Moline High School's Encore! speech/acting team lived up to its name this past weekend, earning the state championship in the "Performance in the Round" category for the second year in a row.
Out of 18 high schools competing at the Peoria Civic Center, Encore earned first place in the Illinois High School Association state finals for its 15-minute performance "Starcatcher," an adaptation of the Broadway play "Peter and the Starcatcher," by Moline head coach Christopher Thomas.
"The really cool thing about this year, we got straight 1's (the highest possible score) from all five judges," Mr. Thomas said on Sunday.
Students audition to get into Encore, "dedicating themselves to competing in speech, enhancing their performing abilities and leadership skills as well," Mr. Thomas said.
Four of the 11 PIR students also participated in last year's first-place team which performed "The Legacy Quilt," an adaptation of the musical "Quilters." This year's entry also featured instrumental music, which helped the team's chances at the state competition, Mr. Thomas said.
"It makes it unique, but offers a way to tell the story -- makes moments of the story more significant and heightens that scene," he said. "It allows you to accomplish a lot in a short period of time.
"This activity in IHSA is one of the best activities for high schools to participate in, hands down," Mr. Thomas said. "It teaches them (students) about competition, sportsmanship, professionalism and what a majority of America is afraid to do -- get up in front of other people who judge you: performing it, practicing it, getting feedback, modeling their behavior after it.
"They're learning about their own sense of decorum and identity," he said. "The skills that students gain from this activity are skills that they will use the rest of their life."
What he said he also likes about Encore is that the group of about 30 students becomes a true family.
"They're up at the crack of dawn on Saturdays to compete together; there are lots of bus trips," Mr. Thomas said. "This year, I was blown away by the number of alumni and parents who came to the Civic Center in Peoria just on the chance that they might make finals."
In the two-day competition, students had to pass a preliminary round to reach the finals, said Mr. Thomas, a Moline English/drama teacher. In 2011, Mr. Thomas and the team earned second in state for his original play, based on a Pulitzer-winning feature about violinist Joshua Bell playing for tips in a subway station.
Kids who not in the PIR category participate in other individual speech categories. Moline students making it to state finals this year were Travis Meier in original comedy and Raksha Madhavan in original oratory, Mr. Thomas said.
The Encore students will perform at 7:40 p.m. Friday in the high school cafeteria at "Dessert Theatre." For a $5 donation, guests can have dessert, coffee or juice and see a selection of sectional and state performers.
"Those who at least come and experience what these students are offering all leave not only impressed, but they leave with sense of appreciation for what these students do," Mr. Thomas said.
Today is Friday, Dec. 13, the 347th day of 2013. There are 18 days left in the year. 1863 -- 150 years ago: Merry sleigh bells jingle in our streets in the wake of a driving northwest storm of snow and rain. 1888 -- 125 years ago: Thomas Campbell was elected commander of John Buford Post 243, Grand Army of the Republic. 1913 -- 100 years ago: Thomas B. Reidy was named consul of C.W. Hawes Camp No. 1550, and L.H. Eihl was named consul of Camp 29, Modern Woodmen of America. 1938 -- 75 years ago: Rock Island aldermen last night upheld the view of a petition signed by 150 businessmen that the city should not install parking meters. 1963 -- 50 years ago: Total volume during the Christmas mailing season may reach 12 million pieces in Rock Island, according to Rock Island Postmaster Carl J.L. Wessel. 1988 -- 25 years ago: The aromas filling the air at the Rock Island Lines depot in Rock Island soon will be prime rib and roast duck rather than sawdust and plaster. A tourist train will be offering dinner excursions in mid-February or early March, according to Dan Carmody, executive director of the Development Association of Rock Island.