Two Alta High School speech groups have advanced to the Iowa High School Speech Association All-State Festival next week in Ames after being named as the outstanding performers in last weekend's state competition in Spencer, and members of the two groups are excited about being honored as two of the elite speech groups in Iowa.
Fifteen students in the Alta choral reading speech act earned a "I" rating and a chance to compete at the All-State Festival, while Kristy McGowan and Jill Carstensen advanced to the all-state level with their musical theatre performance of "Guys and Dolls."
Members of the choral reading act include Kole Petersen, Elizabeth Pedersen, Jon Weinhold, Heidi Meyer, Lacey Nielsen, Brooke Sliefert, Carstensen, McGowan, Steve Mahr, Jaime Parkhurst, Molly Schroeder, Greta Lichtenberg, Sarah Holmes, Ashlea Payne and Diana Paup.
The festival will be held at the Iowa State Center in Ames on Saturday, Jan. 16 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will feature the best eight of 190 total one-act plays entered in districts across the state and the best 25 of 740 group improvisations entered in district competition across Iowa.
This year's trip will be a repeat performance for the choral reading group, and Lichtenberg, a senior who was a part of the all-state act last year, said it was exciting being able to advance to the highest level of speech in her final season in the extracurricular activity.
"All-state's one of the biggest honors you can have, and we're all very happy that we made it to all-state," Lichtenberg said. "It definitely makes all the hard work that we did in the early mornings before school worth it."
"It's going to be a rush going on that stage and performing in front of so many people," Holmes said. "It's going to be a lot of fun, and everybody's excited about the opportunity to go and perform with the other great groups that are going to be there as well."
The choral reading group will perform their act "Teens Through the Decades" at the festival, and both Lichtenberg and Holmes said the group had to perfect such nuances as maintaining eye contact with the audience and reading from the script with the same amount of enthusiasm and excitement before being able to deliver a high-caliber performance.
"Eye contact was probably one of the biggest things we had to work on, because that's a very important part of choral reading," Lichtenberg said. "You have to be able to look at the judges when you're talking and keep the audience involved, and that takes a lot of work from everybody to be able to do."
"It's a really difficult category, because we try to take it to a different level," Holmes said. "You want to tell the audience your story when you do this, and you have to make sure you make eye and facial contact with the audience to keep them involved."
McGowan and Carstensen also spent quite a bit of time preparing for their performance, which featured highlights from "Guys and Dolls," an award-winning Broadway play, and McGowan said it was challenging project for both her and Carstensen.
"The biggest challenge with this is that you have to combine aspects of singing, choreography and speech all into one, and you have to be able to interact with the person or persons that you're performing with," McGowan said. "Getting voices to sound alike and to blend well is difficult, and it took a lot of work on our part to be able to do that with the musical theater."
The All-State Festival will move from the Des Moines Civic Center to the Iowa State Center for the first time this year, and the change in location will mean the experience will be new to even all-state veterans such as Lichtenberg, McGowan and Holmes, who are ready for the challenge to be presented to them on Saturday.
"It's going to be a real thrill," Lichtenberg said. "We're pretty good at this, and it's going to be exciting being at a new location and new place to perform. It's going to be a pretty special experience."