Frequently Asked Questions

Membership FAQs

Why should a school join WHSFA?

Joining WHSFA connects a school with a network of coaches/directors who support each other through contests and professional development. Learn more about us!

How do I sign up for membership?

We offer school membership for middle level and high schools; visit whsfa.org/membership for information on dues and enrolling a school for membership

Who do I contact with questions?

You can always start with the State Office, who will find the best answer to your question.

Can homeschool or online school students participate?

Homeschool students may either participate with an area public or private school,** or as part of a homeschool association that joins the WHSFA.

**WHSFA supports the local school district policy for interscholastic athletics/academic contests. For example, if a home-schooled student is allowed to join the basketball team, a home-schooled student may participate in Theatre, Speech, and Debate activities.

Here is the official policy from the WHSFA’s Constitution/Bylaws:

SECTION III: Membership

Wisconsin homeschooled/online/virtual school students:

  1. Conditions: Students must be members of a homeschool association or enrolled full time in an online school. They cannot participate individually, unless as part of their attendance-area school district, if the school district allows participation.
  2. Procedures:
    1. Homeschooling associations may apply for membership by registering and paying the yearly dues. Online/virtual schools headquartered in Wisconsin may apply under the same conditions.
    2. As members, their students are eligible to participate in all WHSFA events in the District/Section where the homeschool association is located. Students living in Wisconsin who are enrolled in online/virtual schools that are members of WHSFA may participate in the subdistrict and district festivals in which the online/virtual school is located.

Contest FAQs

How do I register for One-Act Theatre?

Visit the Theatre contests page for more information on our festival series, which runs from mid-October through mid-November.

Where and when are contests?

Visit the Speech Contests, Theatre Contests, Debate Contests, or Middle Level contests pages for a list by date, including locations. Please note: each local area sets its own schedules, so the State Office posts these on our website only when we have been notified.

Who are my local contest coordinators (high school)?

See the Districts/Sections page for a list of contacts, along with a map showing the geographic regions of the state.

How do I register for contests?
Visit the Speech Contests, Theatre Contests, or Debate Contests pages for a button/link that will take you to the online registration platform for registering. Each of those pages also will contain tutorial information on how to register. Most Middle Level contests handle registration directly through email, although some have moved to using SpeechWire; contact the host for more information (host contact information is available when clicking a particular contest in the Middle Level upcoming dates calendar.
How and when do I book a slot for State Speech?

When initial Speech registration opens on SpeechWire (see the Speech Contests page), coaches will be able to immediately book a slot, on a first come, first served basis. This is to ensure enough classrooms for each contest round at the UW-Madison campus. Time slot options include Friday at 5:30pm and 7:00pm, and Saturday at 9:30am and 11:00am. Schools who plan to have more than 4 entries combined between Group Interpretive Reading and Play Acting must book a Saturday slot.

What Speech subdistrict am I in?

Your district chair can tell you; we do not publish a list, because the number of schools fluctuates from year to year in some areas, especially as new schools join, or schools leave the WHSFA.

How many entries are allowed in high school Speech?

A school may register up to 25 entries overall, for their squad, with up to four (4) entries in any category (including four in each of Farrago, Poetry, and Prose), with the following additional limitations:

  • No more than four (4) entries in Solo Acting Humorous and Serious, combined.
  • No more than six (6) entries in Group Interpretive Reading and Play Acting (and no more than four in each). If a school brings 5 or 6 group entries to the State Festival, it must attend on Saturday.
Can a team or individual entries attend a different festival?

All these steps must be followed, for legal/liability reasons, as well as to ensure students do not fall through the cracks for tracking advancement through the festival series.

  1. The head coach must request permission of the district chair.
  2. Inquire with the different festival manager/host if they have space.
  3. Enter the request for a different festival in SpeechWire.
  4. Whether the coach is requesting for the whole team, or for individual entry(ies), the coach is required to accompany students — or another school district employee or vetted school district volunteer may go in the coach’s place. Contestants will NOT be allowed to perform without a school official present. Parents are not allowed to fulfill this role unless they have gone through a background check and been vetted by the school as a recognized volunteer.  The person accompanying students also should serve as an adjudicator, and as such, must be certified. It is considered rude to request to bring entries to a different festival, but not serve as an adjudicator.
How do Middle Level contests work?

In education circles, middle level is a universal term encompassing middle schools, junior high schools, intermediate schools/K-8 schools with grades 6-8 as the focal point for participation in forensic Speech contests. WHSFA has two progressive levels of contests we offer for middle level students:

  1. Level 1: The official festival a student participates in. S/he must earn at least two grades/scores of “A” to move on to Level 2 (receiving a commemorative certificate for that achievement. Otherwise, s/he earns a participation certificate.
  2. Level 2: The second and final official contest a student participates in. S/he must earn at least two grades/scores of “A” to receive a blue ribbon; otherwise, s/he earns a red ribbon.

Any given student can only participate in one official Level 1 and one official Level 2 contest per school year. Schools also may participate in invitational, or “practice” contests, which are run independently of the WHSFA, but often use the WHSFA’s contest categories, rules, and evaluation sheets. Those do not count as official, however, and there is no limit to how many a school may participate in. Schools are not required to attend a specific contest in their geographic region, and some contests are limited in how many schools/entries they can accept, because their facilities may not accommodate everyone interested in attending. In those cases, we recommend other schools step forward to host contests as well.

What is the middle level entry limit?

There are no per-category, nor overall entry limits for Middle Level Speech, although certain festivals may have limitations on capacity in their school buildings. We do encourage schools to distribute their entries across different categories to maximize the educational experiences students receive.

How do I host a festival?

Please review the PDF handbook for your particular activity, which has a number of resources and suggestions. We also compiled a Theatre Festival Manager Info page, as well as a Speech Festival Manager Info page, with instructions on using the SpeechWire contest management website/software.

How do I suggest a change to rules?

Each summer, advisory committees for each activity meet to review the previous contest season and propose changes to the Board of Control. Contact us with concerns and/or suggestions, and we will forward these to the respective committee(s).

Can homeschool or online school students participate?

Homeschool students may either participate with an area public or private school,** or as part of a homeschool association that joins the WHSFA.

**WHSFA supports the local school district policy for interscholastic athletics/academic contests. For example, if a home-schooled student is allowed to join the basketball team, a home-schooled student may participate in Theatre, Speech, and Debate activities.

Here is the official policy from the WHSFA’s Constitution/Bylaws:

SECTION III: Membership

Wisconsin homeschooled/online/virtual school students:

  1. Conditions: Students must be members of a homeschool association or enrolled full time in an online school. They cannot participate individually, unless as part of their attendance-area school district, if the school district allows participation.
  2. Procedures:
    1. Homeschooling associations may apply for membership by registering and paying the yearly dues. Online/virtual schools headquartered in Wisconsin may apply under the same conditions.
    2. As members, their students are eligible to participate in all WHSFA events in the District/Section where the homeschool association is located. Students living in Wisconsin who are enrolled in online/virtual schools that are members of WHSFA may participate in the subdistrict and district festivals in which the online/virtual school is located.

Speech Adjudicator FAQs

How many Speech adjudicators am I required to have?

Generally speaking, contests ask for one adjudicator for every five entries, or fraction thereof. Some contests require fewer or more. This means that if a school has 7 entries, it should bring two adjudicators. Some contests will allow schools to pay a fee for uncovered adjudicators, not because they have extras they can hire for a school, but to incentivize schools to bring their own adjudicators. It is a burden on any host when schools do not provide all of the adjudicators they are expected to.  The State Festival requires one adjudicator for 1-8 entries, two adjudicators for 9-19 entries, and three adjudicators for 20-25 entries.

How do I get certified to adjudicate (judge) Speech contests?

You will enroll in an online course that takes about 2 hours, followed by a 3-hour in-person workshop. The initial certification fee is $38 and lasts 3 years, at which point you will be able to renew. To learn more, visit our adjudication page.

How do I renew certification to adjudicate (judge) Speech contests?

You will enroll in an online course that takes about 30 minutes, plus evaluating a student presentation. Upon receipt of the $6 recertification fee and successful completion of the course and evaluation, certification will be renewed. To learn more, visit our adjudication page.

Do you have a list of descriptive words/phrases adjudicators can use?
How do I register a complaint about an adjudicator?

We now have an online complaint form that can be accessed from the Speech Contests or the Theatre Contests pages.

Debate FAQs

Where and when are contests?

Visit the Speech Contests, Theatre Contests, Debate Contests, or Middle Level contests pages for a list by date, including locations. Please note: each local area sets its own schedules, so the State Office posts these on our website only when we have been notified.

Who are my local contest coordinators (high school)?

See the Districts/Sections page for a list of contacts, along with a map showing the geographic regions of the state.

How do I register for contests?
Visit the Speech Contests, Theatre Contests, or Debate Contests pages for a button/link that will take you to the online registration platform for registering. Each of those pages also will contain tutorial information on how to register. Most Middle Level contests handle registration directly through email, although some have moved to using SpeechWire; contact the host for more information (host contact information is available when clicking a particular contest in the Middle Level upcoming dates calendar.
How do I suggest a change to rules?

Each summer, advisory committees for each activity meet to review the previous contest season and propose changes to the Board of Control. Contact us with concerns and/or suggestions, and we will forward these to the respective committee(s).

Can homeschool or online school students participate?

Homeschool students may either participate with an area public or private school,** or as part of a homeschool association that joins the WHSFA.

**WHSFA supports the local school district policy for interscholastic athletics/academic contests. For example, if a home-schooled student is allowed to join the basketball team, a home-schooled student may participate in Theatre, Speech, and Debate activities.

Here is the official policy from the WHSFA’s Constitution/Bylaws:

SECTION III: Membership

Wisconsin homeschooled/online/virtual school students:

  1. Conditions: Students must be members of a homeschool association or enrolled full time in an online school. They cannot participate individually, unless as part of their attendance-area school district, if the school district allows participation.
  2. Procedures:
    1. Homeschooling associations may apply for membership by registering and paying the yearly dues. Online/virtual schools headquartered in Wisconsin may apply under the same conditions.
    2. As members, their students are eligible to participate in all WHSFA events in the District/Section where the homeschool association is located. Students living in Wisconsin who are enrolled in online/virtual schools that are members of WHSFA may participate in the subdistrict and district festivals in which the online/virtual school is located.

Theatre FAQs

What are the basics of producing a One-Act for Theatre contests?

The Theatre Handbook (linked on our Theatre Contests page) will provide all details, but in short:

  1. You have 40 minutes, bare stage to bare stage – this means bringing your set on stage and striking it from the stage are all part of timing.
  2. You construct and bring your own set/set pieces.  Some schools do this quite elaborately, and have made an art form of choreographing placement of that set on stage at the festivals, and some schools are quite minimalist, and really focus on the deep psychology of performances. The beauty of our festival is no schools is compared with another; each performance is evaluated on its own merits. We universally suggest starting simple and mastering the basics before taking on more ambitious staging.
  3. Schools do their own costuming and make up, and this can be a way to visually enhance the production, while helping students identify their sense of characterizations. Same with props. How this all plays into the production is subject to critique.
  4. Since each production is subject to the amenities and limitations of lighting and sound at each host venue, less value is placed on these elements in the evaluation process, but anything that is significantly distracting or prevents an adjudicator from seeing/hearing the production effectively is subject to critique.
How do I register for One-Act Theatre?

Visit the Theatre contests page for more information on our festival series, which runs from mid-October through mid-November.

Where and when are contests?

Visit the Speech Contests, Theatre Contests, Debate Contests, or Middle Level contests pages for a list by date, including locations. Please note: each local area sets its own schedules, so the State Office posts these on our website only when we have been notified.

Who are my local contest coordinators (high school)?

See the Districts/Sections page for a list of contacts, along with a map showing the geographic regions of the state.

How do I register for contests?
Visit the Speech Contests, Theatre Contests, or Debate Contests pages for a button/link that will take you to the online registration platform for registering. Each of those pages also will contain tutorial information on how to register. Most Middle Level contests handle registration directly through email, although some have moved to using SpeechWire; contact the host for more information (host contact information is available when clicking a particular contest in the Middle Level upcoming dates calendar.
How do I host a festival?

Please review the PDF handbook for your particular activity, which has a number of resources and suggestions. We also compiled a Theatre Festival Manager Info page, as well as a Speech Festival Manager Info page, with instructions on using the SpeechWire contest management website/software.

How do I suggest a change to rules?

Each summer, advisory committees for each activity meet to review the previous contest season and propose changes to the Board of Control. Contact us with concerns and/or suggestions, and we will forward these to the respective committee(s).

Can homeschool or online school students participate?

Homeschool students may either participate with an area public or private school,** or as part of a homeschool association that joins the WHSFA.

**WHSFA supports the local school district policy for interscholastic athletics/academic contests. For example, if a home-schooled student is allowed to join the basketball team, a home-schooled student may participate in Theatre, Speech, and Debate activities.

Here is the official policy from the WHSFA’s Constitution/Bylaws:

SECTION III: Membership

Wisconsin homeschooled/online/virtual school students:

  1. Conditions: Students must be members of a homeschool association or enrolled full time in an online school. They cannot participate individually, unless as part of their attendance-area school district, if the school district allows participation.
  2. Procedures:
    1. Homeschooling associations may apply for membership by registering and paying the yearly dues. Online/virtual schools headquartered in Wisconsin may apply under the same conditions.
    2. As members, their students are eligible to participate in all WHSFA events in the District/Section where the homeschool association is located. Students living in Wisconsin who are enrolled in online/virtual schools that are members of WHSFA may participate in the subdistrict and district festivals in which the online/virtual school is located.

Speech FAQs

Where and when are contests?

Visit the Speech Contests, Theatre Contests, Debate Contests, or Middle Level contests pages for a list by date, including locations. Please note: each local area sets its own schedules, so the State Office posts these on our website only when we have been notified.

Who are my local contest coordinators (high school)?

See the Districts/Sections page for a list of contacts, along with a map showing the geographic regions of the state.

How do I register for contests?
Visit the Speech Contests, Theatre Contests, or Debate Contests pages for a button/link that will take you to the online registration platform for registering. Each of those pages also will contain tutorial information on how to register. Most Middle Level contests handle registration directly through email, although some have moved to using SpeechWire; contact the host for more information (host contact information is available when clicking a particular contest in the Middle Level upcoming dates calendar.
How and when do I book a slot for State Speech?

When initial Speech registration opens on SpeechWire (see the Speech Contests page), coaches will be able to immediately book a slot, on a first come, first served basis. This is to ensure enough classrooms for each contest round at the UW-Madison campus. Time slot options include Friday at 5:30pm and 7:00pm, and Saturday at 9:30am and 11:00am. Schools who plan to have more than 4 entries combined between Group Interpretive Reading and Play Acting must book a Saturday slot.

What Speech subdistrict am I in?

Your district chair can tell you; we do not publish a list, because the number of schools fluctuates from year to year in some areas, especially as new schools join, or schools leave the WHSFA.

How many entries are allowed in high school Speech?

A school may register up to 25 entries overall, for their squad, with up to four (4) entries in any category (including four in each of Farrago, Poetry, and Prose), with the following additional limitations:

  • No more than four (4) entries in Solo Acting Humorous and Serious, combined.
  • No more than six (6) entries in Group Interpretive Reading and Play Acting (and no more than four in each). If a school brings 5 or 6 group entries to the State Festival, it must attend on Saturday.
Can a team or individual entries attend a different festival?

All these steps must be followed, for legal/liability reasons, as well as to ensure students do not fall through the cracks for tracking advancement through the festival series.

  1. The head coach must request permission of the district chair.
  2. Inquire with the different festival manager/host if they have space.
  3. Enter the request for a different festival in SpeechWire.
  4. Whether the coach is requesting for the whole team, or for individual entry(ies), the coach is required to accompany students — or another school district employee or vetted school district volunteer may go in the coach’s place. Contestants will NOT be allowed to perform without a school official present. Parents are not allowed to fulfill this role unless they have gone through a background check and been vetted by the school as a recognized volunteer.  The person accompanying students also should serve as an adjudicator, and as such, must be certified. It is considered rude to request to bring entries to a different festival, but not serve as an adjudicator.
How do I host a festival?

Please review the PDF handbook for your particular activity, which has a number of resources and suggestions. We also compiled a Theatre Festival Manager Info page, as well as a Speech Festival Manager Info page, with instructions on using the SpeechWire contest management website/software.

How do I suggest a change to rules?

Each summer, advisory committees for each activity meet to review the previous contest season and propose changes to the Board of Control. Contact us with concerns and/or suggestions, and we will forward these to the respective committee(s).

Is there a minimum time for presentations?

The WHSFA has traditionally not required a minimum time for presentations, although adjudicators are encouraged to evaluate development — or lack thereof — of each presentation. This should be evaluated in the criterion regarding development in speech categories, and in the criterion regarding understanding meaning in interpretive categories.

What literary material is allowed in interpretive categories?

Material is allowable as long as it fits the literary genre prescribed in the rules for the particular category a contestant is participating in, and it meets content expectations of the contestant’s school/school district administration.  Please note that transcribed media, such as YouTube, are categorized by the genre of the source material being performed, and not by the mode of performance itself. This means if a YouTube performer is presenting a prose narrative, the material is categorized as prose, and NOT as drama. For more details on rules, please see the Speech Handbook on the Categories & Topics page. For contestants in Farrago and Solo Acting (Humorous or Serious), students also are required to perform quality material (see definition below), although this standard could be applied to any interpretive category. A side note: for schools participating in national qualifying contests, such as those offered by the NSDA and NCFL, there are more stringent rules pertaining to how the material is published, and coaches should consult those rules, accordingly. Finally, we annotated the descriptions on the Categories & Topics page to include allowed genre(s) for each category.

Where do I find literary material for interpretive categories?

First, review the definition above for quality material. This is a great standard to apply to literary material in all interpretive categories. Start by asking students books they’ve read (on their own and/or in classes) or movies/television shows they’ve viewed that resonated with them. Ask what current issues in society are important to them. Knowing students’ interests helps you find material they can be passionate about, which will come through in their performance. The school library is a great place to start. In fact, some librarians have a limited budget for acquiring new materials, so they may have a catalogue of plays and other materials. The public library is another place to look, and asking English and theatre teachers for ideas can be helpful. Be wary of vendors who publish literature for “contest” or “classroom” performance, since these often lack the depth of what can be found in other works of literature the student would need to cut to contest length. The process of cutting can be a tremendous learning experience for students, as they determine what themes and character qualities they wish to cultivate in their performances.

What is the definition of ‘quality material’ required for Farrago and Solo Acting (Humorous or Serious)?

Quality material is defined as that which “gives insight into human values, motivations, relationships, problems and understandings and is not characterized by sentimentality, violence for its own sake, unmotivated endings or stereotyped characterizations.” It is recommended that such material be sought for all interpretive categories, even if there is no specific evaluation item related to selection of material.

What is the definition of ‘drama’ required for Play Acting and disallowed for Group Interpretive Reading?

Drama is literature with line attributions to particular characters and with stage directions, such as a play. Dramatic literature is not allowed in Group Interpretive Reading, and is required in Play Acting.

Can non-drama genres of literature (such as novels or poetry) be adapted for performance in Play Acting?

No. This is abuses copyright/intellectual property rights of the material’s original author. We have been asked if an adaptation of another’s work fits the definition of “original,” and the answer is no. Those concepts and ideas are still the intellectual property of the original author. Fortunately, we have a Group Interpretive Reading category, where works of literature that are not drama are perfectly suitable for performance.

When is it a costume?

In interpretive categories, if contestants wear clothing implied for a particular character or described in the script, that is a costume. In group categories, merely dressing alike does not constitute a costume, unless the script calls for it (such as characters who are twins). In speech categories, if a student is wearing the attire called for by a particular occasion or topic, that is a costume. However, in Demonstration Speaking, students should wear attire appropriate to what is being demonstrated.

Can homeschool or online school students participate?

Homeschool students may either participate with an area public or private school,** or as part of a homeschool association that joins the WHSFA.

**WHSFA supports the local school district policy for interscholastic athletics/academic contests. For example, if a home-schooled student is allowed to join the basketball team, a home-schooled student may participate in Theatre, Speech, and Debate activities.

Here is the official policy from the WHSFA’s Constitution/Bylaws:

SECTION III: Membership

Wisconsin homeschooled/online/virtual school students:

  1. Conditions: Students must be members of a homeschool association or enrolled full time in an online school. They cannot participate individually, unless as part of their attendance-area school district, if the school district allows participation.
  2. Procedures:
    1. Homeschooling associations may apply for membership by registering and paying the yearly dues. Online/virtual schools headquartered in Wisconsin may apply under the same conditions.
    2. As members, their students are eligible to participate in all WHSFA events in the District/Section where the homeschool association is located. Students living in Wisconsin who are enrolled in online/virtual schools that are members of WHSFA may participate in the subdistrict and district festivals in which the online/virtual school is located.

Middle Level FAQs

Where and when are contests?

Visit the Speech Contests, Theatre Contests, Debate Contests, or Middle Level contests pages for a list by date, including locations. Please note: each local area sets its own schedules, so the State Office posts these on our website only when we have been notified.

How do I register for contests?
Visit the Speech Contests, Theatre Contests, or Debate Contests pages for a button/link that will take you to the online registration platform for registering. Each of those pages also will contain tutorial information on how to register. Most Middle Level contests handle registration directly through email, although some have moved to using SpeechWire; contact the host for more information (host contact information is available when clicking a particular contest in the Middle Level upcoming dates calendar.
How do Middle Level contests work?

In education circles, middle level is a universal term encompassing middle schools, junior high schools, intermediate schools/K-8 schools with grades 6-8 as the focal point for participation in forensic Speech contests. WHSFA has two progressive levels of contests we offer for middle level students:

  1. Level 1: The official festival a student participates in. S/he must earn at least two grades/scores of “A” to move on to Level 2 (receiving a commemorative certificate for that achievement. Otherwise, s/he earns a participation certificate.
  2. Level 2: The second and final official contest a student participates in. S/he must earn at least two grades/scores of “A” to receive a blue ribbon; otherwise, s/he earns a red ribbon.

Any given student can only participate in one official Level 1 and one official Level 2 contest per school year. Schools also may participate in invitational, or “practice” contests, which are run independently of the WHSFA, but often use the WHSFA’s contest categories, rules, and evaluation sheets. Those do not count as official, however, and there is no limit to how many a school may participate in. Schools are not required to attend a specific contest in their geographic region, and some contests are limited in how many schools/entries they can accept, because their facilities may not accommodate everyone interested in attending. In those cases, we recommend other schools step forward to host contests as well.

What is the middle level entry limit?

There are no per-category, nor overall entry limits for Middle Level Speech, although certain festivals may have limitations on capacity in their school buildings. We do encourage schools to distribute their entries across different categories to maximize the educational experiences students receive.

How do I host a festival?

Please review the PDF handbook for your particular activity, which has a number of resources and suggestions. We also compiled a Theatre Festival Manager Info page, as well as a Speech Festival Manager Info page, with instructions on using the SpeechWire contest management website/software.

How do I suggest a change to rules?

Each summer, advisory committees for each activity meet to review the previous contest season and propose changes to the Board of Control. Contact us with concerns and/or suggestions, and we will forward these to the respective committee(s).

Who makes copies of evaluation sheets for middle level festivals?

The state office provides these for official Level 1 and 2 festivals; however, festival managers may request a stipend in lieu of these copies, when completing the festival materials request form (see the Middle Level Contests page for more information).

Can homeschool or online school students participate?

Homeschool students may either participate with an area public or private school,** or as part of a homeschool association that joins the WHSFA.

**WHSFA supports the local school district policy for interscholastic athletics/academic contests. For example, if a home-schooled student is allowed to join the basketball team, a home-schooled student may participate in Theatre, Speech, and Debate activities.

Here is the official policy from the WHSFA’s Constitution/Bylaws:

SECTION III: Membership

Wisconsin homeschooled/online/virtual school students:

  1. Conditions: Students must be members of a homeschool association or enrolled full time in an online school. They cannot participate individually, unless as part of their attendance-area school district, if the school district allows participation.
  2. Procedures:
    1. Homeschooling associations may apply for membership by registering and paying the yearly dues. Online/virtual schools headquartered in Wisconsin may apply under the same conditions.
    2. As members, their students are eligible to participate in all WHSFA events in the District/Section where the homeschool association is located. Students living in Wisconsin who are enrolled in online/virtual schools that are members of WHSFA may participate in the subdistrict and district festivals in which the online/virtual school is located.