The student news site of Iowa City High School

The Little Hawk

The student news site of Iowa City High School

The Little Hawk

The student news site of Iowa City High School

The Little Hawk

Staff Profile
Sadie Bodzin
Sadie Bodzin
Culture Co-Editor

West Kauper Debates the Constitution

West Kauper ’25 on her experience as a debater and as an actor in ‘What the Constitution Means to Me’
West+Kauper+and+Robin+Calhoun%2C+who+plays+Heidi+Schreck+in+the+Iowa+premiere+of+%E2%80%98What+the+Constitution+Means+to+Me%E2%80%99%2C+act+out+a+scene.+Photo+courtesy+of+West+Kauper
West Kauper and Robin Calhoun, who plays Heidi Schreck in the Iowa premiere of ‘What the Constitution Means to Me’, act out a scene. Photo courtesy of West Kauper

On August 30th, West Kauper ‘25 opened her inbox to find an email titled ‘An interesting opportunity for your debate students.’ She was instantly curious. One of only two female-presenting debaters on her team, Kauper was intrigued by the message, which offered a chance to audition for a play called What the Constitution Means to Me.

What the Constitution Means to Me is an autobiographical play about the playwright, Heidi Schreck, who grew up traveling around the country to American Legion locations, where she competed in an oratorical contest about the constitution. The play is a (mostly) one-woman show with three characters: Heidi herself, her ‘positive male support,’ and a local debater.

As part of the high school constitutional contest, the competitors would debate each other. The final section of the play mirrors this, with a pre-scripted debate in an altered form of parliamentary debate.

Crooked Path Theater, the local non-profit theater group programming the Iowa premiere of the play, held to the original playwright’s wishes of casting a local, female-presenting debater. That’s where Kauper came in.

Since third grade, Kauper has wanted to do debate. Hearing other people talk about the club had especially inspired her, and she knew that she wanted to join it when she was older.

“I heard a kid talking about his big brother, who always wanted to argue after he got home from debate practice,” Kauper said. “And I was like, ‘that sounds really cool–to just argue for fun for an entire club.’”

So, freshman year, the second she heard about the debate team over the intercom, she bolted straight to the first meeting. Kauper hasn’t looked back since.

There are a few types of debate common for high school debate teams, but the format that Kauper and the rest of the City High Debate Team competes in is called policy debate. This form of debate is a partner activity where each partner takes two of eight speeches and either argues the affirmative–the side in favor of the yearly topic (called the ‘resolution’)–or the negative–the side against the resolution.

Kauper stressed the importance of teamwork in debate. As an activity, it is crucial to work with your team members and partners to get as much research and preparation done as possible.

“During the summer, people at debate camps across the country are making all these files for their arguments for the year, and then, throughout the year, people are talking cross-country to each other about finding evidence,” she said. “It requires a lot of collaboration among all people and, of course, within your team as well as with your partner during rounds.”

But in What the Constitution Means to Me, Kauper was on her own. And unlike a real debate, the round that Heidi (played by Robyn Calhoun) and Kauper argued was prescripted. The sides that each person debated were decided by a coin flip backstage.

“At the end of the show, she brings in me to emphasize the debate that she used to do when she was in high school and why she really liked it,” Kauper said. “We do a debate over whether or not we should abolish the Constitution, which is one of the topics that she had discussed over the play.”

Kauper has learned a lot through this experience. She’s turned from a novice debater who had never tried acting before to a varsity debater with acting experience under her belt within the past year.

“It’s pretty eye opening stuff. It’s helped me realize that our political world isn’t just something that our Gov teachers teach us,” she said. “It’s something very real that affects our day-to-day lives.”

And beyond that, Kauper has learned a lot about acting–something she has never really thought about before.

“I really love it,” she said. “I’ve always been around [acting], but I’ve never participated [in it].”

She attributes the things she has learned to the older actors in the play, Robin Calhoun and Matthew James.

“Robin and Matthew are the sweetest people you could possibly meet,” she said. “I got to learn a lot just watching them act. I copied a lot of the things they did and how they performed. I learned a lot just by following their examples.”

West Kauper’s acting career is just starting, but she is already making it count.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Little Hawk
$1925
$5000
Contributed
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists of Iowa City High School. For 2023, we are trying to update our video and photo studio, purchase new cameras and attend journalism conferences.

More to Discover
About the Contributor
Lily Rantanen
Lily Rantanen, Opinion Co-Editor
Donate to The Little Hawk
$1925
$5000
Contributed
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The Little Hawk Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *