Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
FAIRFIELD – The Fairfield High School individual speech team had a great showing at the state competition where all five students who participated got Division 1 ratings and one received All-State honors. The students who received Division 1 ratings were Erin Epperson (Musical Theatre), Ryan Higgins (Spontaneous Speaking), Allison Hunger (Musical Theatre), Sawyer Mast (Radio Broadcasting) and Wyatt Whitham (Improvisational Acting and Review). Whitham received an All-State honor for his performance in 'Review.”
Fairfield speech coach Fred Hucke had Whitham in speech class this year and got to watch him grow every day.
'Wyatt realized it's OK to tell other people about your great nerdy interest,” Hucke said.
Whitham enjoys making films involving miniatures. He likes studying films, particularly horror and monster-themed.
'He knows so much more than most people about those subjects, he can go on and on about it,” Hucke said.
The category of 'Review” used to refer only to book reviews, but the state speech organization noticed that fewer and fewer kids wanted to review books and thus opened the category to reviews of movies, record albums and TV shows. Whitham chose to review the classical Godzilla film from 1954 and spoke about how this monster destroying Japan was a metaphor for nuclear disaster.
'A lot of us in the West don't know that,” Hucke said.
Sadly, there will be no All-State festival this year to celebrate Whitham's achievement. The in-person event was canceled because of the pandemic.
The other Division 1 winners gave great performances, too. Erin Epperson sang a song from the musical 'Newsies.” She was the only student who performed for the March Art Walk, where Fairfield speech talent is normally showcased in the Fairfield library but which went online this year.
Hucke said Ryan Higgins was a good choice for spontaneous speaking because he thinks well on his feet. At state, the judge told him he 'makes it look easy.” Higgins was asked to craft a speech on how the pandemic has changed education and had just three minutes to prepare a speech that could be up to five minutes.
'As scary as it is, a lot of people stumble over their words, but Ryan is pretty smooth,” Hucke said.
Allison Hunger sang a touching song from Little Women. She sang both parts of a duet and acted as both characters, switching back and forth between sitting in a chair singing to the audience and changing positions to sing to the person in the chair.
For his performance in radio broadcasting, Sawyer Mast was given a packet of materials and 30 minutes to prepare a radio show with news segments of the information including commercials and a weather report.
'In a way, it's like working in a real newsroom,” Hucke said. 'You need to present the material fast, and that's what the contest is trying to mimic.”
Hucke and assistant coach Betsie Wotherspoon said participation in both individual and group speech teams was down this year, about one-third of normal.
'It went pretty well, it was just on a smaller scale,” Hucke said.