Too Taboo for the Tabroom: Part One

Malyssa and Kirt dive into a collection of topics that we, as coaches and competitors, sometimes avoid. Our frank conversations are meant to start a dialogue, and we hope to hear your feedback as the series continues this fall. We also hope that our questions, and those submitted by listeners, start a conversation within your teams.

Listen here.

Wolfsong Giveaway:
Kirt is giving away 10 free Audible credits for listeners of Forensics Faces to download his first audiobook Wolfsong. This is a novel with adult themes and language. To win a free download, all you have to do is tweet at @ForensicsFaces and, using the hashtag #Wolfsong (all one word), describe your favorite movie, book or television show involving a werewolf. Kirt will direct message you with an offer code you can use to download the audiobook on Audible for FREE. That’s a $25 value. The first five people to tweet at @ForensicsFaces using the hashtag #Wolfsong automatically win! Kirt and Malyssa will randomly select five more winners at the end of the Taboo series.

Forensics Faces is recorded and edited in Sheboygan, WI. Our theme song was written and performed by JJ Hameister. If you’re a fan of Forensics Faces, give us a rating on iTunes, Stitcher or wherever you listen to podcasts. Find more info at, and connect with us on Facebook & Twitter by searching Forensics Faces.


Slugger? I Barely Know Her

This weekend, Kirt was in the room where it happened…the NCFL Moderators’ Meeting that is, so he and Malyssa give you the highlights from that time in Louisville and discuss the upcoming presidential debate from the point of view of forensics coaches.

Read the Washington Post column discussed in this episode here.
Listen here.

Forensics Faces is recorded and edited in Sheboygan, WI. Our theme song was written and performed by JJ Hameister. If you’re a fan of Forensics Faces, give us a rating on iTunes, Stitcher or wherever you listen to podcasts. Find more info at, and connect with us on Facebook & Twitter by searching Forensics Faces.

Episode 203 – Cathlyn Melvin

203_cathlynThis episode of Forensics Faces introduces Cathlyn Melvin, a former competitor from Sheboygan South High School and the co-founder of Compass Creative Dramatics! Cathlyn shares her perspective on how learning to act in forensics and on stage differ, and she shares some wonderful stories about being the student of one of the WFCA’s biggest personalities, Ty Wesley.

Search “Forensics Faces” on iTunes to subscribe to our podcast!

Listen to this episode

Download this episode (right click and save)

Fresh Face

header2It happened, ladies and gentlemen. I have just competed in my very first collegiate competition at Ripon today!

Albeit it was just an intramural tournament, but it was still a potent cocktail with one part exciting, one part great team bonding, and two parts “wooaahhhh”*

But, before any success at a tournament can take place, one needs to tough it through the week before. If you’ve never played the competitive forensics game, or if it’s been awhile, that last week of preparation before the first meet can get quite intense and frustrating; making sure that paragraph is memorized, your blocking crisp, etc. Which brings me to the part of the show entitled “Don’t Do What Allie Did”:

Don’t Do What Allie Did #1:  Forget to double check that the prose book you ordered will be delivered at an appropriate time for you to read and cut it. No one likes to do one less category than they originally planned for a tournament. **

Don’t Do What Allie Did #2: Write your intro for your piece at 11: 00 pm the night before. I don’t care if your best ideas come at “the witching hour”, it will not be perfectly memorized, and you will freak out about it all morning, when you run your piece before your rounds, and quite especially during your performance. Just get that written now.

Don’t Do What Allie Did #3: Freak out about practicing with coaches. Nothing bad comes out of going to individual practice sessions. I don’t care how nervous you feel about performing in front of some of your coaches, you suck it up and go in. They are there for you! They want to help make your piece better, your performance more crisp, learn more about you so you can become pals, and sometimes they’ll ask if Kirt Graves ever coached you…;)

Besides, it’ll be all worth it when you go to your first competition!

And let me tell you something, ladies and gents. Collegiate forensics competitions are interesting things. The beginning, thus far, has proven to be the most entertaining, what with all of the early morning team bonding, warm ups, and run throughs. (But I musn’t give away what those are. It would ruin the aura of mystery surrounding Ripon College Forensics traditions.) And, if you hold high school tournaments near and dear to your heart, I should warn you about things you will and will not see at college tournaments. Backpacks to carry around everything you need? Overthrown by classy leather messenger bags and large black purses. Questionable outfits including khaki pants and floral skater skirts? Swallowed by everyone looking fierce in legitimate suits. Pillowpets? PRAISE THE LORD ALMIGHTY CAUSE THOSE TACKY LITTLE BASTARDS ARE NOWHERE TO BE FOUND. Someone perfumed the air with “Maturity” and “Sophistication” by Calvin Klein and I pray that scent never ever fades away.

Other than worrying about my green intro, I was excited to see what other pieces and competitors were on the circuit. Since the rules and requirements for pieces are much more precise and sophisticated, I could not reiterate my exact joy at knowing that I would never have to compete against a “Speak”, “Tell Tale”, or Dr. Seuss interpretation ever again. (If you’ve been on the high school circuit in recent years, you feel my feels. My heart melted several times at the refreshing amount of pieces.) There was depth, meaning, and thought in every piece. There were not cheap tricks designed just to make you laugh more or cry harder. There was a competitor in my first round who did a POI*** about a tragic fire (arson) that killed dozens of gay men in New Orleans, not just to make you cry, but to make a point about how our media hides some of our greatest tragedies. And sometimes, the competitors you get most excited about are not necessarily the ones who blow you away with their performance, but the ones you competed with in high school! It’s quite fantastic that college forensics can  turn your past DI competitor into your interp pal! (I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I had a slight MackAttack when I saw some of their faces, but having that rapport with each other is wonderful – having each other to relate to when you’re making that awkward transition from high school to college forensics).

Me? I suppose I did all right, breaking into the collegiate circuit. (I could indulge you in what my pieces are, but that’d be spoiling the fun…) I can tell you that while it didn’t earn me a spot in finals (the IM didn’t do rankings, twas just for tournament experience), I happened to snag “Best Dressed” at the tournament. This means three things:

  1.  My Forensics Philosophy stands: Always knock ‘em dead with a killer suit and pearls.
  2. There is a 100% chance that I will cherish the little gift bag that came with my “Best Dressed” title as my first college forensics trophy.
  3. Putting hard work and effort in what you love to do has a tendency to pay off in the end.

Like, for real, a junior today thought that I was a junior. EXCUSE ME FOR BEING EXCITED!

Keep it classy, forensicators.


*     Despite being a college student in the middle of Wisconsin, I do not condone the use of alcohol of those who are underage

**   I LOVED to be triple entered in high school. Maybe that’s just me. Is that weird?

*** POI is an interp category, made up of various sources of media (poems, prose, news reports, articles, dramas, films, etc.) that are used to support not a “theme”, but a well thought out thesis.

Do More to Get More

eotp_kirtgraves_august2013I hate exercise. I spend $20 a month to occasionally visit a gym, just so I can seem like the type of person who is making the effort to look and feel better. But the thing is, I’m not. I have never been that type of person. My parents insisted that I try every sport invented by man as I was growing up. Every year, I’d learn a new set of rules, bond with a new set of team mates, and ultimately declare that each year’s athletic endeavor just wasn’t for me. I ended up playing baseball for seven years, but only because it was last on the list and something had to stick.

Despite my lack of enthusiasm for organized sports and unnecessary physical activity, though, I have never considered myself a lazy person. On the contrary, I spent many of my formative years volunteering for clubs and activities, forcing my parents to alternate drop-off and pick-up duties two or three times a night. By sixteen, I’d overextended myself so much, that my cash-strapped parents finally gave up and bought me a car so I didn’t have to ask for rides anymore.

So I learned early that sometimes giving of yourself has its own rewards. A few years after high school, I ended up working as a youth minister for the church in which I grew up. As stressful as being a forensics coach can be, nothing I’ve ever done required more sacrifice or tried my patience more than that job. But along the way I learned a lot about humility, I built tremendous relationships with wonderful people, and I count many moments of my ministry as the greatest in my life. The more I gave, the more I received.

I started coaching much in the same way I started ministering. I was asked to take the team over, because no one else was available. I intended to stay for a year, or maybe two, before passing the responsibility off to someone who was better suited or had the right background. I knew that I’d always stay involved, as long as I was in town, but I didn’t want it to be my job.

And much in the same way I continued in my ministry, I stuck around. In coaching, my willingness compulsion to say yes has made me very busy. In my first year as head coach, it was expected that I would host a tournament and take kids to both national tournaments every year, because it had always been done that way. Shortly thereafter, I started a podcast and blog about forensics. And before I knew it, I was saying yes when fellow coaches encouraged me to run for President of the WFCA. Now in the second year on the executive board, would I do it again? Absolutely.

As an executive board member, I am positioned to absorb information from some of the most successful and long-serving coaches in our organization. Tips and tricks are shared freely, and many of them are implemented on my team with great success. I have the opportunity to hear from members who otherwise might not take the time to approach me or start a conversation. I have been given the opportunity to sit and talk with leaders of other organizations, like the WHSFA and NFL, whose perspective and advice have been invaluable.

There are, of course, many days when I feel run down. There are nights spent lying awake in bed, when I wonder if I’ve overextended myself again, but this time no one is showing up with a car to ease their own burden. I often doubt that I am capable of meeting the expectations which I perceive to have been placed upon me. And in those moments, when I am my own antagonist, I have learned to take another step forward and do a little more. Without fail, giving a little more ultimately gives me the strength and the resources to take another step.

When I talk to non-forensics friends about the WFCA, I often use the word “unique” to describe our organization. We are a collection of singular personalities, and I doubt there are many groups like ours in the world. However, there is one way in which the WFCA is just like everything else I’ve ever done. When I give more, I get more.

So my advice to all the coaches who feel that now just isn’t the time to get more involved in the WFCA, especially the new coaches who don’t feel experienced enough, is this: Say yes anyway. It’s possible that you’ll regret it, but it’s much more likely that you’ll benefit from being more involved. There will be a price, and that price is normally additional sleepless hours, but the rewards are worth it. And you won’t be the only one who sees the benefits. Your students will, too. So take a leap and join a committee or host a tournament or mentor a new coach or join a national organization or run for a position on the executive board. Whatever step you take, no matter how big or small, will be a step in the right direction.

If, by the time you read this, I’ve been forcibly removed from the executive board and placed in supervised, psychiatric care, I trust that you’ll ignore my advice. Otherwise, I look forward to serving with you.

Kirt Graves
Sheboygan North

New Column: Eyes on the Prize

eotp_announcementForensics Faces is proud to announce an upcoming column written exclusively for the Forensics Faces blog. Eyes on the Prize is advice from current coaches to other coaches or students.

Participating coaches are invited to write an article on the topic of their choosing, with only the following question to keep in mind: What do you think your fellow coaches or competitors in the WFCA should know?

While no one coaches just to take home trophies, every coach does work to make sure their students experience some success. Eyes on the Prize is intended to offer a wealth of advice and wisdom to its readers, so they can identify the ways by which their own team may grow. Our coaching community is filled with diverse and compelling personalities, and contributors will be of varying levels of experience, so the topics of Eyes on the Prize should be equally diverse and compelling. Find the advice that works for you, and then pass it along.

If you’re a coach who is interested in contributing to Eyes on the Prize, please contact Kirt Graves at

Questions and comments can be sent to

You Gotta Face It

header1When you sit in the car, the morning of move-in, belongings overflowing in the back seat, and final goodbyes dished out, many begin to wonder about the future in their new, post-secondary world.

I was just hoping that I could find a piece for Solo Serious that can top last year’s.

In high school, I was commonly referred to as “that forensics girl.” Involved since my freshman year, I started out as the timid little first year that spoke way too fast and needed a little slap of reality. My first category ever was farrago (and bless your little heart if you’re in that category), and I went on to do Oratorical Declamation, OIL, Poetry, Duo, Solo Serious, and Prose. I’m fluent in all forensics speech, make sound effects for myself when opening an actual door, and look at suits on Overstock when bored.

It came as no surprise when I got to tell everyone for the eightieth time that I was going to Ripon College with a forensics scholarship. (It’s a pretty swell place. Heard of it? No? STOP READING RIGHT NOW AND LOOK IT UP!) Part of the package, however, was that I needed to attend the official Forensics Boot Camp. And for all y’all who have done high school forensics for some time, you’ll feel me when I say that I thought it would be silly. I knew the ropes. But let me tell you: Collegiate forensics, friends, is certainly not for the faint of heart.

Only three hours into boot camp, I began to have a MackAttack. (Fun fact: A MackAttack is when I am experiencing excitement, anxiety, and a general “Is This Real Life?” feeling internally all at the same time. So perhaps I look like a decent human being on the outside, but all of the butterflies in my stomach are having a crazy-pants rave.) When considering continuing forensics in college, brace yourself for stepping from the icebox into the hot tub. It is wonderfully and discouragingly different from the competition many have come to love. Many of the little nuances that we hold dear and enjoy about high school forensics competitions have been steamrollered by the maturity of collegiate practices. Collegiate forensics looks high school forensics in the eye and tells it to, “Run along home.”

Don’t you love it when your high school coach finds you a fantastic piece with the perfect cutting? You’d better kiss their feet and give them a candy bar, because now you have to find your own material and write your own speech, and if it’s not brilliant, you can just throw that crap away. That classy binder opening you perfected for quals? Go spend a couple hours correcting it, because now there is only one way to open and close your binder, and IT IS THE RIGHT WAY. ‘Relationships’ for your theme for farrago or poetry? How quaint. Because if your POI has a cute little “theme” instead of a contemporary, socially relevant and supported thesis, you have two days to try, try again. Did I mention that the first competition is in three weeks?

It is certainly a different world, friends. We’re all ditching the 7:00 am Mountain Dew for a black coffee and taking a maturity pill, because this – this is where it gets real.

The worst part was that I got scared. The workload and intensity and just general change got those butterflies to really twerk it out. During a break, I stepped outside of boot camp to breathe and send my worries to God. The people on the team were such great people with poignant ideas, ready to work and ready to get to know you. Why couldn’t I share in their joy? I went back in, resettling my faith in my future in college forensics and my faith in myself. I was thankful for my faith in God, because that Mountain Dew is really tempting, friends.  It’s going to be different. It’s going to be a challenge. But that’s why people go to college in the first place, right? It’s only Day One, and one day can’t shake off four years of love for this incredible activity. Anything different can be scary, guys, but that’s why we need to do it. I came here for fun, so help me God, I will get it out of this award-winning team, amazing professional coaches, and personal effort. So I’m going to find that perfect POI thesis, and you’re going to finally try Moments In History or Extemp. But for now, I’m just going to hang out with my roomie and browse for some more suits.

By the way, POI is for next time. Or just Google it. We live in the 21st, punks.

Allie Macknick

Episode 202 – John Peschl

202_johnFinally! Another episode of Forensics Faces is available here and on iTunes. This episode we hear from several students who attended UW-Whitewater’s Forensics Camp in the summer of 2012, and we talk to the man who encouraged WFCA students to attend, Mr. John Peschl of Sun Prairie.

Search “Forensics Faces” on iTunes to subscribe to our podcast!

Listen to this episode

Download this episode (right click and save)