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  • Amber Justmann

My Thoughts on Fullerton Invitational

This last weekend I had the absolute pleasure of traveling to the Fullerton Invitational with Juan De La Cruz as a Centennial Coach! When I was in high school, this tournament seemed like the absolute bees knees because it was right after finals, there was a lot of great competition, and my team always went to Disneyland before they came back to Arizona. However, by some horrible twist of fate, I was never allowed to go to this tournament (lookin' at you, Mom). So obviously, I was pretty darn excited when my plane touched down at LAX, though whether that's because of the tournament or my paralyzing fear of flying is anyone's guess.

This was my first ever California tournament as a coach and Juan has done nothing but tell me how much different California speech is from Arizona competition so I was dying to see what all the fuss was about.

Here's what I saw that was "so much different" than what I'm used to:

  • Instead doing the Power Clap at awards they called it the One Clap Rule (I stand by that this is a ridiculous name and the Power Clap will forever live on in my heart)

  • California has like three hundred events per tournament! No joke, here's the list: DI, HI, DUO, OO, IMP, EXT, Thematic Interpretation, Original Advocacy, Original Prose Poetry, Oratorical Interpretation, Expository Speaking, and Congress.... California, you're out of control. Go home and take a nap.

  • I've never in my life eaten so well at a tournament. Seriously. I woke up to drool on my pillow after dreaming about the baked beans..... mmmmmm- Great. There I go again.

  • They gave out champion belts for the winner. UFC status. I'm not kidding.

Looking at that, it seems as though the differences can be whittled down to luxury and changing names of beloved awards traditions.

But other than that... I didn't really see what all the fuss was about...


The tournament was flighted so over the course of the day I watched three rounds (TI Prelim, DI Sem, HI Final) and judged three more (OPP Prelim, OI Prelim, TI Sem). As always, prelims were a hit or miss and outrounds were much stronger (go figure), but I really didn't see much that blew me to pieces. Sure Fullerton (the majority of the entry) was chalk full of clean performances and a few random entries had promise but overall it simply felt like the beginning of a season where people were still gaining a footing with new literature and trying things out in front of an audience

Here's where I contradict myself though and point out a few people that need to be mentioned:

  • Fullerton's Luka and Vargas Williams in TI and DI: Holy crow. No. It's not even fair. Luka makes performing look like freaking NOTHING and Vargas Williams has this thing about her that makes me think I could sit through another Wizard of Oz piece if she was the one doin' it. Yeah, there we go. I don't want to see any more Oz pieces this season unless it's Luka and Vargas Williams. Write that down.

  • Centennial's Bransby in HI: I HAVE SO MANY BIASES but you're going to bear with me. Sure her TI is my baby and her HI is the newest 3P Publishing piece which is reason enough for her to make my list but she is also pure dynamite. I haven't seen a girl bring that much energy and commitment to HI since Miss. White and if she keeps it up, I have a feeling she'll be a force to be reckoned with by Berkeley.

  • Schurr's Tyler Tippings in DI: Fact: Neil LaBute is one of my favorite playwrights. Fact: Bash is one of my favorite books in the world. No joke, Juan told me about this piece before we got to the tournament and I walked into it heart set on getting into one of his rounds. Fact: Amber Justmann did NOT get to see Tippings' winning performance of Iphigenia in Orem..... Whatever. I'm crying. No big deal.

Anyway, after an early awards ceremony (where I watched Centennial win Sweeps! Yay!) and nine hours at LAX, my adventure to Fullerton came to an end. Overall, a great experience. No I didn't get to go to Disneyland (LOOKIN' AT YOU, MOM) but I did get to see some passionate kids at the beginning of what looks to be an interesting season.

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