Moorpark College forensics team showcases speech skills


Nicole Castro delivers her speech about transgender individuals in organized sports during the Forensics Showcase on Tuesday, Dec. 10, in the Performing Arts Center. The style of speech included jokes and witty word play to deliver a larger message. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

By Justin Downes

The Moorpark College Speech Department presented its annual Fall Forensics Showcase Dec. 9-10 at the Performing Arts Center.

Types of speeches included extemporaneous, informative and interpretive, which were used to persuade, educate and entertain.

Ally Zlaket was first on stage Tuesday night giving an extemporaneous speech. The audience suggested topics and within 30 minutes she had crafted a fully-researched response to the topic of a potential presidential impeachment.

Coach Neal Stewart then introduced Aveista Halmandi, whom created an impromptu speech based on the prompt “Be the change that you wish to see in the world,” a quote from Mahatma Ghandi.

“An impromptu speech is what you can come up with off the top of your head. No research, quotes or statistics,” Stewart explained to the audience.

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Aveista Helmandi delivers her impromptu speech during the Forensics Showcase on Tuesday, Dec. 10 in the Performing Arts Center. Helmandi spoke about a Mahatma Gandhi quote suggested by a crowd member. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

Halmandi is a second year student working to become a lawyer and finds impromptu speeches helpful in preparing for situations such as courtroom settings, where time is limited and information must be presented quickly.

“With the impromptu we’re put under pressure. We get two minutes to create a five minute speech, and so we have to think fast,” stated Halmandi.

Afterward, forensics team student Camille Green performed a dramatic oral interpretative excerpt from the play “Empanada Loca.” She convincingly became a chilling character who’d worked in a restaurant where the secret ingredient was human.


Camille Green performs her dramatic oral interpretation during the Forensics Showcase on Tuesday, Dec. 10, in the Performing Arts building. Green performed an excerpt from "Empanada Loca," a play about a cannibalistic cook. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

Regarding oral interpretative speeches, Moorpark coach August Benassi said actors are allowed props and make-up to assist them, whereas oral interpretations limit students to face, body and voice to convey the performance.

Moorpark’s Department Chair of Communication Studies, Rolland Petrello explained that the name forensics comes from Aristotle, and that Aristotle rhetoric is meant to systematically debate and apply reason in the pursuit of truth. He explained that Moorpark’s speech students work hard to refine these skills.

“20 years ago we started this show for the public because we wanted friends and family to have the chance to see what students are practicing for during the speech and debate season,” Petrello stated.

Petrello said Moorpark’s speech teams have been competing in the Phi Ro Pi National Championships since 1972, and since then Moorpark has won 1st place ten times and has never placed under 8th nationwide.

“Many students here want to make it to the nationals, but Phi Ro Phi accepts no more than 14 students per school, so the competition is tough,” Petrello said.

Riley Shapiro is a second year Moorpark student seeking to make it to Phi Ro Phi with a persuasive speech she’s crafted concerning the fact that it is legal in 45 states for U.S. police officers to have sex with people in their custody, so long as the officer says it’s consensual. She effectively argued Tuesday night that a federal law against this behavior and the cover-ups that follow, is necessary.

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Riley Shapiro performs her persuasive speech during the Forensics Showcase on Tuesday, Dec. 10 in the Performing Arts Center. Shapiro spoke about the rampant culture of sexual assault within law enforcement in the U.S. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

Shapiro wants to advocate for people as a civil rights attorney. She says speech has helped her in many ways.

“Public speaking is a good skill set no matter what career a person chooses. Being able to effectively present information in a speech has many applications. You learn while on stage that when you mess up, you have to keep confidence up,” said Shapiro.

Elisabeth Melcher, won a gold medal at this year’s Phi Rho Pi championship, concluded the showcase with a dramatic prose interpretation, playing a teacher as well as an abused student. Her focus is on theater, and said speech has helped improve her acting skills.

“When you’re giving a speech, the coaches pick at everything you do. It’s good acting exercise,” Melcher said.

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Elisabeth Melcher performs her dramatic prose interpretation at the Forensics Showcase on Tuesday, Dec. 10, in the Performing Arts Center. Melcher believes that being a member of the forensics team improves her skills in theatre arts. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

Camarillo resident Steven Porta attended the Forensics Showcase in support of fellow friends.

“I found the show very engaging. I really liked the wide body of topics they covered,” Porta said. “Seeing the speeches in person was a testament to the amount of work they put into them.”

Moorpark College can look forward to 14 forensics students competing in the Phi Rho Pi championships on April 6-11 in Albequrque, NM.