It might still be summer, but Ardmore High School’s speech and debate team The Act is hard at work this week.
Students picked up new pieces and began working on their own during day one of a weeklong workshop. Incoming freshmen and experienced seniors alike will take what they learn this week into the school year with them.
“This is an essential piece because it gives them an early start, to get their material and what to do with their material,”  Demond Wilson, acting coach, said. “I work with teachers and students all over the country to figure out where their programs are.”
The students start with the basics. Wilson said he’s teaching students a step-by-step process to breaking down a piece, analyzing it and interpreting it.
“The process, how you approach your text and characterization, and the order you do it in, matters,” Wilson said.
This is The Act’s second summer camp at the school, and their third overall. Their first year, they attended a weeklong theater camp in Texas.
“We’d grown a lot that year, but that was the explosion,” AHS coach Brian Gunter said.
Students were also hard at work on oratory pieces, which requires a different skill set. Students write a piece about something important to them, then deliver their work as a speech.
Writing instructor Kiara Brown, who is helping students develop their oratory pieces, has also participated in the camp in the past. She said oratory is much more personal and emotional than a persuasive speech.
“Oratory is 100 percent you,” Brown said. “Every word, every source that you use is something you believe in and it’s completely your message. It’s your heart’s message.”
Unlike Brown and Wilson, Matt Hymus, another acting coach, is new to this group of students.   
“We have some kids who come in and just hit it out of the park,” Hymus said. “And then there’s a lot of young kids who are kind of intimidated, but even they’re starting to make progress and get more comfortable.”
For Alexia Gerard, a senior, this is her last time attending the camp.
“You learn something new every time,” Gerard said. “There’s always that feeling that something inspiring is about to happen, and you always come here ready to learn. We give it our all for the short week that we have.”  
The upcoming school year will mark another first for Gunter and his team. They’ll begin rehearsals for their first one act play, Intimate Apparel, in August.