Less than a week before the divisional competition in Miles City, Sidney’s speech and drama team members each took turns standing, reciting a speech, maybe acting out a skit, for parents and friends. 

The dessert theatre, held Jan. 14, was one last practice before the big meet which determines whether they’ll go on to state. Some of them nail-biting, tear-jerking performances. Others filled with enough humor to keep the audience laughing. 

Senior Amy Schaffer, 18, and junior Lexi Brunsvold, 16, practice up to three times a week with coach Christy Pierce to perfect “Rock, Paper, Scissors, Bomb,” a humorous duo piece, which was a favorite by the theatre audience, judging by the giggles and laughter throughout their performance. “I get very nervous,” Schaffer said afterward, admitting that usually nerves get so bad she can’t even eat breakfast the day of the performance, but once she’s on stage, the butterflies disappear. 

She and her partner, throughout the speech and drama season, earned their highest rating of the season toward the beginning of the run, at the Sidney Invitational at Sidney Middle School. There they earned first place. “I hadn’t gotten a medal. Never been in first place,” Schaffer said, having joined speech and drama last year. “That was the best feeling ever.” In the meets since, the pair earned fifth- and sixth-place finishes, which is a feat they say they’re happy with, but would like to do better at divisional. 

“We wanna place at least first or second would be nice, and only up to four humorous duos are performing,” Brunsvold said Friday, just hours before the team set off for Miles City. “The competition can get really touch with humorous duo, but I’m happy with how we did. We did our best,” she said

So how’d they do this weekend? Not bad at all. Not quite as high as hoped, placing fourth, but certainly good enough to move on to state competition this weekend in Havre. 

Junior Michael Waddell, 18, made a bold prediction heading into divisional: “I’m planning on going to state.” He earned fourth in impromptu speech, in step with where he’s been all year. “I can only expect to do the best I can,” he said last week. He’s progressing through the ranks, improving on his technique. 

Impromptu requires the participant to take three minutes to write a speech on a given topic, then speak for five minutes on it. “Some of the other contestants, they call it the lazy man’s event because you don’t really have to memorize anything,” he said, noting that it’s really about preparing a thoughtful, organized and clarified speech in a short amount of time. 

On Saturday at divisional, Sidney took second in drama and third in speech, the opposite of what coach Gail Staffanson expected since Sidney has been stronger in speech than drama. Several team members took first, including John Elmore for his serious solo “Grief Struck,” a heart-breaking piece in which he portrays a young man who struggles coming to terms with losing his family, particularly his young brother, in a vehicle accident, and must make the decision to take him off life support. Kyle Smith also earned first in impromptu, Tori Hill was first in memorized public address, reciting comedian Conan O’Brien’s Dartmouth College 2010 commencement address, and Kalen Hance, who took first in extemporaneous speech. 

“They all did really well,” Staffanson said. “We just need more bodies.” Sidney struggles to earn points, especially when it comes to debating, where there just aren’t enough participants to take on large schools like Billings Central. “That’s killing us because they make more points,” she said. 

Sidney’s about to lose a talented crop of seniors. It takes about four years to get to the top of their game, and by the time they get there, it’s time to leave school. 

Team members say the speech and drama sport has actually helped them to strengthen their confidence and self-esteem; public speaking is a life skill, after all. “You only get to do high school once,” Waddell said. “You don’t get to come back and do it again. This is the one time. Try something new. If you haven’t done anything, speech and drama is the place for you.” 

On Saturday, 16 of the 18 team members who made it to state will travel to Havre and perform in several rounds in hopes of making it to finals. “It’s exciting,” Staffanson said. “I’m just proud of all the team and how well they did.”