Speech and Debate: " A Delightful Human Experience"

by Josh Chamberlain '14

I’ve been acting and working in the theatre world since I was about ten years old and it wasn’t until I got to college that I realized the importance of theatre as an art form. Working on shows like The UD Monologues helped me to recognize how acting can serve to provide an expressive voice to marginalized individuals and minorities, as well as sparking a conversation pertaining to social issues that aren’t always addressed in mainstream culture. And based on my exposure to the rehearsal process for Speech and Debate, the Theatre Program's upcoming production in Boll Theatre, director Linda Dunlevy and her cast are striving to do exactly that.

Centering on three high school students who wrestle with their sexual identities, Speech and Debate provides a portrait of the human struggle to find a place in the world and attain self worth.

“That’s one of the things I think is really relatable about the show and all our characters – is that they all have parts of themselves that they hate,” says senior Owen Ginley, one of the show’s actors. “And everybody has that. I think that’s going to really ring true with our audience.”

Ginley’s character, Solomon, struggles with and denies his homosexuality throughout the course of the show, something Ginley researched in-depth to aid his performance.

“He talks a lot about Exodus International, the ex-gay organization,” he says. “The people who think that you can just change your sexual orientation. So over break, I actually did a lot of research on that, because I wanted to see how can he buy into that.”

Speech and Debate isn’t UD’s first venture into LGBTQ theatre. Last spring’s production of bare: A Pop Opera provided insight into similar issues, as it followed the relationship of two male students at a Catholic boarding school.

“Like our culture in general, UD has made great strides in embracing diversity, particularly gender preference or any differences related to sexuality,” says director Linda Dunlevy. “The importance of theatre in our culture is its ability to open our hearts and minds to the struggles and stories of others.”

It seems that’s the primary focus of the production. I can tell based solely on my conversations with the cast that this show is meant to communicate a very human message.

Senior Jenna Gomes, who plays the character of Diwata, says her goal for the show is for people to understand that they’re not alone.

“Everybody has that part of themselves that they’re afraid if everybody else sees it, that they’ll just become more of a social pariah than they think they are,” said Ginley. “That’s kind of the whole point of the show and that’s why it’s relatable, because everybody has that, whether you want to admit it or not. Especially in high school.”

Through the course of my four years at UD, I’ve watched this campus transform itself and gradually awaken to the issues of the world around it. The Theatre Program’s productions are no exception to this, offering the catalyst for conversation and debate through artistic aesthetics.

“The young high school students struggling with their sexuality and identities break our hearts, bring a tear to our eyes, and in the next moment, make us break out in laughter,” says Dunlevy. “It's a delightful human experience.”
And I have no doubt.

Speech and Debate show times are at 8 p.m. on Jan. 31, Feb. 1, 6, 7 and 8, and at 7 p.m. Feb. 2. Tickets are available through the Kennedy Union Box Office: 937-229-2545.

Josh Chamberlain is a senior English and American Studies major. He serves on the Studio Theatre Board of Directors and is the managing co-editor of Off Topic, a student-written zine that discusses human rights and campus culture.

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