BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Bloomfield Middle School recently won first place at the Essex County Forensics Tournament, held at Heritage Middle School, in Livingston. Four other schools competed. They were Caldwell, Orange, East Orange and Livingston.
BMS also won individual honors, with eighth-grader Elizabeth Nucci taking first place; seventh-grader Emma Morse, second place; and eighth-grader Anna Haraka, third. Other members of the Bloomfield team were eighth-grader Camille Aquino; eighth-grader Angel Amber; and seventh-grader Jessica Santa, the team alternate.
Forensics is an interpretive performance of written material. The tournament was an interpretive reading competition, with judging done on characterization, vocal variety, tone, enunciation, pronunciation and overall performance. According to Lauren Barton, the BMS Gifted and Talented specialist and the advisor for the Enrichment Club at the school, the competition is a stand-up, with no memorization and a running time between four and five and 1/2 minutes.
In the competition, all the girls read the text that they used to make the team in December. Elizabeth chose, “13 Reason Why,” Emma read, “Confessions of a Shopaholic,” Anna worked from, “Rumpelstiltskin, a Fractured Fairy Tale,” Jessica read from, “Accused,” Camille interpreted, “You are so undead to me,” and Amber selected, “To be perfectly honest.”
“Judging is very difficult,” Barton said at the school last week. “But you have to look that they are going to represent Bloomfield. Some of the girls are very practiced and poised. I have a group of seasoned veterans.”
But Barton wished competition rules allowed her to have a bigger team.
The girls had different ways of preparing.
Camille was the only one to work with a camera recording what she did. At other times, she would practice before a mirror.
Elizabeth preferred a live audience.
“I have two sisters at home,” she said. “I thought to make them sit down and listen. I knew they’d be honest.”
Anna, a veteran of forensics, having competed since sixth-grade, did her reading before her family at Christmastime. It has become something of a holiday tradition, she said.
Reading in competition was done in two rounds and scored by two different judges. The top five students were selected for individual honors. BMS had three of those spots.
Elizabeth said that after the first round, she felt pretty good.
“After that, I thought I was in the zone,” she beamed.
Emma said she was really nervous the first round.
“I wasn’t as confident as Elizabeth,” she said. “But I started building confidence. But once you start reading, you forget about everything and do what you’re doing.”
Anna said when she listened to the other competitors, she tried to judge each one
“I went against Emma and Elizabeth in a round,” she said. “I always knew we had a strong team.”
Anna thought her interpretation definitely improved as she went on.
“I had a British accent,” she said. “There’s a lot of technique.”
She said listening to YouTube helped her.
“I had a Southern accent,” Elizabeth said. “It’s a challenge switching from the character to the narrator.”
“It takes a lot of practice to make that transition, from the person to the narrator,” she said.
“There’s also facial expressions,” Emma said. “I had a snobby shopper.”
Barton has been at BMS for the last seven years. Before that, she was at Fairview Elementary School for eight years. She has coached the middle school forensic team for her seven years at the school. Five out of the seven years, her team has either taken first or second place.
Forensics is only the first activity of the BHS Enrichment Club. Now with the tournament over, Barton said the remaining activities are Challenge 24, a mathematics game; and Academically Speaking, a trivial game. Both activities will involve competition on the county level.
“A student doesn’t have to be gifted and talented to be part of the Enrichment Club,” Barton said. “It just happens that all these girls here are.”