US Academic Triathlon participants often compete against as many as eight other teams during a Meet, and they all have the same P.A.R.T.Y. in a Box prompts. It is up to the students to find ways to stand out and get noticed by the judges. Some judges use the first show they see to set a bar for all of the performances while others give preliminary scores and go back to adjust them after they’ve seen all of the shows. But no matter the style of the people on the panel that Meet, if the show is forgettable the scores will be lower.
Many of the prompts explicitly require the teams to showcase someone’s special skill as a part of their P.A.R.T.Y. solutions, but this is a good way to approach all of the challenges. Can anyone do funny impressions? Is there a juggler in the house? What about walking on one’s hands? There are lots of quirky little things that teams can share with their audience (and the judges), to make a show memorable.
Adding music is another great way to garner favor with the spectators. You don’t have to be a “good” singer to have a song make an impact. It can be a vehicle for moving the plot forward, a way to keep the audience busy during a scene change, or a mode of adding interest to a character. It is also an especially good way to build comedy into a show. Taking a song that people know and changing the lyrics in a clever way will almost always illicit chuckles. This is something that comes easily to some people, but it is also a skill that can be practiced.
It is also very important not to be remembered for the WRONG reasons. Having poor theater etiquette when it isn’t their turn or dissolving into giggles during a performance are both ways of making an impression on the judges, but in negative ways. Breaking the rules is another bad way to get noticed and the reputation can follow a team throughout a season. I was a judge during a performance once where they built their entire skit around a shirt that one of the students was wearing.
This is, of course, unfair to the other teams who were not provided with that shirt as part of their materials, and the other judges on the panel took it almost personally. In that case we decided that it was an innocent mistake and took off only 5 points from their overall raw score, but depending on the infraction a team could lose much more. And I can say from that experience it was difficult to judge the rest of their skit separate from the “cheating issue”, and I am sure that they received a lower overall score as a result. The skits are the responsibility of the students, but coaches should also make sure they understand the rules to avoid any inadvertent loss of points.
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