Masters of mouthing off

DDF requires research, quick thinking, silver tongues

Posted: Sunday, April 23, 2006

Drama, debate and forensics team members compete in a wide variety of events. On the debate side, there is policy — cross examination, or CX — debate, which pits two-person teams against one another, Lincoln-Douglas debate, which is one-on-one, and public forum debate, with two-person teams arguing informally, similar to televised political debates.

Debaters of all three sorts are given a resolution, which is a statement of a controversial nature, and give a series of speeches on either the affirmative (for) or negative (against) side. This year’s policy resolution is “The United States federal government should substantially decrease its authority to either detain without charge or search without probable cause.”

In policy debate, affirmative teams present a case, which includes a policy to be implemented. The negative side simply has to tear down the affirmative case.

With Lincoln-Douglas or value debate, both sides present a case anchored by a value, for example, “freedom.” The form is named Lincoln-Douglas after the slavery debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas.

With policy and Lincoln-Douglas debate, debaters find out which side they will be on on the day the round of debate will take place.

The third form of debate, called public forum, is literally a toss-up. The team winning a coin toss can decide which side to argue on or give the choice to the other team. These debates are much less formal, less research-intensive and shorter, without the presentation of an official case to be torn down or defended.

Competitive speaking events are even more wide-ranging. Humorous and dramatic interpretation let competitors pick a script to memorize and present. Duo interpretation is for two people and can be humorous or dramatic. Original orations are persuasive speeches written by the speaker, and the expository event has speakers reading the topical words of others. All of these speeches range from 6-10 minutes in length, and extemporaneous speaking, where competitors are given 30 minutes to prepare a speech on a given topic, are between 5 and 7 minutes long.

Drama categories are like speaking categories, but allow more movement and the use of props. There is a solo category, which allows humor or drama; a duet category, which is the same with two actors; a pantomime category, which is a three to six minute presentation without speaking; and reader’s theater, a group acting presentation up to 12 minutes long.

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