2/13/2013 10:28:00 AM Sibling pairs thrive throughout Fillmore Central's history at state one-act play festivals
On the Page Theatre stage in Winona, Orson Guttormson, at right, congratulates his son, Matt, who portrayed Jack Worthing in Fillmore Central's one-act play, "The Importance of Being Earnest." Matt's older brother, Nick, also went to state earlier in 2002 with "Amelia, Once More." Matt and Nick are the sons of Orson and Michelle Guttormson of Harmony.
By Bob O'Reilly
Observing a 65th anniversary, the annual Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) One-Act Play Festival has a rich heritage of tradition and a shared treasury of memorable moments for many.
For several decades, the state festival was hosted at the Whiting Theatre at the Rarig Center on the campus of the University of Minnesota. More recently the yearly festival has relocated to the spacious O'Shaughnessy Auditorium at the University of St. Catherine in St. Paul.
The first state entry from Preston-Fountain High School (PFHS) was in 1979 with Noel Coward's "The Family Album," which won a "starred performance" award and a state participation MSHSL trophy. In those years participants were also presented Olympic-like gold medals on blue ribbons.
The next state winner was in 1988 with "The Man in the Bowler Hat." Other state entries from PFHS were "The Potman Spoke Sooth" in 1983 and later in 1991, "Waiting for Godot."
After Preston-Fountain merged with Harmony High School, the 1996 state entry was "The Silver Backed Hairbrush" followed by "Amelia, Once More" in 2002. This was the last year I, Robert O'Reilly, served as a director.
Earlier in 1975, Harmony High School was represented at state by its starred performance entry "Green Eggs and Ham" by Dr. Seuss.
This year, Fillmore Central again advanced into participation at the MSHSL State Festival with the classic Oscar Wilde farce, "The Importance of Being Earnest," directed by Jackie Whitacre.
After an official send-off by three fire departments, the Fillmore Central state entry was supported at The O'Shaughnessy by a large delegation of enthusiastic area fans led by the district's administration and their wives.
On Feb. 8, Fillmore Central was joined at the MSHSL One-Act Play Festival by seven other Class A schools: Win-E-Mac, Erskine High School, Mountain Lake, Wadena-Deer Creek, Eveleth-Gilbert, Sauk Centre, St. Paul Academy and Summit School and Belle Plaine. Each entry was presented an attractive MSHSL trophy for state participation.
"Starred performance" awards were won by Sauk Centre, St. Paul Academy and Summit School and Belle Plaine.
While enjoying lobby visits this year at the O'Shaughnessy, we were reminded that area siblings and children of former one-act players have shared similar state honors and rewarding experiences.
This year, for example, Sydnie Huffman is a cast member in Fillmore Central's "The Importance of Being Earnest." Her father, Jason Huffman, earned 1988 "starred performance" honors at state as an actor in the PFHS entry, "The Man in the Bowler Hat."
Also in that 1988 entry was Stephanie Derby whose younger brother, Theodore, also went to state later in 1991 with "Waiting for Godot." He went on to become a director at St. Charles, where his one-act plays have advanced into state competition nine times, winning a "starred performance" five times.
This year, we also noticed Matt Guttormson in the F-C cast. His older brother, Nick, earlier had also gone to state in 2002 with "Amelia, Once More."
Since graduation, Nick has moved to Hollywood where he has become a member of the Screen Actors Guild after earning credentials at The Walt Disney Studios. Since then he has worked on the TV show "The Mentalist." Nick also appears in two award-winning motion pictures, "The Artist" and "J. Edgar," starring Leonard DiCaprio.
"The Artist," with 10 nominations, won five Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Costume Design. Location filming includes scenes shot in the former home of silent screen star Mary Pickford.
Other area siblings who have advanced to state include Steve Speer (1979) and his sister, Shannon (1988); Adrian Snyder (1988) and Randy Snyder (1991); Mary Grabau (1979) and Trudy Grabau (1983); and Bill Hansen (1979) and Dan Hansen (1983).
Alberta Aug (1979) was followed to state by her nephew, Jeremy Aug, in 1991 with "Waiting for Godot." Alberta's brother and Jeremy's father, Charles Aug, won Alternate to State honors in 1975 with "The Glass Menagerie."
Kirby O'Connor, a 2013 cast member, was preceded at state by his Aunt Linda, a crew member of the 1988 state entry.
Both Richard Snyder and his brother, Greg, participated in the 1984 Alternate to State one-act from Preston-Fountain as did longtime one-act supporter Dan Miller.
Eric Bunge, a cast member of the 1979 state winner "The Family Album," went on to help establish the $3 million Commonweal Theatre before moving on to the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona.
Interest in the MSHSL competition statewide remains strong. The rewards are many and often last a lifetime.