By Daniel Strang
Chewie Discusses the Overdone Piece Argument
Daniel Strang, better known as “Chewie,” currently judges and coaches speech events for Park Hill South HS in Kansas City, MO. As a competitor, he was a finalist at the Missouri State Tournament in Duo, qualified to NFL Nationals in Duo, and was a finalist in HI and Duo at nearly every tournament during his senior year. He wrote this during his sophomore year at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
The subject of overdone pieces is a tricky one. Almost every piece that we see performed in forensics has been performed before at some point. Piece selection is often based on how well certain pieces have been performed by other competitors.
Some pieces are just better than others for forensics competition, so this is not always a bad thing. What is bad is when a performer chooses a piece based solely on the credentials of its previous performances.
No matter how good you are, you will not be able to duplicate the performance of a national champion using the same piece. The key to winning big tournaments isn’t to try and be exactly like those who won them before. Instead, you must find what’s right for you, as a performer, and fulfill your own maximum potential.
After Nick Kanellis won NFL Nationals in 2002 with “Sideways Stories from Wayside School”, I had the pleasure/misfortune of judging that same piece next year. It was done by two different forensicators, both of whom gave rather poor performances (and I’m being quite generous here). I was downright annoyed. I never had the opportunity to see Kanellis perform, but his performance must have been light years ahead of either of the two I judged. I realized that they had not chosen this piece because they thought it would make a good HI, but rather, they had chosen the piece because someone else had already done well with it. Neither one received higher than a 3 in their round.
So how do you choose a piece that’s right for you, without stealing from others? The answer is simple: ignore the performances of others, and find a piece you like. By focusing on your own strengths, instead of the strengths of others, you can find the piece for you, and not the piece that was for someone else. After you find the piece that suits you, create your own blocking and characterization. Here’s the best part: If you find a piece that you enjoy and do well, you don’t even have to worry about whether or not it’s overdone.
I performed two well-known pieces my senior year: “Removing the Glove” (HI), and “I Bring You Flowers” (Duo). I was not worried about whether or not these pieces were overdone, because I had never heard of them. It was only later that I had found out that Removing the Glove had been performed for almost a decade around forensics circles, and I Bring You Flowers had been performed in our own district. None of this mattered, however, because we performed our own cuttings, and our own versions of these pieces, and ended up in finals in both events in our district.
The most important part of finding a piece is to do something that fits your style. Find a piece that you like, perform it well, and it won’t matter whether or not it’s overdone. When you’re on stage, the only person’s performance that matters is your own.