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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

Freshman discusses involvement in oratorical and dramatic interpretation

This year, the speech and debate team has entered 11 students in the 2016 Berkeley Invitational, which starts on Feb. 13 with over 3,000 participants across all events. Students from all over the United States will travel to compete in the tournament, which is arguably the largest competition on the West Coast.

Among them is freshman Bijan Naimi, who will compete in Varsity Dramatic Interpretation (DI). Naimi, who usually competes in Oratorical Interpretation (OI) as well, was unable to enter because the invitational did not offer OI as an event.

“When I started out in speech and debate, I couldn’t really talk in front of a crowd,” Naimi said. “But when I did interp, I [felt I] could really connect with people.”

In DI, competitors perform a 10-minute excerpt from a published work, such as a novel, play or short story. Naimi had to choose a speech both fit him and was also “a sad piece of literature,” because Dramatic Interpretation bars purely humorous pieces. He settled on a monologue from the play “Jails, Hospitals and Hip Hop” about a heroin-addicted Vietnam War veteran named Andy.

After choosing the piece, Naimi constructed his beginning with a teaser that he called “really awesome sometimes.”

“If you’re doing something funny, that’s where you get a bunch of laughs,” Naimi said. “That’s where you get the judge leaning forward in their seat. If it’s sad, that’s where you get the judge thinking about their entire life.”

Once Naimi has the judge’s attention, he launches into the introduction, the only part of the speech other than transitions that is written by him. It is “that minute where you really just connect with the judge on a personal level.” Here, the message of the speech is made evident.

“In speeches, [the message] can either be political or personal,” Naimi said. “My DI is somewhat political. A lot of veterans who came home from Vietnam were promised all these services, but the government never followed through. It’s really sad to see this guy working at McDonalds [with] no friends, and he’s going to die because of whatever happened to him in the past.”

For Naimi’s other event OI, an event that requires students to perform a previously published speech, he chose a TED talk by the comedian Maz Jobrani entitled “Did You Hear the One About the Iranian-American?”

“The oratorical interpretation topic, with the Persian guy, [is] somewhat personal,” Naimi said. “It’s a lot easier [for me] to ace it because not only can I relate to the jokes, but I can also do the accent really, really well.”

He found the oration on TED Talks, the “Holy Grail of OI scripts.” After spending hours combing through speeches, he finally settled on his current piece. Choosing the speech itself was almost as important as the process of polishing and refining his delivery, Naimi said.

“A lot of the kids in OI get bad speeches, and they’re good speakers but they just don’t do well because they just don’t have a good speech,” he said.

Naimi feels that getting involved with a speech event has allowed him a degree of expression through political commentary that is not available to most high schoolers.

“People don’t normally listen to you until you do something amazing, and comedy always seems to just get people’s attention,” said Naimi. “So if you get people’s attention with comedy and use it to [talk about] politics, I think their whole view on recent events and controversial topics in today’s news will be completely changed. It feels really good.”

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