The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Heidi Zemach
For The LOG 

Drama, debate and forensics team hosts first local tournament


Heidi Zemach | For The LOG

Drama, Debate and Forensics team timers and onlookers and their parents react to an amusing Reader’s Theater skit by Seward’s team called “Awkward Situations.”

Seward High School’s Drama, Debate and Forensics team, now in its second year, hosted its first home tournament Monday, Feb 4 with Nikiski’s DDF team. The SHS team has grown from seven students last year to 13 students this year. And now the middle school has a team, too. Its eight members helped out with the tournament, timing the various events. They’ll showcase some of their acting abilities at the Seward Site Council meeting in March.

The competition began Monday with a series of acting-related events held simultaneously throughout the school. In the music room Hayden Tiner and Sebastian Kratz, with their “Duet Acting” skit, went up against some mighty talented Nikiski actors including Annaleah Ernst, Hannah Halliday, Hannah Tauriainen, Richard Vollersten and Tiffany Lopez. Their tense skit about a man dealing with having accidentally killed another man he barely knew during a drunken brawl, drew tears from audience members. But the Reader’s Theater production of “Awkward Situations,” performed by Maddy Rae, Josephine Braun, Griffin Plush and Sebastian Kratz had quite the opposite reaction. The Seward team has particularly excelled in Reader’s Theater events, said their coach Augusta Lind.

Meanwhile the Seward students and parents were mighty impressed with Annaleah and Lauren Countryman’s performance – in Shakespearean English no less – of a farce involving Juliet from “Romeo and Juliet,” and her overblown romantic encounter with another female fan.

Nikiski’s DDF coach Joe Rizzo has been coaching high school teams there since 1998. At one point his team had 30 members, but now has 11, perhaps in part due to the declining school enrollment due to the closure of various industrial plants. The team was delighted to get the chance to compete in Seward during a week day, rather than having to travel to Anchorage, and overnight in a hotel, which takes quite a bit of fundraising, said Rizzo. He also was pleased to witness the growth of the new Seward team, which he helped get off its feet as he had helped the Homer and Skyview high teams earlier.

SHS team’s coach Augusta Lind is proud of her team member’s individual growth, especially their improvements over last year, which, she said has been evident. By training for DDF, and participating in tournaments, the students gain in social skills, speaking skills and ability to articulate, to reason logically, and especially they gain in their own self-confidence, said Lind. They also learn to develop team unity, to suppress micro-aggressions, the importance of appearance, the ability to understand and play different characters, and to research and then argue both various sides of current affairs.

Heidi Zemach | For The LOG

Rachel Tougas debates current U.S. economic policy with China during a Public Forum Debate in the SHS Theater.

Those traits all were evident in watching these teenagers perform their skits and debate, especially watching Rachel Tougas and Kara Knotek debate with the smart Nikiski girls the finer points of the U.S. economic trade policy with China. Their discussion about whether the “Petro Dollar” provides greater market stability than Junk Trades, using soybeans and wheat to help pay down global debt, was probably above most of the audience members’ heads. When Tougas began to relax she confidently proclaimed, “Nobody’s breaking our kneecaps! China gave the United Nations $52 billion to fight climate change! That’s a huge amount, and we should be grateful for that money.”

“It’s just wonderful,” said parent Denise Plush. “They put a lot of time and effort into it.” As a result of being on the team, she has seen her son Griffin become more social, and even more articulate about the issues he believes in.


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