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 Sunday, May 19, the 139th day of 2013. There are 226 days left in the year. 1863 -- 150 years ago: The Rt. Rev. Harry I. Witherspoon, D.D. Bishop of Illinois, willpreach in Trinity (Episcopal) Church, in this city this evening. 1888 -- 125 years ago: At 1 o'clock yesterday afternoon the Mississippi River flooded itsbanks at Rock Island, destroying the warehouse of the Rock Island Lumber companyand damaging the Lumber Company and arsenal power plant. Total loss isestimated at $100.000. 1913 -- 100 years ago: Residents of South Rock Island township are circulating a petitionfavoring the annexation of that area to the city of Rock Island. 1938 -- 75 years ago: Mrs. Thomas Ackles, of Rock Island, has been elected president ofthe Playcrafters for the next season. She succeeds Warren Leonard. 1963 -- 50 years ago: Some 8,000 people filed through the gates of Rock Island Arsenal on Saturday to view a display of a part of the nation's armed strength. The occasion was theannual observance of Armed Forces Day. 1988 -- 25 years ago: Willis Kuschmann, of Moline, who already has won his laurels as oneof the most artistic men in the Quad-Cities area, has a new hobby. He is deeply involvedin miniature railroading. At the age of 88, when many other seniors are dozing in theirchairs or sitting before the television, Mr. Kuschmann is planning and working on hiscollection.