As they went to Anchorage to compete in a tournament at West Anchorage High School last weekend, each member of the Homer High School DDF team had three words on his or her mind: drama, debate, and forensics.
DDF is a statewide competitive activity that tests high school students’ ability to perform publicly in each of the three stated categories. The Homer High team, which has been around for 12 years, practices each week to prepare for competition.
Within each category at the tournament, there were 15 different events the team could participate in.
In the drama section, team members participated in interpretations, miming, reader’s theater, and both duet and solo acting.
The second letter stands for debate. The team participated in two types of debate: a solo debate concerned with ethics and a partner debate in which students argued cases about public issues.
Lastly, the forensic part of the acronym consisted of different types of “extemporaneous commentary” — the student was given a topic and then had to give a speech on it.
When asked about the most important part of Drama, Debate, and Forensics, freshman DDFers and the team captains all gave answers filled with anecdotes of community and accomplishment.
Team captain Nolan Bunting said of the team, “We are not individuals who compete. We are a family that works for the good of the whole and the little.”
Carly McLean, also a team captain, shared Bunting’s sentiment, saying, “It’s a relatively individual activity, but we also function as a team.”
While the team agreed on the importance of community, they all had very different ideas on what was key on an individual level.
Freshman Galen Lyon says that to him DDF is important because it allows him to spend considerable amounts of time with people that he cares about.
McLean emphasized that it’s important to take DDF seriously, and that while occasionally it’s hard to remember, it’s still an event that the team competes in at a professional level.
Head Coach Amy Johnson said it’s important to her that she gets to watch her students flourish in all aspects of their lives.
The team could come up with countless skills that they had gained from participating, including public speaking and the ability to communicate better with others.
“Public speaking is probably one of the most important things that any person can have access to and understand how to do,” said Johnson.
Both team captains agreed that they had learned how to defend what they believed in through their participation in the forensics and debate events. Other skills that the captains agreed upon having gained were leadership and picking which battles were worth fighting.
Though there are many skills to gain from participating, team members also opened up about some of the challenges. Lyon and Bunting echoed one another when they talked about the time that students must put into preparing and memorizing their pieces.
“It takes a big chunk of your time out,” said Lyon. “You spend a lot of time sitting on your couch looking at a piece of paper.”
But Bunting explained that the time was worth it, as long as you didn’t try to over-work yourself.
While the team could name a few challenges, the team mostly recalled sizable amounts of rewarding times.
When asked if she had one thing she wanted to say about DDF as a whole, Coach Johnson said, “I love my job, I love the kids that I get to work with, and I love getting to know them outside of a school context, and the relationships I get to build with awesome kids.”
Bunting called DDF an experience he would remember forever.
When asked if there was anything he wanted Homer to know about DDF, Lyon said simply, “It’s fun. It seems like a stereotypical generic answer, but it’s true.”
DDF meets every Monday for debate, and Wednesday for all other events. Practice is from 3:30 to 5:30 at Homer High School. The season runs until the state tournament in February.
Ciara Cordes is a student at Homer High School. She also is on Alaska’s international poetry team.
Results from DDF Tourney at West Anchorage High
2nd Place, Humorous Interpretation – Jimmy Gao
2nd Place, Dramatic Interpretation – Eryn Gillam
2nd Place, Pantomime – Landon Bunting
3rd Place, Expository Speaking – Nolan Bunting
3rd Place, Duo Interpretation – Galen Lyon and Chloe Pleznac
4th Place, Dramatic Interpretation – Carly McLean
5th Place, Pantomime – Ciara Jones, Rowyn Cunningham, John Vanek, Patrick Hannan, Jimmy Gao
5th Place, Readers’ Theatre – Chloe Pleznac, Adrienne King, Landon Bunting, Jimmy Gao, Tara Hueper, John Vanek