“Forensics is like a track meet for the mouth” — Debate and Forensics coach Chris Riffer

Students in forensics discuss events, favorite parts


Humorous Interpretation (HI) Brief: Using a play, short story or other published work, students perform a 10 minute selection of one or more portions of a piece that tests student’s comedic skills through script analysis, delivery, timing and character development. No props or costumes may be used.

“I get to learn to properly juggle all of the characters because usually they’re very extreme which means that I get to choose what voices and physicality to use.” — senior Maria Gnoza

Dramatic Interpretation (DI)

Brief: Using a play, short story or other published work, students perform a selection of one or more portions of a piece up to 10 minutes in length. With a spotlight on character development and depth, this event focuses on the student’s ability to convey emotion through the use of a dramatic text. No props or costumes may be used.

“Something that is very cool to me is that everything that goes into my DI is my work. Every time you see an audience’s reaction, that is something that you personally made them feel.” — senior Maili Cotter-Brown


Brief: Using a short story, parts of a novel or other published work of prose, students provide an oral interpretation of a selection of materials. Typically a single piece of literature, prose can be drawn from works of fiction or nonfiction. Students may not use poetry, or drama (plays), in this category. This event is seven minutes.


Brief: Using a selection or selections of literature, students provide a seven-minute oral interpretation of poetry with an incorporated self-written introduction. Students may choose traditional poetry, often characterized by rhyme or rhythm, or nontraditional poetry, which often has a rhythmic flow but is not necessarily structured by formal meter.

“It’s really fun to become your character for a short seven or eight minutes, to deliver that monologue or whatever you’re saying. You get to read from another perspective.” — junior Seth Hughes

Duo Interpretation

Brief: Two competitors team up to deliver a 10-minute performance of a published play or story. Using off-stage focus, competitors convey emotion and environment through a variety of performance techniques focusing on the relationships and interactions between the characters. No props or costumes are used.

“It’s so much fun performing with another person, and there’s so many cool things you can do in duo. You can make big movements and create different sequences and make it feel like something else is happening.” — seniors Kailey Meecham and Maria Gnoza




Domestic & International Extemporaneous Speech

Brief: A choice of three questions related to international or domestic current events and, in 30 minutes, prepare a seven-minute speech answering the selected question. Students may consult articles and evidence they gather prior to the contest but may not use the Internet during preparation. Topics range from country-specific issues to regional concerns to foreign policy. The speech is delivered from memory.

“I enjoy being able to wing it because all of the other events require you to memorize a speech and work down the little intricacies of it, but I prefer to just inform myself and use that on the fly whenever I can. It’s not as nerdy as people make it out to be — it’s kind of fun.” — senior Arslan Ali


Brief: Self-written, 10-minute speech on a topic of their choosing. Competitors create the speech to educate the audience on a particular topic. All topics must be informative in nature; the goal is to educate, not to advocate. The speech is delivered from memory.

“It’s great when you have somebody listening to your speech and you can tell they just learned something for the first time and their eyes are open to something they previously didn’t know about.” — junior George Cochran

Original Oratory

Brief: Self-written, 10-minute speech on a topic of their choosing. Limited in their ability to quote words directly, competitors craft an argument using evidence, logic and emotional appeals. Topics range widely and can be informative or persuasive in nature. The speech is delivered from memory.

“I like that it gives me an outlet to express my sense for social justice. I wish people saw that it takes a lot of intellect and a lot of work to make it seem like it’s not memorized. It takes a lot of skill to write a persuasive speech — and it takes more talent than people assume.” — senior Caitlin Riffer


Brief: Impromptu is a public speaking event where students have seven minutes to select a topic, brainstorm their ideas, outline and deliver a speech. The speech is given without notes and uses an introduction, body and conclusion. The speech can be light-hearted or serious. It can be based upon prompts that range from nursery rhymes, current events, celebrities, organizations and more.

“I really enjoy the plurality of it. It’s always a new speech every time, and it’s exciting. I wish people knew how fun it was. Speaking off the top of your head, while nerve-racking, is also somewhat exhilarating.” — senior Micah Slagle




Public Forum Debate

Brief: Opposing teams of two each debate a topic concerning a current event. Proceeding a coin toss, the winners choose which side to debate (PRO or CON) or which speaker position they prefer (1st or 2nd), and the other team receives the remaining option. Students present cases, engage in rebuttal and refutation and also participate in a “crossfire” with the opportunity to question the opposing team.

“Some of my favorite parts [about PFD] are the rounds are short — it’s not as much evidence-based as it is analytics, and it’s easy to medal in. It really helps you learn how to be concise and get your point across as fast as possible.” — senior Belal Jamil

Lincoln-Douglas Debate

Brief: Topics range from individual freedom versus the collective good to economic development versus environmental protection. Students may consult evidence gathered prior to the debate but may not use the Internet in round. An entire debate is roughly 45 minutes and consists of constructive speeches, rebuttals and cross-examination.

“I like that it puts a large emphasis on the values that we as a society hold. The resolution is usually a question of the fundamentals that we as privileged Americans take for granted.” — junior Christian Hansen

Congressional Debate

Brief: A simulation of the U.S. legislative process, students generate a series of bills and resolutions for debate in Congressional Debate. Debaters alternate delivering speeches for and against the topic in a group setting. An elected student serves as a presiding officer to ensure debate flows smoothly. Students are assessed on their research, argumentation and delivery skills, as well as their knowledge and use of parliamentary procedure.

“I like how laid-back but competitive it is compared to other events like policy debate. It’s way more easy going, and it’s way more individualized.” — senior Waseem Ahmad


Event descriptions from NSDA website