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This year’s drama, debate, and forensics team is off to a talkative start. The DDF season began earlier this fall and goes through next spring.

Words, words, words.

DDF, or drama, debate and forensics is all about words.

How you say them, which ones you say, what else you say around them, how fast and slow you say them, and if you say them in a convincing manner…or just sort of blurt them out.

Steve Prysunka is the coach of Wrangell’s DDF team this year and he says his students are off to a prodigious, a stupendous, a mind-bogglingly tremendous—okay they’re off to a great start.

Steve Prysunka – Photo by Asia Fisher/KSTK

“So we have freshmen through seniors competing this year. We have Molly Prysunka, Sean Howell, Nick Cole, Malachi Cole, Tyler Eagle, Matthew Covalt, Cassidy Briskar, Benjamin Florshutz, Amos Comstock, Davis Dowd, Kyla Teat, Kaylana Churchill, Joe Hommel, Michael Guggenbickler, and Tabitha Hommel. So we have 15 kids competing this year on our team, which is a fair uptick from last year. And I’m really pleased about the number of kids we’ve managed to get out.”

For those of you out there who have never heard of DDF, Prysunka has a crash course in the three areas of competition:

First is drama—

“Solo acting, duo acting, reader’s theater, humorous interpretation, so those events, which are just really classic acting—line memorization. Each of them has rules regarding how much a person can move. Sometimes there’s very strict rules—you can’t move more than a foot in either direction, you can use your hands. In others, you can actually move all over the place and have props. So there’s different rules around each of the dramatic events.”

Next is debate. Prysunka says basically, the goal is to create two opposing points of view on a topic and see how well kids can argue either side.

But the catch is that the debaters have no idea what they’ll be talking about until they get to the competition. The teams flip a coin at the beginning of the event to determine who goes first and gets which topic.

“So it’s really important that the debate judges recognize that it’s not about your opinion. It’s about how well the kids make the arguments. It has nothing to do—and I always tell the kids—this isn’t about what you think. This is about coming up with evidence to support a position. It’s all about formulating your idea, presenting your ideas, and then listening carefully to what your opponents say and finding great questions that help to support your ideas while tearing down theirs. So it’s about that conflict.”

Finally, there’s Forensics. The kids are given three topics. They pick one, head to the library for some speed research, and have to come up with a speech—or extemporaneous commentary—on that topic to present to the judges.

“There’s actually an event where they use only current topics of the day. And then there’s one that’s international topics. So domestic and international topics. So there’s different strategies for getting kids to come in and do original pieces. Really a heavy focus on the use of language in everything and how you string together language to make your point and convey your ideas, thoughts, and emotions.”

Prysunka says the team has competed at two meets so far. The first was more or less a practice meet, in Haines in September. He says the senior debate team of Tyler Eagle and Matthew Covalt did especially well.

Their teamwork led them to the finals once again in October’s meet in Sitka.

“The second meet in Mt. Edgecumbe was really good. We really had a good showing there. Our school is definitely getting on the map for debate. Again, that’s our senior debaters—Tyler and Matthew—they’re really doing a good job. They were in a five-way tie for first place.”

He says that ultimately, the tie breaker led them to fourth of the five, but he says they still made a name for themselves.

Molly Prysunka and Ben Florshutz placed 9th out of 22. He says it was their first time debating as a team and Prysunka’s first time ever debating. He says he was impressed by their top-10 finish.

In the drama group, the reader’s theater team went to finals with their piece “Mutants Anonymous.”

A number of Wrangell competitors also made it to the top in the Forensics category. Malachi Cole made it to the finals with an original oration on how public trials denegrade society.


“Ben Florshutz went to finals in extemporaneous commentary. He’s given a random topic and a limited amount of time to prepare that speech and then he gives that speech with no notes or prepared material. And he managed to go on to the finals with that as well. It’s a really difficult thing to do. I think people really can’t appreciate how hard that is until you think about standing for over five minutes and giving a speech off the top of your head.”

The DDF team will have a chance to compete on their home turf here in Wrangell November 8th and 9th.

“And we’ll have schools from all over Southeast here. I know they’ll be looking for housing for the kids. But Wrangell will have a chance to come out and see the last evening at six o’clock will be the final performances. That’s what’s call the command performances and the judges determine who is going to go to command. And the last pieces we saw were just fantastic up in Haines.”

Prysunka says that night, they will also announce the winners of the meet in all categories.

He says the kids who are participating in DDF will walk away with a number of life skills. First, he says it’s good for them to learn teamwork. Second, competition teaches the kids the importance of being graceful winners and how to learn lessons from not winning.

“The third thing is the use of language. I’m a big believer that all of our lives is composed of having to communicate and convince and defend ourselves verbally and to make sure we’re able to articulate our needs and the things that we want to do in our lives. Whether that’s with your family or with your boss or working with somebody at your job, it’s very important that we have language skills. I think that’s what our kids are getting out of this ultimately.”

He encourages the community to come out and support Wrangell’s DDF team at the home meet in early November.