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Union Speech readies for Large Group Districts

January 18, 2019
CJ Eilers - Editor ( , Dysart Reporter

Approximately 80 Union High students will take part in Large Group Speech this year as they prepare for Districts at Cascade High School on Saturday, Jan. 19.

The program starts preparing in mid-November as they put together groups and find times to practice. Each group meets through December and return for January to put the final touches before Districts at Cascade before a judge, who will award the group a rating based on their performance. Groups who receive a Division I rating will continue to State, but the ultimate goal of any group is to later be selected for the All-State Festival at Iowa State University in February.

"When we first entered the practice phase of the season, I was really hoping we could get all groups through to State because it would be the first time we've ever done it," Dean Bostian, Speech Instructor said. "The kids are so talented and in many different activities that they are extremely busy. I'm going to temper that expectation back a little bit, but I do hope we can get 75 percent of our groups on."

Article Photos

Emily Miehe (front), Chloe Heitmann (standing) and Jenna Steinlage (back) act out a tense, emotional scene from “Steel Magnolias” during a group speech rehearsal on Thursday, Jan. 10 as the senior Ensemble Acting group prepares for Large Group Districts on Saturday, Jan. 19 at Cascade High.

Union will have 18 varsity groups and ninth grade groups competing separately this year. Varsity will include categories such as a Reader's Theatre entitled "Amy Goes Army" with a funny, all girl's cast, two Short Films, two Ensemble Acting groups and a One-Act Play called 'Bang, Bang, You're Dead' about a school shooting.

"We try to put as many practices together as possible and this time everyone knows to buckle down," Bostian said. "We've put our practices ahead of other activities during crunch time. Whether it's fall play, speech or other activities, you know when it's time to knock this out of the park. Our fall play is usually more light-hearted and funny, so I like to look at the more serious stuff with speech. Usually with the freshman, I want something more funny because this is their first time. With my upperclassmen, I want them to do something dramatic. It's easy to be funny and hard to be dramatic in my opinion, so I want them to get a feel of it. Plus, I want a topic that has something to do with our society. "Bang, Bang, You're Dead" does help us look at ourselves and our society."

"Bang, Bang, You're Dead" was performed by the program several years ago and received all Division I Ratings at State. With a talented cast together this year, Bostian decided to give the play another try with hopes of more success this season.

Another group with plenty of talent is an all-girl senior Ensemble Acting group featuring Chloe Heitmann, Claire Thoma, Emily Miehe, Jenna Steinlage and Olivia Sash taking on a classic scene from the movie "Steel Magnolias" as M'Lynn, played by Miehe, has an emotional outburst at the loss of her daughter, Shelby. Their coach, Ali Leytem, suggested the group take on the piece

"We're all senior girls and it's our last year," Miehe said. "[Leytem] thought our personalities meshed together with the characters and thought we'd be able to do a really good job with it. I'm a little nervous about playing M'Lynn having her emotional breakdown and making it believable, but I'm excited for performance day and leave it all out there."

Miehe joined speech her sophomore year with both Large Group and Individual Speech to improve her speaking abilities and "come out of her shell more". After taking Large Group off her junior year, the senior decided to work with her fellow seniors, including Heitmann, as they worked on a piece to reach All-State this season.

"We had a say in piece when we were forming the group," Heitmann said. "I watched the movie and really like it. We're really excited about how this is coming together with our transitions down. I really hope it's good enough to make it to state with this group. We have fun with it."

Though intially nervous to try it in her underclassmen years, Heitmann is now part of two groups performing at Districts. Both seniors want a chance to make All-State this year as they continue to make their accents more believable, their emotions relatable and their performance impressive.

"Speech is a fun, extra thing to do in my free time," Heitmann said. "I want to get more involved to enjoy it and have more memories."

Whatever happens at Districts this weekend is just a part of what Bostian enjoys about the speech season as he prepares his groups as well as he can with the help of Leytem.

"I enjoy watching the students grow as performers, especially the ones I've had in speech since their freshman year and see how they've progressed," Bostian said. "I love to see that maturity and growth take place. I love speech and theatre. I feel with social media and phones these days, people don't know how to talk to each other, but speech kids love to talk to one another and their peers from other schools. It's a great feeling to be a part of this."

Check back with the Dysart Reporter for results from Districts at Pella High School in the January 25 issue. Coverage will also be provided for Individual Speech later in February.



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