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Department of Theatre and Dance

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SPEECH & DEBATE at the Lab Theatre

The UofSC Department of Theatre and Dance

Speech & Debate

Written by Stephen Karam
Directed by Marybeth Gorman Craig

November 9-12, 2017

Lab Theatre
1400 Wheat St.

Show Times: 
8pm nightly

$10, available only at the door

Speech & Debate
contains adult themes and language, and is not appropriate for children.


In Karam’s critically acclaimed play, three high school outcasts — a drama queen, an aspiring journalist, and an openly gay transfer student — find connection as they band together to form a Speech and Debate club, whose secret mission is to expose a teacher who preys on his male students.  In the process, they must contend with their own secrets and insecurities to discover the power of their individual voices.  Karam was a Tony Award-winner and Pulitzer Prize finalist for his 2016 play, The HumansSpeech & Debate premiered Off-Broadway in 2007, and was released as a film in 2017. 

“Flat-out funny…Sex, secrets and hypocrisy are the themes that tie the play together…Karam has an outstanding ear for how young people talk.” — Associated Press

“The main characters are three loner misfits who find themselves linked by the secrets they know about the high school drama teacher,” says director Marybeth Gorman Craig, an acting instructor in the theatre program.  “They want to use the Speech and Debate club as a way to have their voices and perspectives heard by a large audience, but find unlikely connections with each other along the way.”

Despite the high school setting, audiences may be surprised at how explicitly “adult” the language in the play is, and Craig says that’s all part of the playwright’s design. 

“A common theme with these characters is that they’re tired of being talked down to,” she explains, “so the language they use is very real.  They occasionally swear and they’re very frank when it comes to talking about sexuality, but it’s not just for the sake of having ‘potty mouths.’  They’re simply not shying away from talking about things that adults might think are inappropriate.”

The play’s candid honesty is what drew her to want to stage the play in the university’s intimate Lab Theatre.

“It encourages a very realistic acting style that doesn’t need to be broadcast in a large space,” she says.  “Also, the characters’ desires are so strong, and as an actor that’s really attractive.  It really lends itself to digging into the roles and getting as close to the bone as possible.”

Cast in the production are undergraduate students Sam Edelson, Owen Heckman and Susanna McElveen, and guest actor Christine Hellman.  Design of the production is being helmed by undergraduate theatre students Curtis Smoak (scenic and lighting) and Charlotte Zuraw (sound).  University dance instructor Cindy Flach is choreographing the show’s outlandish musical moments.

“This play is super funny and really well written,” says Craig.  “Ultimately, it’s a story about a really specific group of people fighting for their very specific dreams.  And, in finding each other, they make the awkward journey through high school a bit easier.”

For more information about Speech & Debate or the theatre program at the University of SC, contact Kevin Bush by phone at 803-777-9353 or via email at

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.