Every year, Form 4 English students partake in a three-week process of interpretive reading called Speakers’ Forum. This KO tradition began over 25 years ago by former English teacher and Forensic Union advisor Robert Googins and is a cherished event by the entire community.
The Speakers’ Forum process consists of three rounds, with all Form 4 students participating in the first round. In English classes, students selected a four to six-minute passage to interpretively read. The main requirements were that the piece had to be fiction, must be published, and must contain literary merit.
However, for many sophomores, meeting these requirements was one the most challenging parts of the process. “At the beginning, I was pretty nervous about it especially since my piece didn’t initially work so I had to change my piece in the middle,” sophomore semifinalist Kyra Dunnirvine said.
Every day in class leading up to the first round of performances, sophomore English students would practice their pieces in front of their peers. In addition, students spent time writing introductions for the pieces they selected and watching past performances to get a better understanding of what their own readings should look like. In so doing, students soon realized it would be important to employ a variety of vocal tones and volumes in order to make their pieces engaging for the audience.
After practicing and preparing for two weeks, students took the stage by reading from a remote location over Zoom (an office or other classroom) to their English class, gathered in the classroom, in an effort to make the experience more equitable for remote students. Each speaker was scored by their classmates. The two students with the highest scores in each class moved on to the semifinal round, which took place on Tuesday, May 4 in Roberts Theater.
The 14 semifinalists included sophomores McKenzie Campbell, Kyra Dunnirvine, Charlotte Eberle, Annabelle Jacobs, Garret Kelly, Johnny Kung, Lucia Martinez-Castro, Lena Nowaczek, Sattah Phouthakoun, Frank Pu, Eve Repp, Luke Roen, Keira Sullivan, and Alyssa Temkin
On the evening of May 4, after the semifinal round took place, the finalists were announced. The finalists were Lucia, reading “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins; Keira, reading “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy; Luke, reading “The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinback; Annabelle, reading “Sink – No Surrender” by Carl Hiaasen; and Garret, reading “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” by Ned Vizzini.
Subsequently, on Friday, May 7, the finalists read their pieces in Roberts Theater in front of a panel of judges, who included senior Forensic Union members Christina Lu, Ian Givens, Braeden Rose; Director of Equity Joann Edwards; history teacher Rob Kyff; and creative arts teacher Greg Scranton. These readings were broadcasted live via Zoom to all the advisory groups in the Upper School.
In the end, Lucia claimed first place, followed by Luke in second, Keira in third, Annabelle in fourth, and Garret in fifth. “I was incredibly surprised, especially since I am definitely not a big one on public speaking, and it’s not something I’m the strongest at,” Lucia said, after finding out that she won.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc on our lives, the tradition of Speakers’ Forum continues to live on and provide an outlet of much-needed creative expression for sophomore English students.