Student:

Liz Robbins.

School:

The Academy of Notre Dame de Namur in Villanova.

Achievement:

The 16-year-old from Upper Providence competed in the National Catholic Forensic League's Grand National Tournament, held May 23 to 25 in Appleton, Wis.

Robbins, a member of Notre Dame's Speech Club, qualified by placing in the Oral Interpretation of Prose and Poetry category at the Philadelphia Catholic Forensics League's tournament.

Question:

How was the Philadelphia competition set up?

Answer:

I'm in the Oral Interpretation of Prose and Poetry, where you have to read from a book in front of judges. One poetry piece and one prose piece, each like 7 to 10 minutes long.

There's like to six to eight kids in a room, and you all have to get up one at a time and read in front of everyone. And the top six, out of I think it was 20 of us, go to nationals.

Q:

Which readings did you select?

A:

I did "Cinderella" by Roald Dahl and "The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allan Poe.

Q:

Why did you select those two?

A:

"Tell-Tale Heart," I heard it a couple years ago being read. And it was really cool because it had a lot of different depth to the character, different characterizations which I thought would be real nice to try out, show my range . . .

And "Cinderella" I picked because it's a funny piece. It's a lot different from "Tell-Tale Heart."

So I thought it would show my range with the two of them. And there's a lot of different characterizations and different emotions and voices; so I thought it would be cool to do.

Q:

How did you prepare?

A:

I worked with my forensics coach. She really helped a lot. And basically just reading through it. I kind of had to dissect the piece, see what movements I could do.

Q:

What do you enjoy about the contest?

A:

It was cool seeing all the different kids from all over the place. They're all so different, and you get to see all of them do their pieces. And you almost learn things from them, like how to do your pieces.

Q:

What advice would you give someone who was entering the contest?

A:

Just to be confident. Just to be yourself. Know your piece. Watch your timing, because that's one of the hard parts.

It doesn't have to be a certain time, but it has to be long enough for the judges to see everything that you're capable of.

But then again it can't go over ten minutes, which is hard. Because for my one piece, "The Tell-Tale Heart," I was like right on the line. But just to practice a lot. It took a lot of practicing over the year.

Q:

Have the forensics competitions helped you with other public speaking?

A:

Definitely. It teaches you how to act in front of people. Keep eye contact. The posture, all that.

And I like it because even when I go to work one day, I'll be able to have meetings with someone or just be able to talk to people without being up there and saying "um" a lot and "like."

Q:

How was nationals set up?

A:

It was a three-day event. Two days were competition. First day was the regular rounds. The second day was the finals.

There were around 250 kids in each category from all over the U.S. We did four rounds of six to seven kids in each round.

Q:

Any idea of what you're going to do next year?

A:

I'm actually not sure. I'm hoping to look over the summer, start practicing now. Hopefully try out a couple different pieces, and see which one fits the event.

Q:

What else are you involved in?

A:

I'm involved in theater. I go to Malvern Prep and do two shows a year there. I also do Hi-Q, ensemble - I play the cello. I play soccer.

Q:

Do you ever get stage fight at theater performances?

A:

Not really. I think [forensics competitions] really helped me with that. You only compete against six others, but sometimes they'll have other parents in there watching, and judges will come in and observe.

So you can have a whole room of people that you're in front of. You learn to not be afraid or get stage fright. You get more comfortable in front of people.

What a teacher says:

"If she knows she has to work on a particular point, she practices and practices, and she does it again until she gets it right. She's very hardworking," said Maria Gallagher, a Spanish teacher and speech coach at Notre Dame.

"She's extremely passionate about what she does. And she's very articulate. She knows what to do with her voice, how to modulate it. Overall, she's a great performer."

- Ed Mahon