ll miss DDF,” she said, adding that that isn’t true of very many things in high school.
Although the Skagway girls didn’t take home any hardware, other teams from Southeast did.
“Southeast’s da bomb,” Mayo joked when talking about how the region operates. But at the final awards ceremony on Saturday, she was proven correct.
Students from Ketchikan, Sitka, Juneau and Haines all took awards for their individual events.
Sitka High School got second place overall for small schools, first place for small schools debate sweepstakes, and second for the forensics sweepstakes. Haines won the small schools sportsmanship award and second place for the small schools drama sweepstakes award. Juneau took home second place in both forensics and drama sweepstakes for large schools.

Editor’s note – Former Skagway News reporter intern Molly Dischner graduated from UAF last May and is now a reporter for the Kenai Peninsula Clarion.

UPDATE - Based on her performance in Anchorage, Alexis Grieser qualified for national competition in the Catholic Forensics League.