Individual speech team prepares for state contest

After a successful contest at Districts, the speech team is busy with preparations for the individual state speech contest. Students from all over the state gather to present work in various formats including musical theater, prose, public address and many more. 

Sophomore Malina Amjadi is competing in the musical theater category. She has been preparing for quite a while, using time after school to rehearse with coaches and taking time to work individually. 

“Our speech team continues to use the momentum from making state and all-state levels in the large group category into our preparations for individual contest. Serious care and purpose goes into the creation of these performances, but that doesn’t mitigate the laughs we have whether in a rehearsal or right before performing,” Amjadi said. “The competition is about the same as any other year, but Cedar Falls is definitely at our best.”

Joining Amjadi in the musical theater category at State is sophomore Caroline Schaefer. She spent time selecting her piece so that it would fit her individually. “I’m performing Alyssa Greene from ‘The Prom.’ I chose it as it’s been a favorite of mine since the musical came out in 2018, and it sits well in my vocal range,” said Schaefer. 

Coach Danae Dieken has been one of the masterminds behind the individual state season, helping students plan out pieces and rehearse before and after school. She said that one of the most important parts of the rehearsal process is deciding on a piece that fits each student individually. “Even when doing something silly, we want to bring authenticity and energy to the piece. We try and find pieces that are in the sweet spot of a challenge and something the student can own and make theirs. We never just want to copy the way someone else performed the piece, and we always want to honor what ideas students bring to the table.”

Amjadi spent time with coaches selecting her piece as well. “I am singing the musical theater piece ‘Green Finch and Linnet Bird’ from Sweeney Todd. The accompaniment caught my attention just as much as the lyrics intrigued me, so my coaches and I did some research. One hour and 57 minutes of screen time made short, my character is a young girl trapped in an older man’s house who unjustly has custody over her. In the song I compare myself to a caged bird who cannot sing,” Amjadi said. 

After competing at State, a few select students will be honored with an all-state nomination and get to perform at a special contest. It’s a high honor that many hope to get, but few receive. Amjadi and Schaefer are two of many students at Cedar Falls who are working toward this goal, keeping busy with rehearsals outside of school to prepare. 

“We have many students trying events for the first time and a few key leaders that have been extremely welcoming and supportive to younger students.” Dieken said. “Students practice a minimum of twice a week with a coach in the library. I really wanted to increase the sense of family and togetherness in individual season, since you know, you’re alone most of the time, so we practice in the library all together so students can work together on their pieces and get a peer perspective.”

Amjadi said that working with the speech coaches has been an integral part of preparing for contest. “The coaches help us prepare by sparking conversations which give us a deeper understanding of the characters we portray. Our coaches work with us on the processes of blocking, emoting and inflecting,” Amjadi said. 

Long rehearsals have been key in forming bonds between team members and igniting new friendships. “My favorite part of speech is everyone you meet. I’ve made so many amazing friends these past two years, including one of my best friends who I can’t imagine my life without,” Schaefer said. 

Amjadi echoed Schaefer’s sentiment, saying that the best part of speech is meeting new people and getting to form new bonds. “My best memories of speech come from the people in it. Bus rides, rehearsals, in between performances in a wild gym of drama children hyped with adrenaline all prove how fiercely supportive this group of people can be,” Amjadi said. 

At the end of the day, working hard and preparing is all in hopes of presenting the best possible product at contest. “My favorite part is simultaneously speech is a competition and a celebration; at the end of the day you can say, ‘Well, this is a subjective art form and your rating doesn’t get to impact my self-worth,’ or ‘Man, that really validated all my hard work.’ Anyone willing to put in the work can do well, and opportunities like that are hard to find,” Dieken said. “I would love for students to keep pushing themselves to bring more authenticity to their performances and have so much fun. Of course, a few All-State nods wouldn’t hurt.”

Schaefer said that the memories and lessons learned from speech are something everyone should get to experience at one point in their high school careers. “If anyone isn’t sure if they want to do speech or not next year, I would encourage them to come to the meeting and see what it’s all about,” Schaefer said. “You may just realize it’s the extracurricular you were looking for.”

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