YSU’s Theatre Department Kicks off Season With ‘Speech & Debate’

L to R: YSU students Halla Henry, Tristan Kile and Matthew Davis star in YSU’s production of "Speech & Debate".

By Cailey Barnhart

The Youngstown State University Department of Theatre and Dance kicked off the 2019-2020 season with “Speech & Debate” in Bliss Hall’s Spotlight Theater on Sept. 27. 

“Speech and Debate” by Stephen Karam follows three teenage misfits who discover they are linked by a sex scandal rocking their small town. The stakes get higher when one of the teens sets out to expose the truth in this dark musical comedy.

The production was directed by YSU alumnus Connor Bezeredi, who spent time in New York City to pursue a full-time career of acting, singing and art.

He performed in an off-Broadway production among other shows before an injury brought him back to his hometown to stay active in the arts while he heals.

Lexi Cerny, a sophomore musical theatre major, plays both the teacher and the reporter in the production and said she picked up the “acting bug” in high school and carried it over to college.

“My interests have just kept getting bigger and bigger with different areas of acting and the musical aspect of it. I’m interested in stage managing and directing as well,” she said.

Cerny says being the assistant stage manager for a show her first year helped her adjust to putting on a college-level production as opposed to a high school one.

“I think if I came in as an actor, I wouldn’t have been prepared, but I got the gist of what I needed to do and how much effort, time and work that needs to be put in. That experience definitely helped me prepare for being an actor in a main stage show this semester,” she said.

Senior musical theatre major Halla Henry plays Diwata and said the overall theme of this production was rewarding to be a part of. 

“These three misfit teenagers don’t really come in with any friends, and although there are dark situations involved, they find ways to overcome and have fun,” she said.

Henry said she feels that all three actors playing the teens in the production relate to their characters.

“The characters are almost like over-exaggerated versions of ourselves. Diwata is definitely different than me, but I can see a lot of her mannerisms in what I do,” she said.

L to R: YSU students Halla Henry, Tristan Kile and Matthew Davis star in YSU’s production of “Speech & Debate”.

Katherine Garlick is the costume designer for the show as well as the resident costume designer and costume design faculty for YSU’s Department of Theatre and Dance.

“Costume design is creating the specific look of the characters in the show. That is everything from the clothes, to shows, to hair and makeup. The demands can vary a lot depending on the show,” she said.

“‘Speech & Debate’ is a contemporary show, so tiny details are important,” Garlick added. “Everyone knows what people look like right now, and everyone knows what types of people look like, so you really have to get the details right.”

“Speech & Debate” will have three more performances: Oct. 4 and 5 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 6 at 2 pm. 

The show is being performed in Bliss Hall’s Spotlight Theater. YSU students receive free tickets with a valid student ID, and tickets can be purchased at 330-941-3105 or www.ysu.tix.com.