The landscape of high school Interp, I believe, has changed due to the addition of POI; and for the better. While I have yet to watch a single (HS) round of POI this season, I have had the privilege of being able to work with various students from around the country; each of whom brings a different approach to the “new” event. The single greatest quality, and the most important by far, is the platform we now give students to speak for something that is important to them. Each student to come my way has told me they felt a very personal connection to their work; as if it were speaking for them. Each was able to develop a concept, an argument, that was important to them and searched for the literature they felt necessary to realize their vision.
It’s basically as if DI and OO had a baby and their cradle was the binder. I mean, it’s much more complex than that makes it sound, but it’s about as close as I can get without boring you. It’s one of the coolest events out there, and I’d certainly be the first to say that I am not an expert in POI, but I am having fun exploring different styles and ideas.
This is where I want to give kudos to the NSDA for making it possible to add this event (and Info certainly deserves its own praise, etc. I’m sure we’ll get to that somewhere along the season). While they have maintained that it is a pilot event, one that is being developed and explored by the competitors as it plays out, I do believe by the time #Nats16 is over POI will be a staple in the NSDA world.
I have been told (and I will correct myself later if I am incorrect) that the NSDA will be meeting on the matter of what type of literature will be considered legal, for competition use, in the future. I respect their decision to see the development of the event unfold at Nationals, following the trends and the norms being utilized by coaches around the country, then meeting to discuss event specific limitations.
My hope is that the students, coaches, and the NSDA board members are moved by the personalization of each program, so as to realize that it would not be quite as diverse (in literature, tone, perspective) and rich (in character, history, context) if the limitations on online sources remain, at least for POI. I think everyone will become a fan of POI once they are able to watch their first national final round of this event; much in the way Duo was received back in 1996. Happy 20th Birthday, Duo.
Kristy Thomas Follow- Up
Back in June 2015 I wrote an article about written for student speeches, most notably as it pertained to Ms Kristy Thomas. After some time to think and an email I received from a concerned student (over a matter I will share below) I’ve decided to give the follow-up to that last article.
A student recently contacted me with concerns, that I’m sure were relayed to me because of my vocal stance over the summer, about them running a “KT” piece (which I will respectfully use throughout for the rest of this writing). This student has seen great success this season. However, this student has also received negative scores and ballots because the judges perceived that KT wrote the piece specifically for the student. My response to the student was lengthy but it essentially amounted to “I’m sorry, but this is the risk that you take when running a piece from an author known to write scripts for students.”
That was unfair, both to the student and to KT.
In fact, I’ve been unfair to KT.
I have a platform to be able to speak to people, and to help this student’s situation.
One of the biggest things that stood out to me during the mess my summer post created, was something someone said. It hit a nerve and at the same time resonated with me. I’m paraphrasing this, of course, but it was something to the extent of “KT writes scripts that are important stories that need to be told”.
At the time, I let the “nerve” part of me react with “there are millions upon millions of pieces of literature out there…” blah blah blah. However, underneath all that bravado, I knew there was truth to that statement. Before that duo last year, I don’t think we’d ever have seen the story of the Central Park Five come to life on the high school stage, or have that bit of history taught (something we all know isn’t taught in most schools) to a bunch of high school students. Especially with the limitations on internet sourced literature from the NSDA.
KT is very clearly a talented writer with a voice that is important and relevant to the times we live in. And here I had a student who was writing to me asking me what they could do to overcome this hurdle they’ve been encountering. A kid who chose a piece of work that spoke to them, that was not written for them, and who wants to spread a meaningful message.
So my call to all who read this and may have agreed with my last article on the matter - let’s cut some slack to the kids running KT pieces (and why the hell not, Rohan practically gives Don Zolidis a pass too… for now). KT is obviously writing pieces that are meaningful to people and who am I to say what is and is not an important message to spread? These students are tasked with finding literature that is important to them and they are asked to try to impress any person at any given time. This particular student felt a connection with KT’s script.
I want to be the first to admit when I’ve done something wrong and was harmful to someone. In this case, I was harmful to this student and KT. To them I am sorry. Let’s respect the student, the story, the message, and the performance. Your ranks should be based on your objective judging criteria, not the (quasi-political) disagreements coaches have over how things should or should not be done.
In the end, I may not agree with writing scripts for students, but I can also acknowledge that KT is writing the literature that comes closest to being relevant, new, fresh and did I mention relevant? It’s good stuff. So instead of assuming a student paid to have that script written for them, let’s just evaluate them the way we would anyone else - are they a good performer? was their character believable? was the cutting sufficient? was the story full? was the message clear?
I, too, promise to be more careful with my “ballots”.