The Inter-Workings of an Interper-Ariaki Dandawate

The night before Speech and Debate auditions during my freshman year of high school could have very easily been lost in my memory as just another raging argument with my parents. But as I recall my journey through Speech and the impact it has had on me, this argument continues to stand out as one of the most ‘game-changing’ conversations I’ve engaged in over the past 6 years of my life.

My mom had been telling me for weeks to audition for the team, and I, as stubborn as I am, was reluctant as ever to listen to what she had to say. I brought up excuses like: “My friends on the team are miserable” or “I don’t want to be a nerd.” Somewhere deep down, however, I knew the reason I didn’t want to audition was because I truly was an introvert. Walking into large rooms made my heart skip a beat and my stomach drop to the floor; talking to people was something I had to mentally prepare for at least an hour in advance. So, for me, the thought of speaking in front of that many people, put me in a position of vulnerability that I couldn’t even begin to imagine. Anyways, I ended up auditioning for the team  -- against my wishes -- and...I didn’t make it. On the outside, I took this defeat pretty well. But the stubbornness inside of me couldn’t stand losing, even if I didn’t even want to audition in the first place. From that point on, there was absolutely no looking back.

To tell you how much Speech has taught and changed me over the 3 years I was a part of it would take more than three pages (trust me, I had one written but decided not to bore you with it). I’ve made my closest friends through this activity, and most importantly have learned how to work towards my goals and improve from defeat. But, I’ll leave you with something that I really hope will make you realize how crucial it is for students to be a part of it.

The sophomore that joined the team and the senior who graduated are the same people, but different versions. I like to think that I always was capable of becoming the person that I am, but I didn’t necessarily have the ability until I joined speech. As I am writing this, I close my eyes and think of how I am now as a person -- I am analytical, creative, and I do whatever I set my mind on.

To master the art of interp takes a lot of thinking. To understand a character, their motivations, and their mannerisms is no easy task; it’s not something that is learned overnight, it’s something you have to live and breathe. One of my most memorable moments in speech was when I changed my piece the week before a major national tournament. In one week, I had to perform a piece that was so polar opposite from what I was used to. Having done two pieces that established myself as an external actor, I was being thrown into a piece where I had to portray a ton of internal conflict and emotion. The day before the tournament, I stood in my room alone, and stared at myself in the mirror. I did my climax once. Then twice. Three, four then five times. I just couldn't get the over-the-top expressive emotion that the character demanded. So, I threw myself onto the bed in exasperation, closed my eyes, and began to just ‘be’ the character. The next thing I knew, I was crying profusely while lying on the bed. That was my 'aha' moment. But it took so much for me to get to that emotional place, where I could allow myself to do that.

That was just a glimpse of the kind of roller coaster that each piece I performed took me on. But I fell in love with the idea of examining my characters so closely that I could become them, and I could use them as a vehicle to reach people with a message that was universal. During my senior year of high school I performed a piece on the under representation and misrepresentation of people of color in Hollywood. I remember that after my finals performance at Nationals, I got off the stage and someone came up to me and said “Thank you for telling that story.” And that’s when I fully understood the far-reaching impact of speech. Today, two years after graduating from speech and debate, I am a full time engineering student. But I find my outlets to continue to act and perform, and I couldn’t credit that to anything else but Speech and Debate.