Category Archives: Performing Arts

A Great Night of On-board Entertainment

Cruise buddy Deb hams it up with the talent

Cruise buddy, Deb, hams it up with the talent

TRAVEL THERE: RODGERS, HAMMERSTEIN AND MOZART

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, it did!

Back to Elegant Dining

I’d been disappointed by the over-hyped Taste of Austria dinner.  Visually, it had been lovely, but the culinary experience couldn’t beat what we’d already been enjoying.  Quality not quantity is my interest.

After my trot around Linz, we scurried back to the boat and I jumped into my evening attire.  This was the penultimate evening of the cruise and the captain was throwing a cocktail party.  That included a toast, which meant champagne would be served.  So I was janie-on-the spot in the lounge.  I didn’t want to miss any champagne.  The captain didn’t try to labor through another bout of English, thankfully.  Instead our cruise director translated for him.

After the toast, the lederhosen, dirndls and oom-pah-pah were gone from the dining room- much to our relief.  We waxed nostalgic about our service throughout the evening as if we’d been living on the boat for years, instead of a matter of days.  The Viking Daily had promised Mozart and the Sound of Music as our evenings entertainment and we wondered how that mixture would pan out.

A Salzburgian Romp

A troupe of singers appeared and offered a few tunes.  Their voices were wonderful and they wore authentic period costumes.  The evening started out very high-brow and then they began the audience participation part of the performance.  I was not surprised in the least that they chose Bill.  They always choose Bill.  I’m beginning to think he must be offering bribes.  Anyway,  here’s a few photos from his appearance.

That was fun, but the next part was even more wonderful.  They switched from classical to a classic, The Sound of Music.  I can’t say I was actually yearning for tunes from the Julie Andrews movie, but as soon as the first few bars of intro wafted through the lounge, I had tears in my eyes.  The singers merely zipped through the soundtrack, hitting the high points, which was lovely, but I secretly wanted more.  I wanted to be reminded of every frame of the movie and especially Edelweiss, which is on my personal top 10 (along with Leon Russell’s Stranger in a Strange Land, Beethoven’s Ode to Joy and  Gordon Lightfoot’s Rainy Day People.)  I’ve never streamed a movie to my phone, but it did cross my mind that evening.

The performers were real characters.  They were hamming it up with all the guests, so Bill wasn’t the only one to garner their attention.  He’s just the only one who entered the spotlight.  After the performers left, the tempo got much faster and the girls hit the dance floor.   I have a few more photos to share below.

The boat didn’t head towards our next destination until 10:30 and I’d entertained thoughts of taking another stroll onshore, but it didn’t happen.  If you let them, Viking will fill every moment of your day and that’s what happened on this particular day, except for the visit to the Mariendom.

Next up is Passau, Germany.  Come back next week and visit this lovely little town at the confluence of rivers.

 

 

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Durnstein, Gateway to the Wachau Valley

3D Tor (35)TRAVEL THERE: DARLING LITTLE DURNSTEIN

Going on a cruise, in some ways, is like travelling for dummies.  All I had to do was show up for a spoon-fed itinerary.  Sometimes that was great, like Budapest and Vienna.  Then again there were the Bratislavas out there, where things were not exactly the way I  wanted it.  Had I been planning a road trip through Austria, I doubt Durnstein would have made the cut, but having been there on a cruise, I found it a perfectly charming place to spend a morning.

3D (7)On Your Own or By Shore Excursion?

I knew less than nothing about Durnstein and what research I was able to do didn’t tell me much else.  Alone, I may have taken a hike up to the craggy ruins of Durnstein castle, but instead, I reserved spots for Bill and I on the Optional Shore Excursion.  I figured after Vienna he’d be pretty well done with me and my explorations – and I was right.  Even though we had to pay extra for the escorted walking tour, Bill was happy to do so.

The town is so tiny that it would be impossible to get lost, so we didn’t really need a guide.  In addition,the town has exactly one significant historical fact associated with it – Richard the Lionhearted was held for ransom in the castle on the hill.  The only other item of any interest was Princess Di and Dodi Fayed meeting there for their romantic trysts.  It’s funny the only claims to fame for this charming little place on the Danube River were both related to the British throne.

While I can’t exactly recommend the escorted walking tour as a good value, you absolutely must walk through the winding cobblestone streets and get a feel for the place.  I wished for a little freedom to check out the shopping opportunities, but the tour trotted right past them – perhaps because it was so early.  The walking tour began at 8:30 AM and that’s just about the time all the lorries were making their deliveries.  There was actually a traffic jam!

3D (25)The Crown Jewel of Durnstein

The tour ended at the church where we were delivered for an organ concert.  On the outside, the church, with its blue and white tower, looks much like other churches in the area.  What sets it apart is the interior.  During the 1700’s, it was renovated by one of its abbots.  Our day would be book-ended by abbey churches and Melk Abbey is, without a doubt, the most over-the-top religious edifice I have ever seen.  Still Durnstien, while smaller, gives Melk a run for its Baroque money.

Before the organ concert we were guided through an odd hallway along a series of alcoves filled with scenes from the Bible.  That was a little weird, kind of like window-shopping for a Bible story, but the guide who attends the church was quite proud of them.  Then we were seated in the pews and the organ concert began.

Organ concerts are an acquired taste and this organ had a sort of wheezy, high pitched shrill to it.  We were informed of the uniqueness of the small organ and the talent of the organist. I’m glad to have heard it, but would have been happier with a smaller taste of its product.

3D (41)Should you go to Durnstien, skip the escort and wander the enchanting lanes on your own.  Do see the interior of the church and if the concert is available, by all means take a seat and listen.  Then tighten up the laces on your hiking boots and head up the hill to the castle.  We didn’t have time for it, but those who went there, instead of taking the escorted tour, raved about the view.

From the church we strolled along the river’s edge and enjoyed the beautiful morning.  This seems to be a different Danube than the one we enjoyed earlier in the cruise.  It actually is the same river, but so quiet and so bucolic, that you can’t imagine it is also the lifeblood of vibrant cities like Budapest and Vienna.

I’ll leave you with various scenes from the lovely little town and next week we’ll visit the Wachau Valley,  a UNESCO Heritage Site.

 

 

 

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A Stroll Through Vienna

Now where was the boat?

Now where was the boat?

TRAVEL THERE: MILKING THE SHORE EXCURSION FOR ALL I CAN GET

So, after a morning of museums, Bill was done with Vienna and ready to go back to the boat for lunch.  However, if we went back, I knew he wouldn’t be getting off the boat again, so I convinced him to at least have some lunch in the city.  I told you how that went.  Shame on you Rick Steves!  Now I’ll tell you about the balance of the day.

A Drizzly Walking Tour

Because he loves me and maybe a little bit because he’d loved the architecture he’d seen so far, Mr.Bill agreed to a stroll around the Hofburg environs for awhile.  I was able to show him on the map that I didn’t plan to get more than a block or two away from the palace, so he set his teeth and headed off with me.

Whereas Mr. Bill was trying to be cooperative, the weather was not.  The sun played peek-a-boo (more boo that peek) with us and whenever the sun disappeared, the drizzle would return.  Was is miserable?  Yes!  Was I going to let it deter me? NO!

The Gang at the Opera

The Gang at the Opera – a bit damp but quite happy!

Our first stop after lunch was the State Opera House.  I would have dearly loved to go to one of their productions or take a tour of the interior, but that didn’t fit into our  schedule.  I have to confess that the exterior of the venerable old lady was not one of my favorite edifices of the day.  It really pales in comparison to surrounding buildings.  However, that’s where we ran into our shipmates and that was a bright spot in the day.  I have to admit they pranked me.  They pretended they were lost and asked me to show them how to get back to the boat.

After that Bill trudged along behind me snapping pictures of the sights along the Ringstrausse.  I got him all the way down to the Rathausplatz before he mutinied and demanded to be taken back to the boat.  So we strolled through the Volksgarten towards the Grabenplatz.  I reminded him of the Dortheum, an auction house he’d shown some interest in during my days of research.  Rick Steves redeemed himself, because that was quite interesting.  Maybe not as interesting as Rick made it sound, but interesting – and dry.

3V Walk (60)The Dortheum is about half a block from Grabenplatz and from there we entered the underground at Stephanplatz.  We had a little difficulty purchasing our return ticket, but the problem was with the machine, not us and a nice subway attendant lady came and helped.  Soon we were back on board the Tor – just in time for our afternoon tea break.  Bill was once again a happy boy.

Dinner was a little later this evening than it was during the rest of the cruise, because they were serving a special meal to those heading out to a night shore excursion.  Had I known how the day would go, I would have probably opted for one of them, but part of the adventure of traveling is not knowing.  Sometimes that’s good and sometimes you end up having a quiet evening on the boat.  Since our friends were on the evening shore excursion, we had a quieter than usual evening, but a good one.  We still very much enjoy each others’ company.

I’ll share our pictures from our walk about, then I hope you’ll come back next week for The Wachau Valley.

 

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Shore Excursion to Bratislava, Slovakia

TRAVEL THERE: NOT EXACTLY WHAT I WANTED IN BRATISLAVA

Bratislava is a lovely little town with the oldest surviving town gate in Continental Europe.  However, I ran into several complications in my efforts to enjoy this stop on our cruise.  The video includes the highlights of the shore excursion and I’ll tell you about my difficulties behind the scenes. 

The Walking Tour That Wasn’t the Walking Tour

I had carefully studied the available shore excursions back in Dallas and after a careful examination, decided the Bratislava Walking Tour was superior to the Bratislava City Tour.  Both involved walking around the Old City, but one included a bus trip to what I call Faux Castle.

See there once was a real castle up on Castle Hill.  However, it was nothing but a ruin when the Communists showed up.  They decided they needed to replace the castle, but all they did was build a modern building and call it a castle.  I had no desire to see their modern day monstrosity.

However, when I showed up on the dock, we were ushered to a bus and I got the distinct feeling I wasn’t going to be happy about it.  In Viking’s defense, I didn’t say anything to anybody once I feared I was on the wrong tour.  I guess the jet lag or something had finally hit me, because I wasn’t feeling completely up to par and I just didn’t have the desire to rock the boat – or the bus.  My bad.

I have no idea who this guy was, but he has pride of place on Castle Hill.

I have no idea who this guy was, but he has pride of place on Castle Hill.

The bus took us up Castle Hill and dumped us out at the Faux Castle for an orgy of picture taking.  The scenery was great, but there’s nothing that makes you feel more like a tourist than being dumped off for a photo opportunity when you don’t really understand why you are there in the first place.  The guide never even pretended the castle had any historical or architectural significance.  She just said we had ten minutes to take pictures and abandoned us.

On cue, we filed back on the bus after taking our photos and rode down the hill.  Then we went on a walking tour which was somewhat interesting, but not compelling.  That might have been because the grumblings in my stomach were getting most of my attention, but I was also wondering how the tour sans the Faux Castle would have differed.  My new friends assured me they had a great time on the real walking tour, but since Deb was the sort to have fun whatever she was doing, I don’t know if she can be trusted.

Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda

Andrew Petcher (a fellow travel blogger I highly recommend), suggested free-style wandering was the best way to see the town, but with Mr. Bill in tow, free-style can be problematic.  I think Andrew was probably right.  With my Rick Steves’ tour book in hand and no tour guide to keep up with, I think I would have thoroughly enjoyed the capital of Slovakia.  The architecture was charming and the quirky sculpture sprinkled throughout the town made for some great snickering.

The UFO Restaurant

The UFO Restaurant

I think it would be a great place to spend a quiet weekend, but it’s a little far from Dallas for me to check out that theory.  My greatest regret was not getting to the UFO Restaurant atop a bridge, another gift of the Communists.  After the walking tour we were given some free time, but by then I desperately needed a little private time in my cabin.

A Slovakian Evening

By 6:45 I had gotten myself back into cruise mode and was front and center for the Daily Briefing.  We had dinner with our cruise buddies and then made our way back to Lounge for “A Slovakian Evening.”

The entertainment was delightful.  Those great big ocean liners can provide productions to rival Broadway and Hollywood, but you have to share them with your 3000 new friends.  I’m sort of over that.  I much preferred the intimate setting of the Lounge, where we gathered comfortably with 178 (give or take a few) other passengers.  The show was marvelous.  In fact, after some expensive entertainment in Vienna, our friends told us the onboard entertainment had much better performers than the Viennese show.  We thoroughly enjoyed the Slovakian Evening, because the songs were familiar, the costumes were beautiful and performers were gifted.

Below I have included some photos of the entertainment.  I hope you’ll come back next week for Vienna – the highlight of the cruise.

 

 

 

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Global Hearts Ministries Hosts High Tea

Capture Open Hearts TeaTRAVEL HERE: JOIN ME AT THE GHM OPEN HEARTS HIGH TEA

This won’t be my usual travel article, but it will be about far away places – Central Asia, in fact.  If you know me personally, you know matters of faith are even more important to me than travel itineraries.  If we were to sit down for a chat, the conversation would certainly include my last trip or my next one, but you’d also hear about my Buffalo Gals Bible Study, Rockwall Bible Church and Global Heart Ministries.  Since Global Heart Ministries is about to have a wonderful event, I want to invite you to attend.

What is the Open Hearts Tea?

The Open Hearts Tea will be a traditional high tea, on a Sunday afternoon, complete with cucumber sandwiches and your favorite hat (should you choose to wear it).  Imagine getting all dressed up for an elegant soiree with friends, both old and new.  Each table will be hosted by a lady who’s set the scene with her own tableware and decorated it from her own imagination – sort of like Pinterest, but live!  Your hostess will serve you tea from her own teapot and offer delicious tea time treats from The Hope Center’s excellent chef.

At the tea you’ll have the opportunity to learn more about Global Heart Ministries and the exciting work they are doing in Central Asia.  In fact, you’ll hear directly from the hosts of several women’s talk shows which are popular in Central Asia.  You’ll be amazed by what they have to say.  This event is free, but chances are you’ll be so excited by what you hear that you’ll want to get involved.

20160606_090725And What is Global Heart Ministries?

In a nutshell, GHM creates quality Christian programming for Central Asia.  That may not sound all that exciting.  For most of us, Central Asia is just a bunch of countries on the other side of the world; places like Uzbekistan, Azerbaijani or  Turkestan whose names we might not even know how to pronounce.  Did you know Central Asia is a breeding ground for ISIS and other terrorist organizations?  It’s also the area of the world most un-reached by the Gospel.

Americans have no concept of what life is like in these countries.  Oppressive government, oppressive poverty, oppressive religious leaders and no hope for anything better.  However, there is one thing most families have and that’s a satellite dish.  While they can stream anything on the internet, very little of what is available is in their own language and what little language-specific programming they find is worse than their reality, poorly produced programs from the government or religious leaders.  Imagine yourself doing chores around the house while your toddler watches TV.  Instead of Disney and Sesame Street your precious child watches other children singing about the joys of martyrdom as they dance in a circle. Welcome to Central Asia.

Now imagine you have a choice.  Instead of allowing your child to watch gloomy indoctrination into martyrdom, because nothing else is available, you can turn on a lively well-produced animal program, in your own language, featuring people from your country who are filled with joy and offer hope.  You know what you’d prefer your child watch!  The animal show I’m talking about is just one of the programs Global Heart Ministries is beaming into Central Asia.

me too

Steaming wrinkles out of a backdrop for video shoot

So, What Does That Have to Do with Me?

It just so happens these amazing programs are produced right here in Plano, TX and you can help.  I’ve had such fun getting to know the people of GHM and have had the opportunity to do everything from pick up doughnuts to edit script translations to shop for a family of Central Asians to click the slate during a week of filming.  Whatever your gifts, they can be put to use at GHM and that’s why they’re having the tea.  They want to let you in on the exciting things the ministry is doing and introduce you to Esther’s Friends, a women’s support auxiliary for GHM.

Though there will be opportunities to plug-in offered at the tea, there is no obligation what so ever for you to do anything but have a fun Sunday afternoon.  Global Heart Ministries just wants to share the joy of the work they are doing.  Please contact me if you and your friends have an interest in attending.

 

 

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A Ride to Houston in a Red Convertible

BPS02202016_0003

An on-stage extra, portraying an on-screen extra

TRAVEL BUG TALES: MY DAYS IN THE NFL

FYI, in my life, NFL stands for National Forensic League, not a sports league.  They don’t call it that anymore, but it sounds so much more interesting the way I remember it, than the way they have improved it. Unfortunately,  I find that to be true about more and more this day and time.  A few days ago I blogged about a speech tournament I judged and it brought back memories of my days in the NFL.  I thought I’d tell you about them.

Stairway Way to Paradise

I was unaware of it when I was in high school, (as far as I know the term hadn’t been coined) but I was a nerd.  Chances are my mother realized it, with or without the appellation, and that’s why she encouraged me to participate in pretty much anything that would get my nose out of a book.  One of my high school adventures was the Cothurnus Club, Bryan Adams’ drama club.  According to Dictionary.com, “cothurnus” is “a grave and elevated style of acting.”  I’m afraid there was nothing grave or elevated about our productions, but that was the name.

In my sophomore year, I had a couple of bit parts in a production called Stairway to Paradise.  One part actually involved a few lines, but the other  was more fun.  I played an on-stage extra, portraying an on-screen extra.  As such, I got the opportunity to spend most of my time dressed in the costume of a Southern Belle.

In spite of both parts, I spent most of the time hanging about backstage with the speech and drama students who recruited me into the NFL.  They also talked me into signing up for speech in my junior year, because then I could join the gang on a phenomena called speech tournaments.

The Red Convertible

Fast forward to October of my Junior year.  I was in speech 101 and I somehow convinced my parents attending a speech tournament was exactly the right thing for me to do at that point of my life.  I’d talked them into sending me on a mission trip over the summer and I had come home in one piece, so I was on a roll.

1972_Chevrolet_Impala_ConvertibleWhat was even more amazing to me was Jimmy Jordan had invited me to ride to Houston with him.  Jimmy was my favorite person in the speech department. Jimmy was not a football hero or my latest crush.  He was just my friend, Jimmy Jordan, but he was very groovy.(Groovy was “sick” or “the bomb” back in the days before words became synonymous with their antonym.)  He had a red Chevy convertible with white interior, which I thought was the coolest car I’d ever seen.  (At least it was the coolest car I’d ever seen since that Jaguar XKE at the 1966 State Fair – but that’s another story for another day.)

On the day in question, I threw my suitcase in the trunk of Jimmy Jordan’s car, along with his other passengers’ belongings, and we took off with the sun shining and and our hair blowing in the wind.  We got to the University of Houston early enough to drive around the campus and  feel very groovy.    The signature song of the trip was Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” and it seems the disc jockeys were playing it several times an hour.  Or maybe it just seemed that way, because the other hit at the time was The Isley Brothers song, “Brother, Brother, Brother” and the word “brother” got a lot of play in in both songs.  Serendipitously, Marvin Gaye was crooning as we cruised the campus – one of my all-time favorite memories.

My Life as a Compulsive Big Mouth

That’s not a confession of some sort.  That’s the name of the speech-to-entertain I had prepared for the tournament.  I recall a few moments of dread as I was called up to give the speech and the immense relief I felt when it was over.  To my amazement, I made it to the next level of competition.  Another of my all-time favorite memories.  Pretty much everyone from our school made it to the semi-finals.  I was thrilled to be among them.

And Then There Was Galveston…

After a fast food dinner at Prince’s Drive-in (which was supposed to be the “it” place), we returned to our Ramada Inn and got a pep talk from our speech coach.  She was fresh out of college and proud to bursting that all her little fledglings were not only accounted for, but also in the semi-finals on the following day.  Our teen-aged bodies were casually draped across the whimsical components of the motel’s playground, as we listened to her schpiel.  I wish someone had taken a picture, but we didn’t do as much of that in the days before smartphones.  Taking a picture back then entailed posing.

Her final words to us were, “and don’t any of you dare to go to Galveston.”  Up until that very moment I sincerely believe not a single soul had even thought of the fact the beach was just a little bit down the road.  We were completely enthralled with being away from home without our parents and hanging out on a college campus.  We were also amazed that all our rehearsal time had paid off and we were all semi-finalists in the tournament.

However, the moment the word “Galveston” was out of her mouth, we had to go.  I forget the logistics of the episode, but soon the red convertible was making it’s way to Galveston.  By the time we got there, we’d all run out of adrenaline.  Jimmy parked his car, we scampered on the beach for a few moments and then didn’t know what else to do.  So we hopped back in the convertible and rode back to the Ramada Inn.

Hell Hath No Fury Like a Speech Coach Scorned

Today, there would have been a whole lot of texting going on.  By the time we made it back, there would have been a gaggle of angry parents, ready to snatch their darlings back to Dallas – all the more angry at money spent on airfare.  We might even have made the news or at least been included in an Amber Alert.  In the glorious days before smartphones, all that waited for us was one very mad speech coach.  Had our escapades become known, she would have probably lost her job, but thanks to the lack of smartphones, that didn’t happen either.

Come to find out, we probably hadn’t gotten all the way out of the parking lot before one of the girls went and ratted on us.  For the record, she’d been invited on the spontaneous road trip, but she had decided she didn’t want to join us.  When she turned us down, she’d claimed she needed to work on her presentation. After we returned there was a tearful episode where she testified of a sincere concern for our welfare, but we all knew she was just another brown-nosing snitch.

We were royally dressed down andwe regretted upsetting the coach, but we hadn’t intended any harm.  We were just teenagers – teenagers who needed their sleep.  Most of the presenters who are listed in the final paragraph of the article below were probably in on the escapade (I was Jane Cave in that phase of my life).  Bryan Adams ended up fifth in the tournament, but with talent like we had and a little more sleep, we might have brought home the gold.

My Forensic Career Winds Down

I was not among the talented.  Though I would end up talking for a living, I wasn’t so good at speech tournaments.  The only other tournament I attended was something called a Mock Legislature.  We went up to Denton and were supposed to be debating issues and operating committees like they do in Washington.  I confess I didn’t really understand what was going on, so I spent most of my time flirting with the competition.

We did host a speech tournament at Bryan Adams and I remember thoroughly enjoying the experience.  We had all been forgiven by then and showed our ability to handle responsibility by planning and executing a very successful tournament.  I think my job was to man the concession stand – another career foreshadowing activity.

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Speech Tournament Delivers Hope and Memories

Capture speech tournamentAT HOME IN HEATH: COMMUNITY JUDGING FOR NCFCA TOURNAMENTS

So, if a couple of hours could make a difference in a kid’s life, would you make time for it?  Hypothetically we’d all say yes, but I’ve discovered a way to do just that.  I’d love for you to have the opportunity to join me and all it will cost you is a little time and a little gas.  Let me tell you about my day of judging and then you will probably want to contact kristikirch@hotmail.com and volunteer for the speech tournament in March.

The Ask

A friend of mine knew I lived somewhere over here on the east side of the Metroplex, so she told me about a speech tournament in Wylie.  She home-schools her kids and they would be participating.  She asked if I would be a judge.  Before you start trying to disqualify yourself for one reason or another, let me assure you that if you can read, write and hear, you’re qualified to be a community judge.

My friend didn’t know I had participated in speech tournaments during my high school career.  She just knew they needed judges.  However, as soon as I read her email, I remembered my first speech tournament.  I was lucky enough to catch a ride to Houston in Jimmy Jordon’s red convertible.  To this day, just a few notes of Marvin Gaye singing “What’s Going On” will transport me back to that beautiful October day.

On the strength of that memory, I agreed to sign up for the Wylie tournament.  I didn’t know NCFCA from MSNBC, but I remembered the excitement of dressing up in my very best clothes and giving a humorous speech-to-entertain titled, “My Life as a Compulsive Big Mouth.”  It was not (as I had hoped) the beginning of my career as a stand-up comedian, but since a good portion of my professional career was spent speaking in public, in a wide variety of situations, I do believe the opportunity to participate in speech tournaments contributed to my life’s journey.

Since so much in our world has changed since that exhilarating ride to Houston, I couldn’t help but wonder what had changed in high school speech tournaments, but I knew there was little reason to speculate, because the tournament was only a week away.  I’d find out soon enough.  I carved out enough space to judge three events and went on with my business.

The Day

On the day of the tournament I stood in my closet wondering what to wear.  Would there be young men in suits or a kaleidoscope of blue denim?  I hedged my bets and wore trousers and a blazer.  That way I’d fit in either way.  As I drove to the tournament I noticed the weather on that February day was much as it had been on that October day of the red convertible.

The first thing I noticed were young men in suits looking very serious as they scurried between buildings.  The breeze snatched at their ties and played havoc with the dresses and tresses of their female companions.  I grinned widely.  Some things do stay the same.  Kids still wore their best clothes to the tournaments and they were nervous as they trekked between events.

I found a parking space and made my way into the building.  I can’t explain to you how warm my welcome was.  The lady sitting at the Judge Registration Table made me feel as if I were some sort of hero.  Feeling even better about my decision to judge, I took my badge and headed towards the judges lounge, passing the judge’s snack table along the way.  I was delighted to be a part of the mild chaos going on around me.

The Events

After a brief training session on judging, my first event to judge was a round of interpretive speeches classified as Biblical Presentation.  I wasn’t sure what that meant, but it sounded interesting.  Was it ever!  Biblical Presentation is a dramatic interpretation of portions of Scripture.  The students presented lengthy passages from the Bible with intros, comments and summaries they had written.  All the passages included dialog and the students would portray each of the characters with only a small piece of cloth as a prop.

Each student memorized about eight minutes of dialog and accompanying gestures.  We had Queen Esther; the Prophet Balaam and his donkey; Mary and Martha; and a few others.  While Esther, Mary and Martha were to be expected, I was surprised when more than one contestant selected the talking donkey and pleased the focus of their interpretations varied greatly.  By the end of the round I had developed a new appreciation for the youth of America!

My next event was debate.  This was a more challenging event for the judges.  We had to keep a flow sheet of the arguments, judge who won the debate and judge the performance of the individual debaters outside the outcome.  In my debate, one of the debaters was by far the best speaker and I actually agreed with his point of view, but the other young man blew him away when it came to formulating his position and defending it, in spite of the weakness of one of his defenses.  I gave the debate to the guy I disagreed with, but gave the other speaker higher points.

I thought my final round to judge would never begin.  This time I had chosen Impromptu Speaking.  I was exhausted from the technicalities of the debate and Impromptu Speaking seemed as if it would be easier to judge than Extemporaneous Speaking or Apologetics.  The round was supposed to start around six, but through no fault of the contestants we didn’t begin until almost seven.  We were short on judges (hint, hint, hint).

In extemporaneous speech, a contestant is given 30 minutes to prepare a 7 minute speech.  From my memory, those speeches had some pretty heavy subject matter.  Impromptu topics ranged from Make Believe to Bad Habits and only last about five minutes after two minutes of preparation.  That seemed more my speed.

My brain was worn out, so I can only imagine how exhausted the kids were.  They’d been performing all day, compared to my half-day of judging.  Many had an event in each round and some multiple events within a round.  It seemed almost cruel to have extemporaneous and impromptu speeches at such a late hour.  As much as I wanted to cash it in and call it a day, if these teen-aged troopers were going to speak, I was going to judge.

While the Biblical Presentation scoring depended to a certain extent on how well the kids were able to memorize a lengthy passage, Improptu Speaking was all about thinking on your feet.  The kids had up to five minutes to speak, but most barely made it past the two minute mark.  One spoke for about six minutes, but that didn’t help their score.  The point was to use up the time without going over.

The last contestant in the round was the most heart-breaking for me.  From some conversations I had overheard, I learned this particular young man had not only performed multiple times that day, he’d also had a big hand in running the tournament.  Someone had to go find him and bring him to the room.

One of the most heartwarming things about the day had been the courtesies the students extended to the judges.  As they entered they would shake our hands and then move into position to speak.  They’d wait quietly until we’d finished shuffling our papers and whispering among ourselves.  Then they’d ask us if we were ready and politely ask for the timekeeper to start the clock.  After they had performed, they would shake hands with each of us and thank us for judging.  Sure it was rehearsed and formulaic, but it was invaluable skill-building and quite touching.

When the final contestant came in, he was visibly spent.  He went through the handshaking routine and retreated to a corner to prepare his speech on the subject he had drawn.  It was apparent that he was an accomplished, well-spoken orator, but it was also apparent he was done for the day, long before he entered the room.  The merciful part of me wanted to give the round to him out of compassion, but I remembered this wasn’t just about who won or lost the round.

I put him among the top contestants, because he did do a better job than some of the others, but I didn’t give him the round.  In my comments I told him I regretted not being able to proclaim him the winner, but I hoped he’d take my advice to heart – learning your limits and managing your assets is more important than winning a round in a speech tournament.  This fine young man will probably manage a major corporation or run for high office someday.  At least I think he will, if he doesn’t run out of steam somewhere in his twenties.  I will probably not see him or hear of him again and if I do I won’t recognize him, but I have the satisfaction of knowing I shared some of my hard-won wisdom with him at a time when it might do some good.

Now It’s Your Turn 

The next NCFCA speech tournament is March 9th-12th at Cottonwood Creek Baptist Church in Allen.   Go to www.ncfcajudges.com to sign up.  Click Texas on the map and select “Allen Qualifier.”  I hope I’ll be seeing you there.

 

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