Drama, Debate, and Forensics

Pictured: Kaekoa Gill, Junior, holding a prop from her solo acting piece

Every week and sometimes daily, many Eagle River teams represent our school both at home and away. Football, Volleyball, Tennis, and Cross Country are a consistent topic of discussion among staff and students—athletic or otherwise. However, our school’s Speech and Debate team recently held the first tournament of the season, and while their accomplishments are rarely announced to the school they remain an active club and a winning team.

DDF (Drama, Debate, and Forensics) has existed at ERHS since it first opened in 2005. Mrs. Baalerud, one of the coaches of the DDF team, claimed that “this year’s team is young and full of energy with a few really strong veteran members leading the way.” Mr. Baalerud, who teaches French and Math, is also a coach. Their daughter, Kali Spencer, is on the team. All three revere the activity as a unique academic and social experience. Mrs. Baalerud, however, has an especially strong fondness for the sport, as she herself participated in DDF as a high school student. On many occasions, she has stressed that the club allows for strong, lasting friendships between students from different schools, and a boost in academic prestige for members.

More recently, Mrs. Baalerud expressed pride in this year’s team. She praised their success at the first tournament and their willingness to consistently reach for more. As showcased by the many newcomers to the team, DDF is a welcoming community that encourages an inclination to try new things. Among members of the team, there is a common belief that DDF improves public speaking skills as well as confidence. There is a wide range of events, so there is something for everyone. While some events require knowledge of current events and world issues, many events are freeform and creativity-based. Likewise, while some events call for expertise in acting and rhetoric, there are options for beginners.

ERHS has a mixture of debaters and orators, but the team is mainly actors. At their last meet, every actor was successful to some degree. In Duo Interpretation, Ian Burdick and Jenni Hunting (both Juniors) won first place against the Bartlett team. In Humorous Interpretation, Ian Burdick got second. In solo acting, Kaekoa Gill (Junior) got fourth place. While Ian and Jenni have both participated in DDF prior to this year, Kaekoa is brand new to the team. “I’m really glad I did it,” she told the Howl, “I was able to get out of my comfort zone and try something new.” As for the team, she relishes the supportive community Eagle River offers.

Another newcomer, Mark Von Luhrte (Freshman), also appreciates the team’s support. He participated in two speech events last weekend, Extemporaneous Commentary (also known as Excom) and Congress. Though he did not place, he still enjoyed competing. In regards to the team, he said “they want you to succeed. They want you to have fun, but to also put in effort.”

While the current DDF team consists of just under 30 participants, they are always delighted to gain new members. The club provides an encouraging space and unwavering support for all who join. On a typical Thursday after school, they get together to run through pieces and give feedback to those who ask. As they perfect their speeches, scenes, and argument cases, they take the time to guide new members through their own events and provide each other with compliments and critiques.

A week from Friday, they will be heading to East High School for their second meet. With their numbers growing and their current members experimenting with new events, the ERHS DDF team is definitely a force to be reckoned with. See Mrs. Baalerud for information on how to join.


About Jenni Hunting 4 Articles
Jenni Hunting is a senior at ERHS and this year's Editor in Chief of The Howl. She has been in Alaska for four years as one of Eagle River's many military-dependent students. Her main interest is in Student Life and Arts reporting.

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