Tapler breaks to nationals with 10-minute marvel (with video)


Mari Pletta

Coppell High School senior Austin Tapler expresses emotion through his monologue in the Black Box on March 22. Tapler is going to nationals for dramatic interpretation and is the only CHS dramatic interper to advance to nationals after he and senior Barrett Engler competed in the district tournament earlier in March. The national competition is in Dallas in June.

Sally Parampottil, Co-Student Life Editor

Only minutes after Coppell High School senior Austin Tapler was awarded third place at the National Speech & Debate Association (NSDA) district qualifying tournament for Dramatic Interpretation, it was announced the first place entry was dropping out.

The NSDA tournament allows for the top two ranked competitors to advance to the national competition, held June 16-21 in Dallas. However, Tapler had thought only the top competitor would advance to nationals and did not think his new second place rank would qualify to compete.

“I was confused,” Tapler said. “I took [the plaque], and I thought I was an alternate. I asked, ‘What does this mean?’ The woman who gave me the plaque said, ‘You’re going to nationals, buddy,’ and I was like, ‘Sweet’.”  

Dramatic Interpretation is a section of Oral Interpretation, in which interpers memorize a 10-minute dramatic monologue to perform and compete with at competitions and tournaments.

Despite this being his first year on the Oral Interpretation team, Tapler has racked up achievements left and right. Not only is he the sole CHS dramatic interper to compete at nationals this year, he reached quarterfinals in the Texas Forensic Association (TFA) State Tournament and placed in various local competitions.

“I’m a very competitive person,” Tapler said. “It’s a way I can compete and act all the time. I can compete with dramatic acting, [and] I love dramatic acting. I get to take pride in it too, a sense of affirmation of my acting by winning trophies and doing well at tournaments.”

Tapler has performed various pieces in the past, depending on the event. At the beginning of the year, he competed in Poetry using a piece regarding the war in Vietnam.

“He was very open-minded for every kind of literature I threw his way,” CHS oral interpretation coach Maleda Kunkle said. “Some of it was kind of odd and kind of unusual, but he was willing to give it a try. He probably had more events than most anybody this year, as far as the different types of events.”

His current monologue, titled “Ecstasy” by DonnaMarie Vaughan, follows a high school junior who falls into drug addiction.


“The writing in it isn’t the best, but it’s relevant, and it hits home,” Tapler said. “I’ve had friends, I think a lot of people in high school have had friends, who use drugs. I personally had a friend who’s gone really close to getting into bad stuff. He’d done some bad drugs, had to go to rehab. It just really connected to me, so I wanted to represent that. It wasn’t about competition, it was about performing something that I thought was important and that people could connect with.”

Years of theater experience helped prepare Tapler for this monologue.

This year, Tapler was in the school musical, “All Shook Up” and the winter show, “The Diary of Anne Frank”. While the former, in which Tapler played Sheriff Earl, offered an opportunity to work on physicality, which is all of the physical aspects of acting, the latter, featuring Tapler as Hermann van Daan, offered an opportunity to work on a more serious internal character. Both aspects are important in his 10-minute monologue.  

“Physicality has really helped me a lot, I’m a big physical actor,” Tapler said. “That’s what I would say my strength is when it comes to acting. With my monologue for dramatic interpretation, I have to raise my voice. The physicality within that is playing the high of the drug. It makes the audience uncomfortable, and that’s what I’m trying to elicit from the audience.”

CHS senior Barrett Engler has worked with Tapler for six years in theater and also competes alongside him in Dramatic Interp, having placed sixth at the TFA State Tournament and fifth at the NSDA district qualifying tournament this year.

“[Tapler] does really well with his piece,” Engler said. “It’s very different, it definitely isn’t something a lot of people have at the competitions we go to. He’s really good at getting into the tragedy of his piece and whatnot. He just does a really good job with it, fitting the character and the person he is supposed to be.”

In the future, Tapler is open to continuing Dramatic Interp in college, where he plans to study law. Theater-wise, he is not interested in major productions but is also open to community theater.

As for now, to prepare for nationals, Tapler intends on practicing, revising and practicing again. After extended analyses of the script, as well as an application of acquired theatrical skill, Tapler can dive into the depths of his character and put on a performance worthy of national merit.

“I try to embody what it is to be younger, to want to fit in, to just want to impress people,” Tapler said. “I call on my own insecurities about that stuff to push that character out. I go into a more innocent mindset, and innocence is what really drives the character, I feel. Innocence, and wanting to conform.”

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