By Akshara Karthik (’22)
Whether you are writing an essay for a speech competition or working on your college applications, you have probably come across this question: What was a challenge you have encountered, and how did you overcome it? Personally, I can say that I have encountered numerous questions similar to this one, yet I could never come up with a worthy enough answer. That was until this past weekend at the Michigan Interscholastic Forensic Association (MIFA) State Tournament.
For the past three years, I have competed in the Forensics Multiple IE category with my friends, Mira Sripada, Alexis John, Nikhil Kothari, and Daniel Liu. In Multiple Interpretation, three to eight performers perform a 10-15 minute piece that can be a movie, musical, or book, while refraining from touching or making eye contact with one another. After choosing to perform Scooby-Doo: Camp Scare last year, we chose to present Clue. Honestly, simply cutting this piece to fit five people and blocking it to account for COVID-19 restrictions was a huge undertaking. Apart from that, the five of us have absurdly busy schedules that make planning meeting times incredibly difficult. However, after having a moderately competitive and successful 2020-2021 season, we were confident that we would do very well at the States Competition.
On Friday, April 30th, we had our first preliminary round with two judges. We gave it our all and felt we performed relatively well. We also had a chance to see our competition before the day that really counted, which was Saturday, when we had the rest of our preliminary and final rounds. After everyone had packed up and left my house, I ate dinner and got ready for bed since our first round started at eight in the morning on Saturday. I even had a melatonin pill so I would have an undisturbed sleep and would be well-rested for the next day!
If you know me, you would know that my phone is always kept on silent. Somehow, though, my ringer was on that night and I could hear my phone blowing up. I was too lazy to get up for a while but eventually did when the noise was unbearable. Lo and behold, there were several frantic text messages from our multiple group chat. I scrolled up to see a message from Alexis that was sent by Mrs. Alioto saying, “Hi Team, we have a protest against the multiple, can one of you call me ASAP, I have about 10 mins before a decision is made.” And that was the moment my heart dropped.
Once Mrs. Alioto’s meeting with the MIFA board had concluded, we frantically called her to figure out what had happened and whether or not we were allowed to compete on Saturday. That was when she told us that we were reported because of having too much creative license, or in other words, giving lines that were said by certain characters in the original Clue movie, to other characters in our interpretation. If you are not aware of Clue, the intricate story is based on the namesake board game: A blackmailer named Mr. Boddy hosts a dinner party and invites certain victims known by their aliases (Mrs. Peacock, Miss Scarlet, Mr. Green, Mr. Plum, Mrs. White, and Colonel Mustard), where a series of murders occur and a culprit must be found. For our interpretation, we needed to cut the script to match a reasonable amount of characters so the audience would not get confused, which is why we limited the “main characters” to Miss Scarlet, Mrs. Peacock, Mrs. White, Colonel Mustard, and Wadsworth (the butler). Moreover, in order to make the story flow with all of the theatrical elements and ensure no plot holes are formed, we had to assign certain lines said by different characters in the movie, to other characters in our interpretation. Since we never had gotten penalized for this at past competitions, we assumed that our use of creative license was within boundaries. Little did we know that we were wrong.
Soon after, we learned that the reason that the judge was a was that he knew Clue inside and out, down to the specific lines. Man, how unlucky we were.
Then Mrs. Alioto revealed the ultimatum that the MIFA directors had given us: get a score of 0 and revise the script with proof of change on Saturday to continue competing, or be disqualified. Obviously, we knew what we had to do but the task was much more arduous than anyone had imagined. It was not just a few lines that had to be changed. It was a lot, given that a majority of the lines that needed to be reassigned were said by characters in the movie who we had removed completely. Long story short, we worked from 10:45 PM all the way until 2 AM, reassigning lines, adding new characters, adjusting the introduction, and reworking the conclusion. If only 8 am could have come later!
Nevertheless, everyone arrived at 6:30 AM at my house and we immediately did two read-throughs to adjust to the new lines and new characters. By 7:15 AM, we had to start re-blocking certain scenes in order to even get through our 8 AM round. Honestly, it took a lot of creativity and brain power that we usually would not have at 8 AM. As a result, after the first round, we felt terrible. We knew it was not our best and that we messed up more than we wanted. But, after watching it before the next round we realized that we did a lot better than we initially thought and should have just been happy that we were able to finish without being an absolute trainwreck.
In between each of our rounds, we practiced a lot more than usually would for previous competitions, but at the same time, our stress levels were much worse than they were for past performances too. We even added a whole new scene in between our first and second rounds to tie up loose ends. We alternated between breaks and run-throughs in between rounds as the day progressed.
And when it came to our last preliminary round and our finals performance, we saw all of our hard work pay off.
Fast-forward to Sunday during the awards ceremony and I for one was tremendously nervous. I asked all of my teammates where they thought we would place and they were all sure we would place second out of the three multiples. As our amazing coach, Lara Kothari said, “You gave it your all this weekend and regardless of the outcome this evening, I am super proud of each and every one of you!!!!” Deep down, though, I hoped and prayed that there was still hope left for us and that we would place first.
Then it happened. We placed first. Even after earning zeroes on our first round, we placed above the other two teams and became state champions. We were overloaded with emotions. Shock, confusion, extreme happiness, gratefulness, and of course, exhaustion.
Now, as cheesy as it may seem, the moral of this story would be to NEVER give up. In all honesty, we did consider taking up the disqualification offer, given the colossal task we had to undertake late at night. But we soon realize that life is full of curveballs and sometimes you have no other choice but to make the best of it. Looking back, I would never change a thing since this experience turned out to be both meaningful and fulfilling, even though it may not have seemed that way at first. It was a true comeback story.
As a quick note, I would like to thank Ms. Anna Alioto for being an amazing IA Forensics Coach and supporting us so much. We could not have got through that eventful Friday night if it were not for you! Additionally, I would like to thank Mrs. Lara Kothari for being our multiple’s exceptional coach. The amount of time and energy you put into us is something we will forever be grateful for! We are what we are because of you!