MSU hosts noir-themed Speech and Debate Tournament

Students from various colleges filled the rooms of Armstrong Hall Sunday to compete in a speech and debate tournament. 

Minnesota State University, Mankato hosted the film noir-themed tournament, dubbed “Film Schnoir” in honor of the forensics program founder, Larry Schnoor. The tournament, put on by director Tennisha Sonsalla, featured a variety of categories, including dramatic interpretation, persuasive speaking and impromptu speaking. 

The theme was reflected in old Hollywood costume pieces worn by students as well as decorations hung in the halls. The decorations included a red carpet before the check-in table and a photobooth area with a cutout of Frank Sinatra’s body featuring Schnoor’s face. 

Although Schnoor retired in 1991, he makes appearances at forensic events as an alumnus and gives speeches of encouragement to the current team members. The current forensics director, Katie Brunner, described him as an “institution” in the forensics community, due to his creation of multiple events still used in competitions. 

Brunner, who returned to direct forensics after her graduate program at MSU, is seeing the program begin to resemble its pre-COVID self, which includes in-person tournaments and opportunities for Schnoor and other alumni to return. 

“Obviously things have gotten pretty difficult over the last few years. So, it’s really, really awesome to have him come back,” Brunner said. 

Among the students competing was returning member James Ziegeweid who competes in limited prep events, where the competitors are given a prompt and limited time to prepare a speech.

“It’s quite a rush,” Ziegeweid said.  

Ziegeweid and the rest of the team had the opportunity Saturday evening to meet with Schnoor and discuss the history of the team he created. 

“It’s a great opportunity to speak to his legacy,” Ziegeweid said about competing in a tournament named after Schnoor. “We’re one of the oldest RSOs on campus so it’s been a really good opportunity to be a part of a program with such a strong legacy.” 

There were also a couple of first year students competing, including Mary Burshem, who made her tournament debut at this event, and E Meier, who joined the group in September.  

Burshem said that, despite being nervous to compete in her prose event, she is proud to have advanced to the final round.

“I was really nervous, honestly. I was prepping myself like ‘it’s okay if you don’t make it to finals, it’s okay if you don’t place, it’s fine.’ And then the shock of even making it to finals was just really nice,” Burshem said.

Meier stated that the connection between the MSU forensics team members and faculty stands out from their high school program. 

“Especially on this team [it is] more of a family and less people are in and out,” Meier said, “Even people that have graduated are definitely still involved.” 

This focus on the longevity of the program was stressed by both Meier and Schnoor. 

“When I retired I was very concerned, but I had some good people then taking it over,” Schnoor said. “I am pleased that [the program] has continued, because so many times where the director of forensics that has been at a school for a long period of time is no longer there, the program tends to die. And I’m glad that this one has never had to deal with that particular issue,” Schnoor said.

Header Photo: James Ziegeweid presents awards to Mary Burshem (left) and her competitors in the prose category. (Carly Bahr/The Reporter)

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