Fillmore Central's one-act play entry, “The Importance of Being Earnest,” will be performed at the state level this Friday during the one-act festival at the O'Shaughnessy Auditorium on the St. Catherine University campus in St. Paul. Shown above, from left, are cast members Lee Dyerson as Algernon Moncrieff, Sydnie Huffman as Miss Cecily Cardew, Danielle Zinsmaster as Gwendolen Fairfax and Matt Guttormson as Jack Worthing.
Fillmore Central's one-act play entry, “The Importance of Being Earnest,” will be performed at the state level this Friday during the one-act festival at the O'Shaughnessy Auditorium on the St. Catherine University campus in St. Paul. Shown above, from left, are cast members Lee Dyerson as Algernon Moncrieff, Sydnie Huffman as Miss Cecily Cardew, Danielle Zinsmaster as Gwendolen Fairfax and Matt Guttormson as Jack Worthing.
This Friday, 18 students from Fillmore Central will have the opportunity to do something very few local students have ever done. They will participate in the state one-act play festival. Earning a first-place finish at the Section 1A contest in Winona two weeks ago, the cast and crew of "The Importance of Being Earnest" are taking their show on the road to the ultimate destination for any drama student.

Led by director Jackie Whitacre, the students will be only the third one-act cast from Fillmore Central to earn the trip to the state festival, the last being in 2001. Whitacre shared this will be her first trip as an adviser, but had the privilege of performing at the state festival as a student in her high school drama career.

Sitting down with members of the cast and crew last week, the excitement of their upcoming trip to St. Paul was evident as was the respect they had for each other and their director.

The cast consists of Lee Dyreson as inquisitive and love-struck Algernon Moncrieff, Kirby O'Connor in the duo-role as faithfully formal butlers Lane and Merriman, Matt Guttormson as responsible John "Jack" Worthing and fictitious brother, the wilder "Earnest" Worthing, Mitch Gibson as fatherly, but enamored, Rev. Canon Chasuble, Ruth Delano as the socially responsible Lady Bracknel, Danielle Zinsmaster as the flirty Gwendolen Fairfax, Lindsey Weiss as the proper governess with a surprising hidden past and Sydnie Huffman as sweet and romantic young Miss Cecily Cardew.

The capable crew members kept things moving along smoothly and timely. They are Cody Hendrickson, lights and sound; Braden Hahn, chief of the set crew; and Keeley Todd, in charge of costumes and makeup. The set crew members were Will Nolan, Bailey Soma, Helen Delano, Taylor Wilford, Christian Harrison and Megan Hendrickson.

They acknowledged they had worked hard to come back from a disappointing finish at the conference festival to topping the section and earning their trip to state. The students loved that they are an example of the perfect Cinderella story.

"We enjoy each other," said Zinsmaster and Guttormson agreed, saying the students have developed deep friendships with their fellow cast mates. "We are as close as we have ever been," he said.

The students are also looking forward to representing their school at the state level. "People are going to be looking at us as 'the ones to beat' next year," said Huffman. "Knowing we've been to state can be intimidating for the other schools."

Huffman and her fellow cast members know this from personal experience, looking at past state-qualifiers Rushford-Peterson and St. Charles. While St. Charles was undergoing a change in direction and failed to make it to the section contest, Rushford-Peterson remained one of Fillmore Central's greatest rivals this year, taking first place at the sub-section contest over Fillmore Central.

At the section contest, the Fillmore Central students were able to see another excellent performance by R-P, and all were very complimentary of the talent shown by the rival cast and crew. "They did everything right that day," said Guttormson. "They held it together and had taken comments from the judges and made changes to make it even better for the contest."

The students were glad that R-P had brought forth its best performance during the contest as it made winning that much sweeter.

On the day of the section contest, Whitacre said her cast was truly an ensemble, which she feels is the greatest compliment she could give the students. They had good energy, played off each other well and shined in their performances.

"We were over the top, but not ridiculous," added Huffman.

The cast also stressed that they have a fabulous crew who can change out 12 pieces of set in less than 25 seconds. Their talents are an essential part of the process, noted Whitacre.

Whitacre also complimented R-P's director, Forest Musselman, saying, "Forest and I have known each other for a long time. We trust each other to give good advice and constructive criticisms. We have a competitive camaraderie that is very valued."

As excited as the students are to be going forward in this journey, they are just as excited to share the experience with Whitacre. "Mrs. Whitacre really deserves to go," said Huffman. "She works so hard and puts her heart and soul into this. She's like our second mom in addition to being our teacher, our friend and our director."

The students have agreed that one of the best aspects of going onto the state festival has been the additional weeks of practice that has enabled them to spend even more time together, not only developing their characters, but also nurturing their new friendships. "We've really grown into the characters and we have a vibe that is awesome," said Huffman.

Weiss added, "We have connected so well. We are a diverse group, but we got it all together and have been having so much fun."

"We are a diverse cast," Guttormson continued. "It gives every single character a lot of depth - a lot of back story."

The students are also looking forward to seeing all the other plays that have qualified for the state contest.

The cast and crew will be going to St. Paul on Wednesday after school and will attend the festival on Thursday, enjoying a non-stressful day of drama by the Class AA schools.

Whitacre stressed the students will be in bed early on Thursday evening as Fillmore Central opens the day of performances by the Class A schools, on Friday, taking the stage at 9 a.m. Senior Mitch Gibson noted that performing in a venue as grand as the O'Shaughnessy Auditorium will be a fabulous experience.

Whitacre explained that the performance on Friday is not part of a competition, but rather a festival. The students are not ranked, but they do have the opportunity to earn a "starred performance" which is an exceptional rating given by the judges. They will also be publicly critiqued, so the students will know how the judges feel about their performance immediately after the curtain falls.

The Spotlight on the Arts Award of Excellence will also be presented at the 2013 festival, a unique form of recognition for fine arts participants. Each cast and crew member of schools earning a "starred performance" rating will receive a handsome acrylic trophy incorporating the Spotlight on the Arts logo.

The public is invited to attend the 2013 Minnesota State High School League One Act Play Festival. Admission is $10 per four-play session for students and adults, and there are two sessions per day. A daily pass is available for $15 per day.

O'Shaughnessy Auditorium is located at 2004 Randolph Ave., St. Paul.