Moline, Rock Island and United Township high schools are athletic rivals in the Western Big 6, but when London’s calling, their theater students are all on the same team.
The trio of theater departments are planning a summer 2025 trip to England, and the three drama directors say their kids are already buzzing about the glories in store.
Anthony Greer of United Township High School in East Moline originally planned to take just his students across the pond, but he reached out to his counterparts at Rocky (Dori Foster) and Moline (Kristin Koski) to see if they’d be interested in going as well.
“We have been traveling together to the Illinois High School Theatre Festival since 2020, and we performed a fundraiser cabaret called All Together Now in 2021,” Greer said this week. “It’s important to collaborate with other professionals in the area, but we also want the students in our program to support one another. This London trip seemed like a great opportunity to do just that.”
Planning through EF Tours, the schools are aiming to travel from June 24-July 4, 2025, and the cost per student is estimated to be $4,500 (higher for adults).
They will mainly be in London (where they plan to see three shows), including stops in Oxford, Stratford-Upon-Avon, Windsor Castle, the Globe Theatre, and the Magical World of Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studio London, Foster said. The visit will include shows, workshops, and tours, educating students about current theatre productions and spaces in London’s West End, the birthplace of William Shakespeare and how the sets and other technical aspects of the Harry Potter films were created.
They estimate taking 10 students per school, with one chaperone per six, Foster said.
“The cost is the same whether the group is small or large, but we are trying to hit a certain number so we are able to have our own bus on the trip, rather than being paired with another,” Greer said. “I will say it is nice going through this process with friends! We don’t really have to be so strict with the 10 students total. Rather, we want anyone interested to sign up and then we go from there.”
Greer (who performed this past June in Music Guild’s “Singin’ in the Rain” as Cosmo, said the Maroon theater students are very excited about the adventure.
“The opportunity to study and watch theater in another country is astounding. Most are trying to find some way to go,” he said.
“They are really, really excited,” Foster said this week of her Rocky kids. “The last couple of weeks has been getting that information out there, shared with the families, and we’re in the enrollment period right now,” she said.
“A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity”
“For some of these students, and for me back then, it would have been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Foster said. “This may be it.”
“I’ve always wanted to travel abroad and we all have had that feeling,” she said Wednesday. “Let’s go ahead and do this together. This will be my first time ever to Europe. I’m just pleased as punch and I’m really excited. I know how excited I’m going to be and I can only imagine what it’s going to be like for these young people.”
A Rocky alum herself, she said: “When I was their age, we didn’t travel. The farthest we went was St. Louis. It was hot and sweaty and my brothers and I were stuck in the back of the station wagon.”
“We enjoy traveling to Illinois Theatre Fest together in January each year, so we’re excited to take an adventure abroad to help our students experience the joy of travel,” Koski said. “Learning about other cultures is vital for practicing empathy, bringing diverse theatre opportunities to the Quad Cities, and enjoying this incredible world we live in.
“Partnering always helps with efficiency,” she said of the three schools cooperating. “We work together to answer each other’s questions, help students with their growth, and planning for rooms and transportation.”
The schools could add more beyond the 10 each if needed. “This is just a number we’re starting with,” Koski said. “We had seven students enroll already, and it’s only been a week since our first meeting.”
She went to London with her family over spring break, “and I’m excited to share this exciting place with students and friends,” Koski said. “I have also traveled to 11 other countries.”
Greer has gone to foreign countries twice, both school trips. He went to Costa Rica in 2010 with his high school, and performed in a trumpet festival in Orvieto, Italy with his university in 2011. “It seems my traveling abroad is limited to educational opportunities at the moment,” he said.
How will they raise money?
The cost for the 2025 trip includes airfare, food (breakfast and dinner), lodgings, and admission to every place they visit.
“They plan these things out well ahead of time, so families so have the opportunity to figure out how they’re going to budget for that,” Foster said. “It allows us as a group to plan out fundraisers that are going to help out the kids.”
Any student is welcome to go, but each school will prioritize very active theater students, she said. Students who graduate in 2024 and 2025 are also eligible, since the tour company offers student rates up to age 20.
The three directors have already started to brainstorm some fundraising ideas.
“The company has something interesting, where each students get their own GoFundMe link,” Foster said. “If a kid babysits, they could say, ‘Here’s my link to put whatever you’re gonna pay me in there. for birthdays or holidays, they could tell their family and friends.”
While show ticket sales help fund each production, the theaters could offer a fundraiser during future productions, Foster said. She’s talked about this trip with students for the past month.
The three directors have enjoyed traveling together for annual Illinois High School Theatre Festivals, which are in January and rotate between University of Illinois and Illinois State.
Rocky took a show to state festival in 2019, which was two student-directed one-acts, under the title “The Show Must Go On,” Foster said, noting the plays had to do with the process of making theater.
Foster is submitting their fall play for state — “Pure As The Driven Snow,” which will be judged during a dress rehearsal before the public performances (which are Nov. 16, 17 and 18 at 7 p.m.). She described it as an “old-fashioned comedic melodrama, very light-hearted.”
The students (about 30 total in cast and crew) asked to have this one considered for the state festival, she said.
Rocky does a musical each spring; this past one was “Mean Girls,” and they were the first high school in the area to stage it. About 80 students were involved in that production.
Foster actually saw it on Broadway in 2019 during their school’s New York City trip. Most theater students are band and choir students, and about 100 went to New York in March 2019. They also saw “King Kong” on Broadway then, during the week-long trip (traveled by bus).
Foster has chaperoned the RIHS band trip to San Antonio in 2006, the Illinois High School Theatre Festival’s All-State group in 2004, and has coordinated and conducted trips to IHSTF 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2023 (missing 2021-2022 due to COVID shutdowns).
“Students will benefit from gaining experience with world travel, engaging with a new culture and navigating new situations,” she wrote in her proposal to the Rock Island-Milan school board, which approved it this week. “The knowledge they gain from the trip and the self-confidence they develop from this experience will remain with them for years and impact their future studies and even careers.
“Traveling and experiencing theatre in a different country will give them a unique perspective in future conversations and work as theatre artists,” Foster wrote. “Having an international experience will make the student a more competitive college applicant and increase their comfort level with travel should their future career require it.”
Upcoming school plays
Rock Island’s upcoming play, “Pure As the Driven Snow,” will be performed on Nov. 16-18, at 7 p.m. Admission is $3 for students and $5 for adults.
Moline’s fall play was “Peter and the Starcatcher” and the winter play is a double feature: “The Ghost of Splinter Cove” by Steven Dietz and “Reunited Shorts” by Len Cuthbert. Performances will be Dec. 7 and 8 at 7 p.m. and Dec. 9 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $8 for adults, $5 for students.
The UTHS winter play is “Middletown” by Will Eno, to be done Dec. 6-8 at 7 p.m. and Dec. 10 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $9 for adults and $7 for students.