April 4, 2014

Area forensics students in state competition


---- — KEENE — The forensics teams from Keene Central School and Franklin Academy are headed to the state championships.

Their work doesn’t involve finding fingerprints with dust.

“People always ask me, ‘So what do you dissect, bodies?” laughed Liza Amirault, a Keene sophomore who is competing in the Duo Interpretation competition with classmate Brianna Joannette this weekend. “No!”

Keene Forensics Club Director Kathy Recchia summed up the fun and challenging work involved.

“Forensics is the art of speech and debate. It is not only useful to students who wish to pursue dramatic arts, but it also prepares students for public and persuasive speaking of any kind.

“It can help one in sales, marketing, meeting rooms and is especially useful preparation for anyone who chooses to pursue the law,” she said. 

“There are a whole bunch of different categories,” Liza said. “Ours is acting with a partner, only you’re not allowed to look at or touch each other.”

The teams from both schools will travel to Delaware Academy in Delhi for the New York State Forensics League Championship Tournament.


Keene senior Peter Craig also won a spot in the state competition.

He is looking to win in the Dramatic Performance category this weekend.

“The piece I’m performing is titled ‘Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge,’” he said.

It is a dramatic farce by Christopher Durang with 10 different parts, each of which Craig will perform.

“It’s like Charles Dickens’s ‘A Christmas Carol,’ but it’s about Mrs. Cratchit, who is no longer a loving mother of 20 kids. Her husband, Bob Cratchit, doesn’t get paid enough from Mr. Scrooge, and they can’t make ends meet. She decides she is going to jump off the London Bridge.”

That’s when the story mashes with the Christmas classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Craig said the zany, twisted plot of the piece is fun to act out.

Brianna and Liza ran a few of the lines from their performance: “The Greek Mythology on Olympiaganza,” in which the two narrate the entire body of Greek myths in 10 minutes.

Liza’s wild gestures mimic the tone Brianna sets, adding hilarity to their work. They have to complete the entire piece without looking at or touching each other.

As Forensics Duo participants, Liza said, they help each expand individually as an actor, feeding off of spoken cues — a quality that only helps when working with an entire cast.


A team of 10 students from Franklin Academy in Malone is ready and excited for the state tournament, said their coach, North Country Regional Forensics Director Kim Reilly.

“These are actually my first debaters going. I’m really excited,” she said Thursday. “The kids had absolutely an awesome year. For the full year, we had 15 students on the team, and 10 of them have state bids.”

The students are Christian Benware, a junior, who is competing in Public Forum Debate; freshman Donovan Connolly, Public Forum Debate; senior Jordyn Black, Oral Interpretation; sophomore Madison Crow, Oral Interpretation; freshman Cheyenne Dollinger, Dramatic Interpretation; sophomore Cassie Florio, Oral Interpretation; sophomore Adelynn Murphy, Oral Interpretation; junior Jenna Murtagh, Student Congress; freshman Josh Oshiro, Declaration; and junior Taylor Shanty, Dramatic Interpretation.

“We have tournaments about every two weeks, 11 throughout the school year,” Reilly said. “And the word they always use is ‘fun.’”

But, the team’s work has a really important part in education.

“No matter where you go, you have to speak,” Reilly said.

Four Franklin Academy students are also going to nationals in Chicago on Memorial Day weekend. Benware and Murphy are competing in Public Forum Debate; Crow and Shanty are competing in the Duo Performance.


Keene’s Forensics Team members work on their material weekly, practicing lines and dramatic poise for regional competitions they’ve attended about once a month.

They earned first place at the regional tournament held at Colton-Pierrepoint School on March 2.

Traveling to Delhi with the trio are three additional members of the Keene School team: Evella Plumley-Dalai, a junior, and Modified teammates Brian DeWalt and Sarah Woltner, in eighth and seventh grade, respectively.

The students credit their coaches, Recchia and Rosamond Lincoln-Day, for all that they’ve shared, bringing them to this point in state-level forensics.

For her part, Recchia is thrilled to see the group place among state-level teams.

“Forensics used to be a subject taught at Keene Central School during the school day — that made things a lot easier for the students. Now that it is completely out of the classroom and extracurricular, it is a real challenge for the students to pursue it and follow through, with sports, band and other activities competing for their time.

“I am so proud of all six teammates who have hung in there and supported each other through the whole school year and given up their Saturdays to travel as far as Madrid-Waddington and Parishville for regional tournaments,” Recchia said.

“And of course, we’re all very proud of the three who have made it to the state competition. Go Peter, Brianna and Liza!”

The young actors encourage other schools to check into forensics.

The experience adds up; besides being lots of fun, they said, it helps students gain confidence, awareness, experience with theater and public speaking.

And it helps them grow as young adults. 

Email Kim Smith