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1859 - Outlaw Tiburcio Vasquez escapes from prison while serving sentence for grand larceny in SCV area; recaptured in August and sent to San Quentin [story]
Tiburcio Vasquez


College of the Canyons communication studies professor and speech team director Michael Leach will guide audiences through an evening of inner exploration and personal growth, as he and members of the college’s National Champion speech team present the spring 2012 Scholarly Presentation “Storytelling: Creating Your Personal Narrative.”

Providing an overview about the importance of storytelling and its many applications in today’s society, the presentation will primarily focus on the dramatic art of oral interpretation and its power to help individuals bring about their own personal growth.

Oral interpretation, or interpretation of literature, is a form of competitive speaking in which actors perform a roughly 10-minute-long story. By portraying a single character or even multiple characters, a performer works to reflectively interpret a piece of literature, in front of a live audience.

Event categories include: prose interpretation, dramatic interpretation (screenplays), poetry interpretation, programmed oral interpretation (mixed genre) and duo interpretation.

“Oral interpretation began as simply reading from a book,” said Leach. “But as the art form has evolved, it has become acting.”

As part of the presentation, Leach will be joined by members of the COC speech team to show the process of how one’s own triumphs, tragedies and collective life experiences can be developed into a short story or poem. Those narratives will then be acted out live on stage.

“I’m a firm believer in the notion that you have to be able to write about who you’ve been, in order to know who you want to be,” said Leach. “Having created this system of writing and performing original stories based on the students’ own lives, we’re providing opportunities for them to develop or enhance their own analytical thinking abilities, creative writing skills and sense of charisma — all attributes that will allow them to be successful in virtually any professional or social arena.

“If you want to have an impact on somebody, especially in the professional world, you have to be able to figure out, what’s my personal narrative,” added Leach. “After all, that’s what you’re doing in a job interview. You’re telling a series of stories about why you should be hired.”

Leach holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from California State University, Northridge and a Master of Arts in Communication Studies from California State University, Los Angeles. In addition to teaching a variety of communication studies courses at the college, Leach has served as the director of the COC Speech Team since 2005.

Since his arrival, the team has garnered both state and nationwide recognition by bringing home at least one bronze, silver or gold medal at seven straight Phi Rho Pi National Speech Tournaments

Last spring the COC speech team was awarded a school record three medals, including the team’s first gold medal, at the Phi Rho Pi tournament, which annually attracts participants from more the 75 community colleges across the nation.

Having competed in various forms of speech competition throughout his college career, in 1990 Leach was honored with the Phi Rho Pi Bovero-Tabor award as the top speaker at that year’s national tournament. In 1994, Leach also won a National Championship for his performance of a multiple character program entitled “The Life of an Actor.”

Aside from his writing, speaking and acting pursuits, Leach has worked as a political consultant, professional photographer, local sports videographer and documentary filmmaker.

“Storytelling is our main form of communication as human beings. It’s how we communicate our experiences, how we personalize and humanize our ideas, and how we relate to each other,” said David Stevenson, chair of the college’s Scholarly Presentation committee. “I invite the entire community to come learn more about this fascinating subject and experience this form of oral interpretation for themselves.”

The College of the Canyons Scholarly Presentation “Storytelling: Creating Your Personal Narrative” will take place at 5 p.m. Wednesday, March 21, on the main stage of the Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center (PAC).

Admission to this event is free and open to the public. Doors will open at 4 p.m. with seating available on a first come, first served basis. Attendees can park for free in college lots 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8, located off Rockwell Canyon Road adjacent to the PAC.

For more information about the College of the Canyons Scholarly Presentation “Storytelling: Creating Your Personal Narrative” contact the COC Foundation at 661-362-3434.

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