The stage is dimly lit as the two young men walk quietly up the two steps and take their places. As the audience quiets down, they begin.

     Tony McKinney and Corey Finzel are two Tyler Junior College students practicing for the American Forensic Association competition coming up soon.

     The skit they perform is known as a Duo Interpretation. This is a two-man performance of an already published piece of either prose, poetry or a selection out of a musical or play. The interpretation is done without costumes, backgrounds or music. They must also have a small black notebook that they must refer to during the skit. It contains their lines and is only glanced at by the performers and not read word for word.

     The piece they have chosen is “Hidden In This Picture” by Aaron Sorkin. It is a small skit about a movie director shooting his final shot. Three cows walk into the scene being shot outside and begin to graze.

     The choosing of the piece is only part of the performance. The attitude toward the competition is the other.

     “I love going to competitions. It gives me a chance to see students from all over the state. In the duo there is no make-up or costumes. Taking away all these elements gives you a chance to show others your pure acting ability. It shows people what you have,” McKinney said about going to competition.

     McKinney is also competing in three other events besides the duo interpretation including one-on-one debate.

     There are three “legs” you must do before reaching the state nationals. A “leg” is a regular non-state or regional competition that the performers go to. You must place in each one and your total of the three must add up to nine or less. So you could actually place third in each leg and make it to the finals.

     McKinney and Finzel have placed fourth and third in their last two competitions. The latest, however, did not have enough schools to be counted as a leg. There were large schools there such as UT Austin, Texas A&M and Texas State that they went up against.

     “We get to compete against other junior colleges and even some four year universities. It gives us the opportunity to see how we compare with some of the larger schools,” said McKinney.

     The American Forensic Association competition is one of the largest and hosts junior colleges and four-year colleges. It will be held from April 1-4.

     To get extra practice performing in front of an audience, the two have been going to The Venue, held on the TJC campus.

     The Venue is held at the Jean Browne Theater in the Wise Cultural Arts building. It is intended to be a coffeehouse-style place for people to go and perform original works, or in the case of McKinney and Finzel, a place to practice.”We have to take every opportunity to perform and practice. I enjoy doing it in front of a live audience so we can get feedback,” said Finzel.

     The Venue was started by Dr. David Crawford, a TJC theater professor.

     “It gives students on and off campus something to do and enjoy for free. A person does not have to perform in order to come. They can enjoy free coffee and pastries while enjoying the performances,” Crawford said.

     The Venue is not just for students. Non-students are encouraged to come as well. Anyone can perform as long as they sign up the week before the event.

     All requests must be put in the Monday before the event. There are two ways to sign up. Become a member of TJC Venue on FaceBook and write a comment about wishing to perform or there is a sign-up sheet on the door of Dr. Crawford’s office located on the second floor of the Wise Cultural Arts building.

     All performances must be five minutes or less and without any profanity or vulgar material. The Venue also tries to keep any material that could possibly offend someone off the stage. For any questions about material, Dr. Crawford will be happy to answer any questions. He can be reached at his office, by phone at (903)-510-2678 and by e-mail at dcra@tjc.edu.

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