BEA student finds a niche at State Speech Meet
It started with a junior high boy who had a crush on a junior high girl. Said junior high girl suggested to the junior high boy that he try out for the Blue Earth Area Speech Team.
Now, that junior high boy is a senior at BEA and a State Speech second place finisher for humorous interpretation.
Out of 312 State Speech competitors, Bennett Petersen was second out of all of them. From 13 different categories of speech with 24 students in each category, Petersen’s obvious talent for humorous interpretation and years of practice and competition helped him to achieve this goal.
Petersen is known in BEA for his roles on the school stage as he is a regular member of drama productions, but he says there is something different about speech.
“Speech is a much more personal kind of theater. It’s just you, or sometimes you and another teammate for duos, but it’s you and your audience. It creates an entirely different atmosphere,” he says. “Not only that, but a lot of the speeches chosen by students have very specific issues that they discuss. Some can be very emotional. Even in the humorous category, where people are laughing and being silly, there is still an important aspect being shared throughout the speech.”
Growing up in speech competitions, Petersen took tips and cues from his competitors and used portions of their speeches in what he performed.
“Once you see the peers that you look up to in speech meets and competitions, you learn from them and take cues from them to make your own speech better,” he says. “I had a lot of speech competitors that I looked up to and now, some of them are my dearest friends.”
He says he also draws inspiration from his own teammates and coaches.
“But I think Miss Ingrid Chrisman has been my coach for the longest period, so I have to give her credit for a lot of it,” Petersen smiles.
In his humorous interpretation, Petersen says the competition was fairly stiff. Which only gave him reason to act more loosely…loosey-goosey; silly; goofy.
“The humorous category is meant to make you laugh,” he says. “But it also brings up an important issue during the speech as well. This helps to bring greater emotion to the speech and to get the point across a little easier, with less tension in the air. The goofier and sillier I was, the more my audience was willing to laugh.”
Petersen shares many speech competitors are worried about the script they have. Students are able to choose a script and practice it throughout the season, perfecting it along the way.
“While some students are focused on the script, and how funny it is, or how serious it is, I have realized over the years that it is not about the script. The characters and the delivery is the success, not the script,” he adds.
Petersen says it is always difficult competing against friends, which he has had to do on more than one occasion. However, both he and his teammates have learned from each other in competing against one another in speech.
But, from competing against his teammates, who also watched him practice many, many times over, he was able to create better characterization in his own speech.
“If I forgot a line, or delivered a line wrong, my teammates were the ones who would say, ‘stop, stop, stop! Do that over,’ and from that, I was able to try different things with my speech,” he says.
For example, Petersen shares his main character’s voice started out gravely and rough, but because of the amount of time and the number of times he had to do the speech, the gravely voice didn’t go very far. By the end of his season, his character had a deep, booming voice.
He says the best part of speech is meeting new friends, and being able to change lives based on a single performance.
“That’s across the board. There are performances by students that literally make people cry. These are deep, moving speeches, and people put their hearts into it, it’s great to watch and experience,” says Petersen.
Speaking of experience, Petersen says speech is one of the most important skills any person can have in their adult life, which is why he speaks so highly of the speech competition, and his speech team.
“No matter what job you have, no matter the income, no matter the place, you are going to have to talk to people. Speech helps you to come out of your shell, helps you to become a better speaker, to get over the anxiety of addressing a crowd, and ultimately, for me, helps to shape me into a better person altogether,” says Petersen.
The BEA senior, who has been to the State Speech Meet three times already, but had not placed previously, encourages his fellow students to come and watch a speech practice or a speech meet sometime.
“Like I said, these are great skills to have, but also it’s a great community to be involved in. Come watch and bask in the glory of a practice sometime, try different things, get out of your comfort zone,” he says. “Some students are really focused on the whole judging part of the competition. Some may have concern about the results they would get from judges or peers. Bad results should not deter you from trying something different.”
For students interested in joining the speech team, notices go out in the fall and auditions begin in November.
“Auditions are not about whether you are allowed in the speech team, but more about where your skill set is and what category of speech would best suit you,” says the BEA Speech coach, Ingrid Chrisman. “Speech is a great place for students who may have trouble finding an activity that suits them. All are encouraged to check it out.”
“That, and it’s free entertainment,” adds Petersen.