The Fillmore Central one-act play cast is preparing to perform Christopher Sergel’s stage adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.’s, story, “Who Am I This Time?” Their public performance will be Jan. 20, following the girls basketball game. From left, are Kelsey Christoph, Lee Dyreson, Sydnie Huffman, Ruth DeLano, Christian Harrison, Lindsey Weiss, Allison Coyle and Anna Christoph Not shown are Danielle Zinsmaster and Kirby O'Connor.  JACKIE WHITACRE/SUBMITTED PHOTO
The Fillmore Central one-act play cast is preparing to perform Christopher Sergel’s stage adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.’s, story, “Who Am I This Time?” Their public performance will be Jan. 20, following the girls basketball game. From left, are Kelsey Christoph, Lee Dyreson, Sydnie Huffman, Ruth DeLano, Christian Harrison, Lindsey Weiss, Allison Coyle and Anna Christoph Not shown are Danielle Zinsmaster and Kirby O'Connor. JACKIE WHITACRE/SUBMITTED PHOTO
The curtain will open soon and the Fillmore Central one-act competition cast and crew are hoping the show will go on. Coming off a section win and state appearance last season, there are high hopes for a 2014 group that returns six seniors.

"They understand the energy they need to bring and the dedication to their parts and teammates," said director Jackie Whitacre.

This year's play is "Who Am I This Time?," a Christopher Sergel adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.'s, short story by the same title. The play tones down the comedy that was present in last year's production of "The Importance of Being Earnest" and has more elements of romance.

The story centers on Harry Nash, played by senior Kirby O'Connor, who struggles socially, but can become anyone when he is on stage. The star performer, Nash develops a relationship with fellow actress Helen, played by Lindsey Weiss. Both are shy and unsocial off stage, which causes the relationship to progress through interesting means. The acting company Nash is a member of has a new director named Newt, played by Lee Dyreson, which also affects plot development. The play is set in modern times.

"The play is very different from last year," explained Whitacre, noting the greater emphasis on realistic character relationship development. The student actors are all playing characters who are around 30 years old. Whitacre said last year's play allowed the actors to build their character around a stereotype. This year however, "they are creating their character from an everyday person," which has required different techniques.

However, Whitacre said, "They are accepting their new roles very well."

Other challenges are rooted in the more romantic elements of the production. Scenes that see good friends kissing each other, as Whitacre put it wryly, "can be really difficult." However, she thinks preparation has gone very well so far.

The cast will again be complemented by an experienced crew. Sara Reicks is the student director, Dylan Birch is the set crew head, Alex Love is the lights/sound technician and Keeley Todd is handling makeup and costumes changes. Whitacre praised each one for their unique abilities while noting some of the challenges they have been able to take on so far.

"In one-act nothing is not necessary," she said. "It's all important."

One-act teams can only have a maximum of 20 people on the cast and crew.

Whitacre admitted that even though the drama team went to state last year, she didn't approach preparing for this year any differently.

"I try not to think about it because the pressure of repeating is there," she said. "I'm trying to stay away from the 'we went last year, let's do it again' philosophy."

Part of the reason she doesn't dwell on last year is because the students already think enough about it. "They don't bring it up in a joking fashion. It's a serious part of their lives. It's always a goal to get to state no matter what you do," Whitacre explained.

She has been helping her cast and crew convert those memories of success into energy for the present. "You don't want to seem arrogant, but confidence is part of that," she said. It's easier to be confident, yet humble when recalling the ups and downs the team went through last year.

Fillmore Central came in last place at the Three Rivers Conference competition in 2013. Using that as motivation, they went on to claim second place at sub-sections and first in sections. The cast and crew were firing as one.

"I've learned that an ensemble cast wins," explained Whitacre. "Even if you don't have a standout, an ensemble is what gets you to state."

The team's journey to state tapped into an energy still remembered by many in the community. Whitacre herself had gone to state when she was in high school and explained that several parents of last year's cast/crew members had connections to previous state one-act appearances. "It's the same energy and euphoria," stated Whitacre.

Now that the team has experienced recent success at all levels of competition, Whitacre feels it will help them remain calmer in sub-section and section competitions. In the meantime, the ensemble has been putting in a lot of time preparing. Three-hour rehearsals were held over winter break. Daily after-school rehearsals are seeing scripts disappear on stage, characters develop and consistent improvement.

"My expectations are the same: do our best and keep getting better every week," Whitacre said.

Fillmore Central is expecting to see other schools become good competitors. Whitacre mentioned teams like Rushford-Peterson, Wabasha and St. Charles as being perennial favorites.

"This year will be interesting. Don't count out any of the other schools in the conference," she said.

The conference meet this year is Saturday, Jan. 18, at Wabasha-Kellogg.

The one-act public performance will be held Monday, Jan. 20, approximately 20 minutes after the conclusion of the varsity girls' basketball game. The performance will have a free will donation and be held in the high school stage gymnasium in Harmony.

Sub-section competitions will be Saturday, Jan. 25, at Rushford-Peterson.

The expectations for the play may be higher this year, but Whitacre noted that the important takeaway of one-act is seeing the kids grow through their experiences.