Frequently Asked Questions

Membership FAQs

How do I log in; I don't remember my password?

All past website accounts were deleted in April 2020 when we moved web servers; if you have not logged in since, you will need to establish a password by using the “reset password” link

If you're still having trouble, contact us.

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 members.whsfa.org 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

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 Speech Festival Manager Info page, with instructions on using the SpeechWire contest management website/software.
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.
Can students submit a video of their presentation, or can a virtual videoconference option be offered?

Under normal circumstances for official qualification festival series, no, even though a special dispensation is being made during the COVID-19 pandemic for an Open virtual festival. The foundation of public speaking is to bring people together in the same space, so a speaker can react to an audience. The only online platform that even attempts to approximate that is live videoconferencing, and the WHSFA and many of its schools lack resources to support live videoconference. There also are legal ramifications of minors (under age 18) appearing on videos that could potentially be viewed by anyone online, as well as recording of any copyrighted literature. For reference, this is the same standard we apply due to a school or student electing not to attend a festival when there's inclement weather.

Speech Adjudicator FAQs

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.

My speech adjudicator certification lapsed. Which course do I enroll in?

If your certification lapsed since 2007, you may enroll in the Renewal course. If it was earlier than 2007, please enroll in the Initial Training course.

Do you have a list of descriptive words/phrases adjudicators can use?
Can I volunteer to host a workshop?

Please contact your district chair. To keep costs down, up to two workshops may be scheduled per district, but are contingent on availability of a trainer. Weeknight workshops are scheduled between 4:30/5:00 - 7:30/8:00 pm, and Saturday workshops are scheduled from 9am-12 Noon. Workshops should be centrally located in an area, so they are more easily accessible to the greatest population. We will not schedule workshops during major break periods (Thanksgiving week, the end of December), and will only schedule workshops over the summer if there is significant demonstrated need and interest (we tried to offer several in 2018, and all but one were canceled for lack of signups).

Are there online workshops?

When we tried doing videoconference workshops in the past, participants were not interactive. However, considering the COVID-19 pandemic, other mitigating circumstances, or if scheduled workshops are cancelled, a virtual alternative may be scheduled. Contact the state office for details.

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 hired to adjudicate/judge?
If you're not affiliated with a particular school, or would like to offer your adjudicating services to additional schools and contests, please join our statewide email list. We do not have lists for specific regions of the state, because there's too much overlap between areas with contests schools attend.
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.

Theatre & Thespys FAQs

FAQs highlighted in goldenrod pertain to the 2020 online/virtual season.

What are the permission/release forms and when are they due?

Because we are facilitating contests in an online environment, these are for youth protection and cyber liability. Directors may find a template on the WHSFA website, "Theatre Contests" page, to distribute to all participating students and adult personnel. Forms should be scanned or photographed digitally, with files uploaded in the registration system (SpeechWire) for each participant student/adult by early November.

Can students participate in both one-acts and Thespys?

Yes. We have introduced Thespys as a seasonwide contest series this year, but as an opportunity in addition to the one-act series, so students may participate in one or both of these series.

What is the timeframe? Bare stage to bare stage?

The timeframe is still 40 minutes, and directors should exercise care in limiting the recording(s) submitted to that time limit. While virtual, the "bare stage to bare stage" requirement is suspended; setup and strike are therefore NOT considered within the time limit. This is to promote safety by not rushing students, nor requiring they work in close proximity to one another while lifting scenery, etc.  It's important to maintain social distancing.

For in-person recording, are masks mandatory?

We have consulted some of the leading theatre safety and public health experts in the country, and they have advised us to require masks at all times when students are performing in person. This is in line with what the Actors’ Equity Association union has asked for professional actors, as well; and what we’ve been hearing university theatre departments are doing -- inside or outdoors. Part of the problem is actors, when projecting – especially outdoors amidst wind and noise – can project droplets beyond six feet, as well as aerosols that could travel toward other actors. As the weather cools and becomes more unpredictable as the season continues, Wisconsin climate would not be conducive to outdoor recording.

Ralph Janes at UW-Milwaukee (WHSFA Theatre Advisor) suggests having the actors give a uniform, triggering action when they are about to speak, or mic-ing the actors so they can be heard in spite of the masks.

At the end of the day, we must draw a firm line on this safety issue to ensure as equitable an experience as possible among our two options. Students who are recorded on a videoconference platform from separate locations would not need to wear masks; students who elect to perform in-person with each other will.

Can we record an outdoors performance?

Yes, as long as students are still masked. We have consulted some of the leading theatre safety and public health experts in the country, and they have advised us to require masks at all times when students are performing in person. This is in line with what the Actors’ Equity Association union has asked for professional actors, as well; and what we’ve been hearing university theatre departments are doing -- inside or outdoors. Part of the problem is actors, when projecting – especially outdoors amidst wind and noise – can project droplets beyond six feet, as well as aerosols that could travel toward other actors. As the weather cools and becomes more unpredictable as the season continues, Wisconsin climate would not be conducive to outdoor recording.

Ralph Janes at UW-Milwaukee (WHSFA Theatre Advisor) suggests having the actors give a uniform, triggering action when they are about to speak, or mic-ing the actors so they can be heard in spite of the masks.

At the end of the day, we must draw a firm line on this safety issue to ensure as equitable an experience as possible among our two options. Students who are recorded on a videoconference platform from separate locations would not need to wear masks; students who elect to perform in-person with each other will.

Does single-take recording allow for camera switching?

Yes, and this applies for both in-person video capture as well as screen recording of videoconferences (such as using Switcher Studio or a similar tool). The key rule is no post-production editing, which is what delineates theatre from film. We also will advise adjudicators to not preference multiple cameras.

Can I connect separate student video segments together?

Yes, that is a suitable alternative to a tradition videoconference, particularly where bandwidth access is a concern. Fade in/out transitions would be allowable in this context, but no other editing other than connecting the video with subtle transitions is allowed.

Can I produce the same play with different casts?

Yes, since this would allow working with smaller cohort groups/pods. Schools may submit the same show with different casts and should title them differently (e.g., The Tempest, Cast A; The Tempest, Cast B). Each cast would be evaluated on its own merits, and likely by different adjudicators.

What videoconference platform should I use?

Any videoconference platform that allows for recording meetings and downloading those recordings will work. One of the most popular platforms with the most features is Zoom, which has announced some new features, including:

We understand some schools/school districts may be uncomfortable with Zoom; we have posted a letter to administrators addressing this, and asking they reconsider.

However, other platforms, such as Google Meet, WebEx, Microsoft Teams, etc., could still work.

The Educational Theatre Association has Resources for Creating Virtual Performances, worth checking out!

What video format should I use?

The most common video formats that are widely acceptable for sharing are:

  • .mp4
  • .mov
  • .m4v
  • .mpeg4

Click here to learn more about the video submisison process.

What commitment is expected of adjudicators?

We ask all adjudicators to take the new, free, and entirely online Theatre Adjudicator Training course,which including the viewing and evaluation of a full one-act production, should take about 90 minutes. Individuals who successfully complete the assessment (evaluation of recorded one-act) will be certified and will receive a certificate documenting 2 hours of professional development contact time.

Each adjudication commitment (one-act or Thespy) involves about 3 hours of time; one-act adjudicators must  record one oral response per commitment, which can be shared as a unlisted YouTube video, shared video file on Google Drive or Dropbox with sharing enabled to those who have a link (complete instructions will be given to adjudicators).

Can the same person adjudicate both one-acts and Thespys?

Yes, absolutely. Please see the FAQ regarding expected commitment for each assignment.

Do rules for social distancing/masks apply to duo/group Thespys events?

Yes. The same safety principles apply if students are recorded in person.

Thespy Performance: Video Tips
  • Consider your frame (how much of your body you want to be seen). At a minimum, make sure to show inches above your head to your belly button.
  • If performing a song, make sure you have a solid track to use for your accompaniment.
    • Pay an accompanist to record a track for you and send you an .mp3 file. Try reaching out to your local university's music or theatre department as a start.
    • Find a karaoke track online. Make sure there are no vocals on the track.
  • Consider where you're placing your "scene partner." You do not need to look straight into the camera.
  • You may use one straight back chair and one small table in your video; additional set pieces are not allowed.
  • Find an effective filming location
    • Area should be quiet so we can hear both you and your track (if applicable).
    • Film in front of a non-distracting background. If possible, choose a solid-color wall or consider hanging a sheet behind you. The color should contrast with your clothing.
    • Dress neatly, in all black clothing as written in the guidelines. No costumes.
    • Make sure you are lit enough to be clearly visible.
  • Reminders
    • Before filming, conduct a full-volume test to make sure you can be heard (and that your track can be heard).
    • Ensure your blocking is effective and visible when filmed. Consider whether to decrease your movement or to adjust your camera angle.
    • Shoot your video horizontally, not vertically.
    • Try multiple takes and submit your strongest.

 

Thespy-All Events: Video Upload Information
  • Watch your video both before and after uploading to ensure it's what you want to share.
  • You will have two options for submitting your video.
    • Upload the video file directly into the submission form from your laptop or desktop.
    • Provide a URL to your video on YouTube.
      • The guide to using YouTube video editor is ​​​found here.
      • Give your video a clear name. Consider something like First Name Last Name – Event – Thespy Submission.
      • Make sure the video is listed as unlisted but check that the link will allow for open access to all adjudicators.
 
Thespy Tech Presentation: Portfolio

You will be asked to share your portfolio as you would for an in-person presentation. Please upload the material asked for in the submission form in accordance with the program guidelines.

  • Each of your samples should be clear and quality -- good production or process photos, or easily readable documents.
  • Uploads should be well-photographed or clearly readable. Though you will be able to expand in the written response, the sample should be able to speak for itself to a certain extent.

Use a file sharing service, such as Google Drive, Dropbox, or Microsoft OneDrive. Be sure the sharing setting is enabled to allow anyone with the link to view the folder with your materials.

 
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.

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.
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.
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).

Speech FAQs

FAQs highlighted in goldenrod pertain to the 2020-21 online/virtual season.

Online contests: asynchronous or live/synchronous?

The subdistrict and district festivals will be conducted asynchronously, which means coaches will submit pre-recorded videos, which will be adjudicated during a window of dates. The State Festival will have entry options for both live/synchronous presentation, as well as pre-recorded/asynchronous videos, so whatever a school's or student's circumstances with bandwidth and/or scheduling, that will not be a barrier to participation.

Can pieces be carried over from the 2019-20 school year?

No, unfortunately. Every student who participated last year had an opportunity present their speech/material at subdistrict, and we offered the opportunity for any student to have a culminating experience with the Open Virtual Speech Festival in April/May (which they could have done independently of their school if their coach did not organize it). It's unfair to last year's graduating seniors, and unfair to ninth graders, so to ensure an equitable opportunity, encouraging students to address more current issues, pertinent to this school year, keeps with our educational objectives.

What online platform will be used?

WHSFA continues its partnership with SpeechWire, which has been modified for adjudicators to complete online evaluation, linking to videos submitted by coaches for each entry for asynchronous evaluation, as well as to a videoconference "room" for each live/synchronous round (see previous FAQ for details regarding asynchronous vs. synchronous options). For synchronous videoconferences, WHSFA is partnering with the National Speech & Debate Association's platform, NSDA Campus, which works seemlessly with SpeechWire. Both platforms are being thoroughly utilized and improved upon throughout the fall semester, when other states have Speech seasons.

Will students be able to see other schools' contestants' presentations?

As part of annual update of their student rosters in SpeechWire, coaches will be asked to provide an email address for each participating student. This could be a school-provided email address for students, or a special personal email address created by the student for purposes of participation. SpeechWire will create student accounts linked to those email addresses, which students will use to log in and view asynchronous, pre-recorded video entries of peers assigned to the same "rooms" each round, just as they would see those performances at an in-person festival. For synchronous rounds, the student's SpeechWire account will log them into a videoconference room where they will gather with other contestants and the adjudicator for their round. For safety and security, only contestants and adjudicators will have access to any asynchronous or synchronous rounds; family/friends/other guests will not, unless they watch in the same room with their student when their student is logged on.

How many asynchronous video submissions will be required?

One per Subdistrict, District, and State contest (except for Extemporaneous Speech, Impromptu Speech, Radio News Reporting, and Storytelling), and if absolutely necessary, a student may re-submit the same video for different levels, although we hope students take adjudicator feedback to improve their performance for subsequent levels.

How will Extemp. and Radio work?

Live/synchronous: virtual prep room, protocol for draw. 30 minutes before speaking, prep begins; contestants move to contest room after.

Asynchronous: WHSFA provides questions to coaches at a specified time within 48 hours of video deadline. Coach arranges time with each contestant (in-person, via videoconference, or via message) to share five questions, of which the contestant will select one. A video of that contestant’s presentation should be recorded and finalized with coach within 45 minutes (to allow time for technical considerations).

How will Impromptu work?

Live/synchronous: will run just like in-person events, but SpeechWire will moderate draw of prompts for each contestant.

Asynchronous: WHSFA provides prompts to coaches at specified time within 48 hours of video deadline. Coach will arrange a time to record each contestant (either in-person or via videoconference), present contestant with three prompts, and will begin recording and timing once the contestant selects their prompt, reciting it aloud.

How will speech source citations work?

In Informative, Moments in History, Oratory, and Public Address, coaches will upload a list of works cited in MLA or APA format to Google Drive, and share a public link as part of registration.

How will Storytelling work?

Students will record a story for each of three areas, submitted by the coach, with each story assigned to a different round for adjudication. For State, students will select one of the three to perform.

Must individual/solo contestants wear masks for their videos?
Individual students do not need to wear masks when recording videos, though their coach and other students should not be within 6 feet when recording is being done.
How will group/two-person categories work?

Smaller groups of 2-3 encouraged.

Video files uploaded for adjudication may be:

Recording of videoconference, with students in different locations, no post-production editing other than to piece together separate video files, or to correct audio/video sync or bandwidth issues. Synchronized speaking/choral reading does not work well in video conferences.

Captured in-person video capture, single-take, no post-production editing; all students must be socially distanced (except to move/cross past
one another) and wear masks.

For live/synchronous contests, what happens if there are connectivity issues?

Adjudicators will be instructed to allow students to start over, and if the connection still cannot be remedied, an asynchronous "make-up" option will be available.

For pre-recorded, asynchronous videos, what happens if there are sound/video quality issues?

Coaches will be expected to review all videos before they are submitted and to work through tech issues with students. Adjudicators also will be told to explicitly NOT take sound/video quality into account in their evaluation, however, if they cannot hear nor see the student, it may be difficult for them to evaluate effectively; in those cases, for Subdistrict and District, coaches will be given an opportunity to resubmit a video; that courtesy will not be extended for the State Festival, because those issues should be figured out by that part of the season.

How will adjudicators be handled?

WHSFA will continue to require certified adjudicators; we also will offer a brief video update for adjudicating virtual festivals, with special instructions on how to use electronic evaluation through SpeechWire, as well as equity concerns for students during this time.

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.

May YouTube or other videos be transcribed?

No. A transcription not provided by the originator of the material is a violation of copyright law.

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' for Farrago and Solo Acting?
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.
Is stand-up comedy allowed as material?
In Solo Acting Humorous/Serious, "material shall be a cutting from serious or humorous drama or other literature adapted to the dramatic format with brief narrative transitions…” Stand-up comedy is often not published in print form, and students should not transcribe directly from a performance.

In Farrago and Solo Acting Humorous/Serious, quality material is required, 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?'
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 be adapted for performance in Play Acting?

No. Adapting other genres of literature (such as novels or poetry) 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.

Are song lyrics poetry? If not, what literary genre?
Song lyrics are poetry, unless the song comes from a stage or film musical (e.g., Hamilton, or The Greatest Showman) -- then they're considered drama (dramatic literature). The exception would be a song that existed prior to its incorporation in a musical (e.g., "Dancing Queen" in Mamma Mia! or "Rhythm of the Night" in Moulin Rouge).
Can plays in verse be used in Poetry? Group Interpretive Reading?
Plays written in dramatic verse (such as Shakespeare's or Sophocles') are dramatic literature, and as such, must be performed in categories where drama/plays are allowed. They are not considered poems, per se, even though they are written in meter/verse. Therefore, they should not be performed in high school Group Interpretive Reading, but may be used in Middle Level Readers Theatre, since that category allows for dramatic literature.
May I touch the floor or lie on the floor during a performance?

The rules are silent with regard to touching the floor or lying on the floor. It is a choice performers may make. Although students may not be disqualified for touching the floor, judges can take movement into consideration in the overall evaluation of a student’s 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.
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.
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.
What are the different kinds of Speech contests?
Depending on what part of the state a high school is in, it may have a number of types of Speech (forensics) contests for students to participate in:

  • WHSFA Subdistrict, District, and State. This is the official qualification series for Wisconsin's oldest and largest -- by far -- contest. Each year, 5,000+ students (grades 9-12) perform in three rounds at one of 55 subdistrict contests around the state (each subdistrict has about 5-12 schools). Students need at least two scores of 16 or better to qualify from subdistrict to district. At district, students perform in three rounds at one of 12 district contests (some of the twelve are split into two contests for the sake of logistics and geographic accessibility), where they must earn at least two scores of 20 or better to qualify from district to State. At State, students perform in one around at UW-Madison, and the score they earn determines the medal they are awarded. The vast majority of Wisconsin schools who participate in forensic Speech activities participate in just these three contests.
  • Conference. Some (not all) of the athletic conferences around the state run their own conference meet, where the same schools who compete with one another in athletic sports also compete in Speech. Many of these use accumulated points by students to determine a school's overall standing amongst its peers, while others run a full competitive tournament, where students are comparatively ranked against one another, rather than assessed on their own merits.
  • Invitational. This is an independent contest put on by the school hosting it, or in partnership with a school administering the contest at a nearby school. While the name implies it is by "invitation only," in most cases, any school who wishes to participate is invited to bring students. When a coach notifies the WHSFA State Office, we are happy to post the contest on our calendar, provided it uses WHSFA rules (limited deviations are allowed). The Wisconsin Forensic Coaches' Association (WFCA) is a volunteer-run league with separate dues, which offers an organized circuit of weekly invitational Speech tournaments that follow a set of rules originally adopted from WHSFA (which, over the years, has evolved independently); these tournaments have no bearing on qualification to the WFCA's open-invitational state tournament.
  • NSDA District Qualifier. The National Speech & Debate Association (previously, National Forensic League) was founded in Wisconsin as an honorary society, later adding a national tournament. Top-placing students from 100+ geographic districts across the United States as well as internationally qualify to participate in the world's largest academic competition, held over the course of a week in mid-June. The tournament is considered the Olympics of speech and debate, and its gala awards ceremony is considered the Oscars of our activity.
  • NCFL Diocesan Qualifier. The National Catholic Forensic League offers an additional competition experience of national caliber -- held over a condensed but grueling schedule during the Saturday and Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. Local leagues and their qualifying tournaments are loosely arranged by Catholic diocesan boundaries, though the vast majority of membership is comprised of public schools (non-Catholic/other private schools may belong, as well). Each diocesan league sets its own qualification requirements.

As stated above, while there may be various opportunities in a particular area, a school may just participate in subdistrict, district, and State, and still offer students a robust experience. Confused as to how to get started in any of these, or who to contact? Contact the WHSFA State Office, and we'll help you get connected!

How many entries are allowed in high school Speech?
A school may register up to 30 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 host a festival?
Please review the PDF handbook for your particular activity, which has a number of resources and suggestions. We also compiled a Speech Festival Manager Info page, with instructions on using the SpeechWire contest management website/software.
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.
How do I get hired to adjudicate/judge?
If you're not affiliated with a particular school, or would like to offer your adjudicating services to additional schools and contests, please join our statewide email list. We do not have lists for specific regions of the state, because there's too much overlap between areas with contests schools attend.
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).

Middle Level FAQs

FAQs highlighted in goldenrod pertain to the 2020-21 online/virtual season.

Online contests: asynchronous or live/synchronous?

All middle level festivals will be conducted asynchronously, which means coaches will submit pre-recorded videos, which will be adjudicated during a window of dates.

Can pieces be carried over from the 2019-20 school year?

No, unfortunately. Every student who participated last year had an opportunity present their speech/material at subdistrict, and we offered the opportunity for any student to have a culminating experience with the Open Virtual Speech Festival in April/May (which they could have done independently of their school if their coach did not organize it). It's unfair to last year's graduating seniors, and unfair to ninth graders, so to ensure an equitable opportunity, encouraging students to address more current issues, pertinent to this school year, keeps with our educational objectives.

What online platform will be used?

WHSFA continues its partnership with SpeechWire, which has been modified for adjudicators to complete online evaluation, linking to videos submitted by coaches for each entry for asynchronous evaluation.

Will students be able to see other schools' contestants' presentations?

As part of annual update of their student rosters in SpeechWire, coaches will be asked to provide an email address for each participating student. This could be a school-provided email address for students, or a special personal email address created by the student for purposes of participation. SpeechWire will create student accounts linked to those email addresses, which students will use to log in and view asynchronous, pre-recorded video entries of peers assigned to the same "rooms" each round, just as they would see those performances at an in-person festival. For synchronous rounds, the student's SpeechWire account will log them into a videoconference room where they will gather with other contestants and the adjudicator for their round. For safety and security, only contestants and adjudicators will have access to any asynchronous or synchronous rounds; family/friends/other guests will not, unless they watch in the same room with their student when their student is logged on.

How many asynchronous video submissions will be required?

One per Level 1 and Level 2 contest, and if absolutely necessary, a student may re-submit the same video for different levels, although we hope students take adjudicator feedback to improve their performance for subsequent levels.

Must individual/solo contestants wear masks for their videos?
Individual students do not need to wear masks when recording videos, though their coach and other students should not be within 6 feet when recording is being done.
How will group/two-person categories work?

Smaller groups of 2-3 encouraged.

Video files uploaded for adjudication may be:

Recording of videoconference, with students in different locations, no post-production editing other than to piece together separate video files, or to correct audio/video sync or bandwidth issues. Synchronized speaking/choral reading does not work well in video conferences.

Captured in-person video capture, single-take, no post-production editing; all students must be socially distanced (except to move/cross past
one another) and wear masks.

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.

Upon joining the WHSFA, 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.
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 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 Speech Festival Manager Info page, with instructions on using the SpeechWire contest management website/software.
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.
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).