According to studies, upwards of 75-78% of the population suffers from Glossophobia, the fear of speaking in public. But for Clarke Community Schools’ senior, Kennedy Bland, that’s where she truly finds her voice. Even in a season as challenging as 2020-21 has been, Bland walked through this year’s speech and theater contests with poise and confidence beyond her years. Ultimately, she racked up award after award, becoming the only student in Clarke history to qualify for nationals in speech in four consecutive years.
“Kennedy’s hard work really drives her success,” said Mr. May, Clarke High School speech instructor. “From monologues to choir or theatrical productions, she’s never been one to back down from a challenge.”
Of course, the pandemic offered some unique challenges for speech and theatrical competitions this season. With social distancing and much of the year being held digitally, streaming events, pre-recording, or performing over ZOOM became the standard. Without the “real time” interaction she’d normally get with a face-to-face performance, Kennedy still shone bright in all of her 2021 competitions, hosted by various State and National organizations: IFL (Iowa Forensic League), NSDA (National Speech & Debate Association), and IHSSA (Iowa High School Speech Association) which was just held over the weekend.
In the IFL and IHSSA competitions, Kennedy took top honors with across the board “1” ratings in Dramatic Interpretation, a 10-minute monologue called “My Tiny Dancer Hands.” In the IFL and East Iowa NSDA competitions, Kennedy was voted “Senior of the Year” by her judges. Along with these honors, she also qualified for Nationals in Duo Interpretation with her speech partner Ely Crawford. Finally, in this weekend’s IHSSA competition, Kennedy also swept with “1” ratings in her acting piece as well as in her vocal performance of Cole Porter’s “I Hate Men” from the musical Kiss Me Kate.
“Clarke’s speech, choir and theater departments are spectacular opportunities for all students,” said Steve Seid, Clarke Schools’ Superintendent. “Kennedy’s accolades are an example of what hard work and discipline can earn.”
After her four years at Clarke, Kennedy’s plans include college and likely more speech, theatrical and choral performances. She applied at both the University of Iowa in Iowa City and the University of Washington at Seattle, ultimately choosing to stay in the Midwest and majoring in Psychology with a potential minor in theater at the University of Iowa.
If you‘d like to catch some of Kennedy’s performance prowess for yourself – before she’s Broadway famous – she will be taking one of the lead roles in the Clarke Community Schools’ production of M*A*S*H as Margaret Houlihan. The production is currently in rehearsals and shows will be held at the Clarke Middle / High School Auditorium on April 9th and 10th.