Silence is golden for Sibley-Ocheyedan's Martinez
SIBLEY, Iowa -- Without saying a word, Sibley-Ocheyedan junior Alecia Martinez captured one of Iowa's highest miming awards recently at the Iowa High School Speech Association Large Group All-State Speech Festival.
In recognition of her achievement, Martinez brought back a banner that will hang in her high school for a year.
Martinez said she's been in group mime since her freshman year. After seeing 2012 graduate Ryan Dirks perform a solo mime piece last year, she decided to "do something different and give solo mime a try."
"Ryan gave me the inspiration and I just went for it," Martinez said. "I had the mentality of, 'If I do well, awesome, but if I fail, then I'll learn something along the way.'"
Far from failing, Martinez excelled in the solo mime category and went on to win the coveted Critic's Choice award at the festival.
To get there, Martinez performed a piece about domestic violence titled "Sunny Side Up."
"It starts out with me sending the kids off to school and then waking up my husband," she explained. "I make him breakfast, and the whole violence starts when the eggs I cook aren't up to his standards."
The piece progresses as Martinez's character contemplates leaving until finally removing an imaginary wedding ring and storming out of the house.
Martinez said the only way to perform a domestic violence piece convincingly is through a commitment to imagining everything is really happening.
"I have a fictional man I've created," she said. "Every time (I perform), I see him beating me. I picture myself in the same kitchen every time -- even though it's not a man or a kitchen I've ever seen before. You have to create a place you're familiar and comfortable with in your imagination."
Sibley-Ocheyedan Speech Coach BJ Schuller explained the Iowa High School Speech Association Large Group All-State Speech Festival is different than a regular competition.
"It's not a competition -- it's a showcase of the best of the best in the state," he said.
Martinez first competed at the district large group competition on Jan. 19. During that day-long competition, three judges evaluate all of the competitors and decide who is the best -- "the cream of the day," Schuller said. The top performer is selected to perform at the all-state festival.
Going into the festival, Martinez said she was told to have fun with the performance.
"They never put any pressure on me to win the banner," she said, adding that the experience was very humbling and she felt blessed to perform with the best in the state.
To evaluate the performers, Schuller said a professional critic was hired and given the task of selecting the best solo mime of the day to receive the "Critic's Choice" award.
After her performance, when the critic announced "Sibley-Ocheyedan" and the name of her piece, "I put my hands over my mouth and started to cry," Martinez said. Surrounded by classmates and friends, she couldn't hear the rest of the critic's comments about her piece over the cheers and shouts of her peers.
"My initial reaction was praising the Lord and thanking Jesus for giving me the ability," she said. "My next thought was that I'm so proud to bring this back to Sibley and get Sibley on the map."
According to Schuller, receiving such high recognition is a first for the Sibley- Ocheyedan school district.
"I've had people perform at all-state before, but she's the first to receive the Critic's Choice award," he said.
"I helped her put it in perspectives," Schuller added. "I told her, the all-state festival has only been around for 29 years. Only 29 other people have received this award."
Schuller coaches the Sibley-Ocheyedan speech team with his wife, Julie. He said there is only so much coaching they can do between the two of them, adding, "We do a lot with technique and storyline."
But, as is common with a great performance, it was Martinez's dedication that perfected her routine.
"She makes it her own," Schuller said. "She practices a lot on her own at home - that's the only way you can get good. There is no mediocre miming. You never want people to say 'What was that?' about your performance."
As for next year, Martinez said she isn't sure if she will do solo mime again.
"I haven't mastered solo mine, but I feel like I've done well, and I almost don't want to push my luck," she said with a laugh. "I went in giving it a shot so now I think, 'Why not give something else a shot and try something totally new?' I'm all about new experiences."
While Martinez couldn't have achieved what she did without individual commitment and skill, she is quick to acknowledge all the help she had on the way.
"I want people to recognize not just my accomplishment but also the school, coaches and the town of Sibley, because without their support, I wouldn't have even made it to all-state," she said. "So many people along the way were encouraging and believed I could do it, and that is what allows you to win."