Gutierrez students beat out high school students at speech, drama competition

Courtesy Photo Gutierrez Middle School speech, drama and debate students took seventh place against 54 high schools from across Texas and other parts of the United States – and they never left their homes.

HARLINGEN – Don’t take your siblings for granted.

George Matthew Gutierrez made his point so clear he took fourth place in the Southlake Carroll Dragon Faire earlier this month.

“That was my first time ever trying dramatic interpretation,” said George Matthew, 12, one of several students at Gutierrez Middle School of Arts and Sciences who competed in the online speech, drama and debate competition.

He and his fellow performers took seventh place in the event, exemplary in any case but particularly so considering they were the only middle school to compete. They performed in the tournament against 54 high schools from across the state and took home top marks for their work.

“I am overjoyed, I am proud,” said Zachary Fryman, theater arts teacher and speech, drama and debate coach.

This is Fryman’s first year teaching speech, drama and debate.

“I am just so proud of all of their hard work and their dedication and the hours of practice they put in,” Fryman said. “They put in so many hours of practice into these pieces. They really take these pieces and they transform them into something that’s so beautiful and I am just so proud of them for that.”

Among the successes are Adrianna Rodriguez, who placed first in dramatic interpretation. George Matthew took fourth, and Bianca Rios placed sixth place. One student, Avery Janssen, placed fifth in humorous interpretation, and this was her first competition.

“It blew me out of the water,” Fryman said.

The kids were pretty psyched about their success, too.

“To me that’s pretty incredible, especially because we do have a lot of sixth graders and they’re very experienced,” said Azeneth Corrales, 12, a seventh grader.

“To me it’s mind blowing that sixth and seventh graders can get seventh place among all these high schoolers,” she said. “In my group, everyone’s very hard working. We’re all very extremely committed to what we do and it’s just a passion we have had.”

Azeneth took on some considerable challenges for her dramatic interpretation piece, “Frozen” by Bryony Lavery. The work, set in England, required her to perform three characters: Nancy, whose daughter was raped and murdered; Ralph, the murderer; and Agnetha, the psychiatrist who has come from New York to examine Ralph and help Nancy process her trauma.

“I had to find very different personalities for each and every one of them, so that was probably one of the hardest things,” she said.

George Matthew’s dramatic interpretation piece told the story about a boy with a special needs brother.

“They go through life and he just takes his brother for granted,” he said. “The whole point of speech and drama and debate is that you want to get your point out to other people. And I just feel this piece is like, you should never take your siblings for granted because you never know when you’re going to lose them.”

Although he did well, he’s eager for the next challenge.

“I feel very happy and I feel very excited,” he said. “I feel like I can do better of course, but yes I’m always going to strive for the best.”

Fryman has a great deal of experience working in children’s theater, and he used that experience as a speech and drama coach.

“I took what I learned from being a theater major in college and working at a professional children’s theater,” he said. “I just took all my knowledge from there and put it into the work that’s done here with these students in the competitions.”

This being the first tournament of the year, it promises to be a very successful year, albeit in virtual time.

twhitehead@valleystar.com