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  • Writer's pictureRoger Sims, Journal Staff

PV students compete at state speech and drama championship

Updated: Jun 21, 2023

Prairie View High School's forensics team members this year include, from left, Cole Holler, Jenna Thompson, Stefanie Koperski, Meadow Stainbrook, and Collin Pope. John Burk and Emma Chambers are also on the team but weren't available for the photo. (Roger Sims/Linn County Journal)

Five Prairie View High School forensics team team members qualified to compete in the Class 3A State Speech and Drama Championships this year at Wichita Southeast High School on Saturday, May 6. Hoping to build on the success of last year’s state tourney, though, proved tough against some talented competitors from other 3A schools.

Despite no finishes in the medal round, three made it into the semifinals assuring them a top-12 finish.

Senior Meadow Stainbrook made it through three preliminary rounds to get to the semifinals in serious solo acting. Fellow senior Jenna Thompson made it to the semifinal round for her program oral interpretation, and junior Cole Holler advanced to the semifinals in humorous solo acting.

Stainbrook, who has been in the PVHS program for three years, took her serious solo acting piece, “Another American Asking and Telling,” to state The piece is a biographical account of a woman whose son was murdered because he was gay. She placed second in the serious solo acting category last year.

Stainbrook also qualified for state with an original oration speech about why Congress should have term limits. Her main points included that term limits would lessen the inequality of candidates in mid-term elections, and it would help get younger senators and representatives in office.

Thompson qualified for state in three categories: original oration, serious solo acting and program oral interpretation, but chose to compete only in the acting and interpretation groups. Last year at state she placed fourth in serious solo acting and second in informational speaking – a good start for her first year in forensics.

But it was the program oral interpretation that carried her to a top-12 finish this year. Program oral interpretation involves using thematically-linked selections chosen from two or three genres such as prose, poetry, or plays.

In the solo acting competition on Saturday, she took an excerpt from The Woman Who Walked into Doors, a novel about a victim of domestic violence. Last year’s solo piece was equally sobering: a selection about a girl’s brother who murdered their mother.

Thompson said that to compete in the serious acting category, the piece needs to be dramatic. “You need to find a dark place,” she said.

Stefanie Koperski, also a senior, returned for a second year to the state tourney, this time shooting for a strong finish with her serious solo piece from the short story “Amanda and the Wounded Birds” that deals with the struggle of children when parents aren’t actively involved in their lives.

Koperski, who is a member of the all-state choir and has performed as a soloist for the PVHS choir, also qualified with an informative speech about the techniques vocalists use.

First-year competitors on the team, juniors Cole Holler and Collin Pope also qualified for state in the improvised duet acting category. In this category, the two members of the duet make a blind drawing of two different characters, a setting and a plot and are given 30 minutes to develop a brief, improvised skit.

The pair qualified at the team’s last meet of the year at Fredonia, and it was only the second time the two had performed an improvisation together.

Pope, who has appeared in several PVHS plays and musicals, both as a leading man and as a supporting actor, said that his experience in theater was helpful in understanding the basics of performing. During this season he tried several categories, including duet acting, impromptu speech, extemporaneous speech, serious solo acting and program of oral interpretation, but it was improv that punched his ticket to state.

He said he was hardly a willing participant at first, until forensics sponsor Pam Peters convinced him to join. “She hunted me down and made me try forensics,” Pope said, adding that he plans to be on the team again next year.

In addition to improvised acting, Holler also qualified for humorous solo acting with a piece by Andy Griffith, the late actor well known tor his comedic roles. “What It Was, Was Football” is an account of a football game by a boy raised in the country who had never seen a football game before.

“Several years ago my dad had shown me a recording of Andy performing this piece, and when Mrs. Peters asked me to join forensics I realized it would be a good piece,” he said.

Peters agreed, saying the piece was hilarious. “He’s good at it,” she said about Holler's delivery. “It fits his personality.”

Peters said that the PVHS teams have gotten back on track the last couple years after the COVID epidemic severely hampered students’ ability to qualify. After very few in-person meets in 2020, and going to virtual completions the following year, the return to in-person meets has helped the team.

In order to get the team up to the challenge of state, Peters said she entered qualifying meets to the north and further south where there would be tougher competition.

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