April 30, 2020
Speakers’ Forum Tradition Continues To Delight
Form 4 students took part in an annual tradition at KO this Wednesday: the Speakers’ Forum Finals, this year as a webinar, emceed by Braeden Rose ’21 and Christina Lu ’21. As J.K. Rowling notes: “There’s always room for a story that can transport people to another place,” and five of our sophomores gave us glimpses into other worlds through their interpretive readings. The finalists included: Koby Braunstein – Wonder by R. J. Palacio, Natalia Correa – “Distractions” by Simon Rich, Aidan Dillow – “Riding Solo, The Oatsy Story” by Simon Rich, Katharine Doar – To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, and Daniel Raymond – The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien.
When English Department Chair Cathy Schieffelin introduced our Baird English Symposium author Sarah Ruhl at the Upper School assembly earlier this year, she encouraged the audience to connect with our inner children as the group gathered – happily, in-person in Roberts– to hear Ruhl read to us. Quoting from an essay of hers in 100 Essays I Don’t Have Time To Write, she reminded us that we live in a time when “all of our acts of reading and writing are instantly transmittable, in silence. In the digital age, we read and digest texts and silently text back, never having read them out loud.” Her words are even more relevant now as all of our communication, save Zooming, is done silently on screens. Ruhl encourages us to revel in the ancient forms of communication – “for the actor to read to, speak to, sing to the audience” because we were all “once children, who enjoyed being read to, or sung to sleep.”
Gathering around our laptops and other electronic devices, the finalists treated us to both some dark and light moments in the lives of their characters. In Wonder, we felt the anticipation at an assembly of winning a prize. “Riding Solo” told the hilarious vantage point of Paul Revere’s horse. The taut Mockingbirdpassage was the infamous ambush of young Scout and her brother. The Things They Carried delivered a darkly humorous missive about the horrors of war. “Distractions” offered a funny fever dream of every writer – a secret cabal of literati that is out to destroy a budding author.
The Speakers’ Forum was established by the legendary KO teacher Bob Googins who worked at the school for 42 years as an English teacher, Forensic Union, and Mock Trial founder, and sports coach. As coordinator of the English program, Upper School English teacher Ron Monroe shared a snippet of an article from an old KO Magazine that described Googins. “Sincerity and civility reigned supreme in every Forensic Union activity that Bob ran…Bob stressed that fifty percent of debating was listening and that while wit and humor were always welcomed seasonings in a speech there was never any room for flippancy or cruelty.”
Correa took home first place, followed by Raymond, Braunstein, Dillow, and Doar.
Special thanks to Lu and Rose, who kept the forum moving with their banter between performances. From their conversation ranging from comfort food to quinces and Inky Pink competitions, the emcees helped the audience share in a great community event. Well done!