Writer’s note: The first few paragraphs of this story will be best enjoyed if you read them while the theme song to “The Odd Couple” is playing in your head.
Sydney Hall is loud, outspoken and loves art. Elizabeth Farris is quiet and has a passion for cross-country running.
It’s cliché to say that opposites attract, but there must be some truth to it because you really don’t get any more opposite than Hall and Farris, who have been inseparable since the first grade.
“We found that we kind of brought out the best in each other,” Hall said. “Our friendship went through a rough patch in the second grade, but we came back together because we realized that a friendship is one of those rare things you come across in life and it should be cherished.”
Since the sixth grade, Hall and Farris have used their friendship and natural chemistry to make waves in speech and debate competitions. The girls are currently in their first speech and debate season at Buffalo High School after several seasons at Clear Creek Middle School.
“We’ve always done things together, but we don’t really have a lot of the same interests and hobbies,” Hall said. “In middle school, I was interested in trying speech and debate, but I wanted to make sure I had a good friend in there with me. I knew it had to be Elizabeth.”
“She kind of dragged me into it,” Farris said. “But I’m glad she did.”
Hall and Farris perform in a competition known as duet, which is similar to interpretation competitions where students perform dramatic readings of poetry, prose or drama. The only difference is that duet requires two students to perform the piece together.
This year, Hall and Farris are performing a short play called “Driver’s Test” by Don Zoldis, where they take on hilariously outsized versions of their own personalities. Hall plays a chipper, fun-loving and slightly deranged DMV driving tester named Margie, and Farris plays a buttoned-down high schooler named Gail who becomes increasingly frazzled as the test spirals out of control.
“It is good to have very different people working together to play two very different characters,” Hall said. “That’s when the sparks really fly, and you come up with something special.”
So far, the friends’ natural chemistry has served them well in their freshman speech and debate season. The team advanced to the final round in their first competition in Cheyenne in late November and finished in fourth place. A week later, at a competition in Sheridan, the team earned third place.
While Hall said she occasionally has nightmares about forgetting her lines, she said she and Farris tend to focus less on the competition and more on their friendship.
“We try to make it fun,” Hall said. “There was one season where we ate macaroni and cheese pizza before every competition. I don’t really know why. It was kind of disgusting. But it was still a fun tradition.”
Another fun tradition? Nicknames, Farris said.
“For a while, Sydney was known as ‘Hallway’ and I was known as ‘Ferris Wheel,’” Farris said. “We had a nickname for everybody at the competitions. There is one girl who we still know only as ‘Bamboo.’”
In between the giggles, nicknames and disgusting pizza, the girls have also learned some public speaking skills that will prove useful in high school and beyond, Hall said.
“It definitely helps with presentations a lot,” Hall said. “When you’re goofing around and doing something silly in front of a lot of people, a presentation in class about something you’ve studied seems a lot easier.”
Hall and Farris have also grown in their friendship through their time in speech and debate.
“One thing I’ve learned is that I can be a little bossy sometimes,” Farris said. “I’ve learned that we’re at our best not when I’m bossing her around but when we’re working together.”
Hall agreed the friends’ time in speech and debate had strengthened their friendship.
“The longer we do this, the more synchronized we become,” Hall said. “In a way, we’re kind of building our friendship every time we perform.”