Written by Abeer Al-Zayer and Sofiya Pavlova
Disclaimer: This article represents the personal views of the authors and is not meant to offend any individuals or organizations.
Over 80 international school students from ‘Hague to Prague’ met this past weekend to celebrate the young talents of performance in the New European Speech, Debate, and Acting Association (NESDA).
Students from schools of Hague, Berlin, Netherlands, Brussels, Dusseldorf, Prague, Munich, Neuchatel and the last and most importantly Vienna polished their oratory skills and prepared to take the challenge of getting into finals. NESDA categories included: Original Oratory, Impromptu, Duet Acting, Debate and Oral Interpretation.
The students representing the AIS Team were Abeer Al Zayer, Andrew Rhee, Ben Dietderich, Hadeel Al Weshahi, Katerina Vassileva, Maria Dudenhoeffer, Sebastian Steinberger, and Sofiya Pavlova. By the time the competition was completed, it wouldn’t be true to say that we emerged the best of the best, but it would be definitely be true to say that we did our best.
On Friday the 28th of March, we flew to Berlin, and had time to settle in, calm our nerves and prepare for the first rounds of the tournament. In their first preliminary round of debate teams, Ben and Maria and Andrew and Abeer, both argued the negative side of the prompt, “Whistleblowing is responsible citizenship”. The first round is said to be the easiest, and it was just that for our teams.
After lunch, Original Oratory got under way, and showcased a variety of interesting speeches on topics ranging from whaling to pressure of suicide.
Ben’s speech had him presenting a comedic version of his presidential candidacy announcement speech. Unfortunately the “comedic”tone of his speech was misinterpreted as too serious by the judges and didn’t receive the high marks it should have.
Maria’s speech was an intelligent and thoughtful representation of the lack of female role models in modern society. Sofia wrote her speech stressing the importance of education and how it can not be taken for granted.
Opening with the line “Hello, my name is Abeer, and I am a webacholic, Abeer’s speech explored the importance of education and how it cannot be taken for granted, and how we can improve our use of social media to make social change.
Hadeel’s life story as a Palestinian American, was poignant background for her speech addressing the need for mutual respect and diplomacy to promote peace.
This year Oral Interpretation rules called for serious pieces, which mainly consisted of stories of rape and cancer. Sofia’s attempt to make a scene from Wuthering Heights come alive, was creative and expressive, but did not gain enough recognition from the judges to continue into finals.
To highlight their comedic skills, our Duet Acting teams, Hadeel and Abeer and Katerina and Sebastian performed scenes from The Odd Couple and The Box, for which the former earned the highest point total in the preliminary rounds, made the finals, and narrowly missed a spot on the podium.
NESDA 2014 was not only a chance for our team to showcase our talents, but also it gave us an opportunity to see and hear others…And boy, did we hear and see.
All the finalists had amazing speeches that included discussing war and violence, the way we all will end up being like our parents (first place winner), and even addressing the pros of using the drug LSD.
When asked, what he most improved during the competition, the extremely talented Original Oratory winner said, “I really improved my public speaking skills and confidence.”
Easily winning the award for most controversial (if there had been such as award) was one speaker from Barcelona who, looking directly at the teacher-judges, proclaimed, “Some of us are dogs,”continued on to drop a bomber jet full of ‘f bombs’to make her point on ‘effing the system’. Needless to say, she didn’t make it to the finals.
Another highlight during the Original Oratory was a Brussels junior, a timid looking boy, bangs covering his face. He seemed like a quiet character, until he gave his speech rebelling against the numerical systems that are forced into our lives by in a unique half rap, half powerful oratory fashion. He said, “I was born a number, but I reject to stay a number. I have a name.” My guess is that the numerical system rejected him a place in the finals.
The one unjust action that was taken, which really raised our team’s blood pressure, was done to Ben. By easily being a great public speakers and a talented debater, it’s quite easy to make some enemies. Ben’s light-hearted speech on announcing candidacy was taken completely out of proportion when one of the judges took fourteen points off his total score solely based on the fact of his political views. The incompetent judges, which consisted of mainly newbies this year, didn’t not fully comprehend the rule which states that personal views show not have a place in the way one judges. In our opinions, the personal views of the judges played an outsized role in his ranking for all other grading sheets reflect that he is more than capable of making people laugh while still keeping a professional demeanor.
The debate semi-finals were an unfair and inaccurate representation of the abilities of out debate teams. The team, which Ben and Maria were supposed to debate against, got sick with the “stomach flu”, therefor they had to bump one of the lower teams up to fourth place. Consequentially, the fifth and sixth position were tied and consisted of another Munich team and the other AIS team (Abeer and Andrew). The NESDA office chose the Munich team, which was evident to be the wrong choice in the finals.
Ben and Maria’s opponents made it to the finals and faced the not-so-prepared Munich, a team that used Snoop Dog as their human example in their debate. I believe it was obvious who was announced the winner that afternoon. In case, dear reader, you are wondering, the “Snoop Dog”debate-duo didn’t win, and in fact their debating skills made everyone question their 2nd place position, due to their less than serious approach. Our debate team, Ben and Maria received 3rd place and Andrew and Abeer placed 5th.
“And ain’t I woman?”roared one of the Oral Interpretation finalists. Her interpretation of a piece about the rights of women and African Americans was not only strong in content, but also in voice. Another finalist made everyone shiver in their seats and fell uneasy as her character pleaded for her rapist to stop, in the passage from Lovely Bones as she continued crying out, “Please. Don’t. Don’t Please.”
But everyone’s favorite was no doubt the first place winner with his thrilling interpretation of the Taken script. The famous line, “I will find you. And I will kill you,”was one of the many highlights. Everyone exploded in applause, only to stop midway in the air when he continued with a chilling French accent, saying,“Good luck.”
Overall, even when taking into account the injustices that occurred to our team, along with other mistreated school, NESDA still gives us an opportunity and channel to express our views and concerns as well as stand up and speak up on our opinion and make change. We all have the chance to be surrounded by people who may have conflicting views on topic, but understand how to keep many opinions into consideration with the same idea of promoting freedom of speech and freedom of expression.
When asked what his favorite part of NESDA was, a student from Berlin answered, “Probably the socializing with other international students, while doing something we all enjoy.”
NESDA is also usually located in historical cities, which gives us the chance expands our tolerance of different cultures and different options. NESDA builds the bridge of communication between us, the international adolescent community.