Evening of random DDF entertains, raises funds

With the biggest team they’ve ever had — 33 going to tournaments — the Homer High School’s Drama, Debate and Forensics team is headed to Anchorage’s East High School for a two-day tournament on Friday and Saturday.

“We’ve been very successful, not just in competition, but also in functioning as a team,” said Amy Johnson, the team advisor. “I’m really impressed with how they’re becoming a cohesive group.”

There is another tournament Jan. 31-Feb. 1 at Service High in Anchorage and the state tournament at East on Feb. 13-15. With a limit of 15 she can take to state, Johnson said she would announce who those 15 are on Feb. 5.

Before the Service meet and the state competition, however, is Random Acts of DDF, the club’s biggest fundraising event. It is held at Homer High beginning with a silent auction at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 21. Tickets are $5 for adults, $3 for students and seniors.

Auction items include tickets to Homer Council on the Arts’ presentation of Lunasa, Alaska artist jewelry from Art Shop Gallery, movie passes from Homer Theatre, gift certificates for golden king crab from Seafoods of Alaska and for oysters from the Jakolof Bay Oyster Company.

“There also will be homemade treats and other items made by students,” said Johnson.

At 7 p.m., the action moves into the Mariner Theatre where students will present pieces from this season’s tournaments. 

“We look for pieces that would appeal to a broad audience,” said Johnson. “And we try really hard to get as many students on stage as possible.” 

The silent auction closes at the end of intermission, but that doesn’t end the evening’s random excitement.

“What I can tell you is that there will be a live event going on that we strongly encourage people to have cash for,” said Johnson.

Last year’s event was a staged invasion by Batman villains and the lack of available funds to turn on the Bat signal. The 2013 evening raised more than $4,000 for the club and Johnson is hoping to do the same on Tuesday.

Participating in DDF costs each student a $150 activity fee, with every tournament costing an additional $30-$40.

“With six tournaments a year, DDF is really expensive,” said Johnson. 

A bump in the club’s fundraising, support from the district and using Lumen Christi High School for lodging for Anchorage tournaments has helped reduce the club’s travel budget. With continued fundraising, Johnson said it was possible the students would only be responsible for the $150 fee this year.

DDF offers multiple benefits for students.

“It lets them have some very creative outlets, especially in the acting and pantomime events, as well as teaching them to speak well in front of people, the forensics aspect, and how to present logical arguments in debate,” said Johnson. “These are skills that will help later in life.”

Supporting DDF also has benefits for the here and now.

“Many studies show marked improvement with a wide variety of academic skills as a result of participation in competitive debate,” according to “The Benefits of Debate” handout Johnson has available. “Debate students excel in written and oral communication, and greatly improve their reading comprehension, sometimes 25 percent more than their peers.” 

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.