Campus improv team welcomes new members

James Kennedy

Much like the art of improvisation, campus improv group Varsity Nordic is always changing. The team, which recently added two new members to their lineup, performed together for the first time on Tuesday, Oct. 7, and the shift in group dynamics is already evident.

From left to right, Kinsey White '15, Sam Adler '15, Reid Watson '17, Hannah Davenport '16 (sitting), Jo Canino '17, and Roxanne Stathos '17 amuse their audience. Photo by Annabelle Marcovici.
From left to right, Kinsey White ’15, Sam Adler ’15, Reid Watson ’17, Hannah Davenport ’16 (sitting), Jo Canino ’17, and Roxanne Stathos ’17 amuse their audience. Photo by Annabelle Marcovici.

In the anticipated performance, the revised Varsity Nordic showed off talent new and old in an especially strong second act. Each member of the group took on a single character and managed to put together a story that interwove Hollywood and the peanut industry. Despite the improvised nature of the performance, the group and their characters pulled together into a mostly-coherent and very humorous long-form piece. One of the new members, senior Sam Adler, acted as a seedy peanut salesman and PR agent while fellow sophomore newbie Roxanne Stathos took on the role of his manic yet shy daughter.

What Varsity Nordic looks for in its new members varies every year, but the group is always looking for chemistry. This year only two new members were chosen. While the group currently numbers six people, the team is awaiting the return of several off-campus players. The selection of only two newcomers also highlights the team’s focus on continuing to have a small, tight-knit group.

“The nature of our team is to stay pretty small,” said senior Kinsey White. “Really getting to know each individual on a friend level and a performer level is important.”

Less important to the group are class year and improv experience. Adler always wanted to try theater-based activities at Whitman, but only started performing in productions last semester. Despite the late start, the team chose Adler for his eccentricity and well-rounded skillset, according to White.

Varsity Nordic show, 10/07; Hannah Davenport '16 (far back), Reid Watson '17 (left), and Roxanne Stathos '17 perform in Varsity Nordic's first show of the semester. Photo by Annabelle Marcovici.
Hannah Davenport ’16 (far back), Reid Watson ’17 (left), and Roxanne Stathos ’17 perform in Varsity Nordic’s first show of the semester. Photo by Annabelle Marcovici.

The other new player, Stathos, brings her acting talent and skill in accents to the table. Both of the new recruits are still adjusting to the group dynamic, focusing mainly on improving confidence.

“It’s about not worrying about what you’re doing in the sense of letting go … it’s all for fun, and that opens it up for me in order to explore more,” said Stathos.

The newbies are choosing to think of missteps simply as practice. After all, improv is far from a perfect performance process.

“There are no pitfalls or struggles because improv is a constant imperfection … It’s just about stage presence and practicing confidence,” said Adler.

Even though these two new recruits bring specific talents to the team, Varsity Nordic continues to focus on group bonds over selective skills.

Varsity Nordic show, 10/07; Kinsey White '15 (center), Jo Canino '17 (left)
Jo Canino ’17 (left) and Kinsey White ’15 are both returning members of Varsity Nordic. Photo by Annabelle Marcovici.

“If we were to go about an audition process with selectivity in mind, it would be a lot more detrimental to the group dynamic,” said White.

This group dynamic is always changing, especially as members become more comfortable playing off one another. This year’s group is also the most female-centric team in recent years, but even that will change as the other players return to Whitman.

In the near future, Varsity Nordic hopes to travel to improv competitions in the area, including a few in Seattle and Vancouver. After collaborating with Blue Moon last year, the group is also looking to team up with student groups in similar events.

“[There is] a possibility of collaborating with on-campus groups and enriching creativity on campus in different types of performance,” said White.

The audience at Varsity Nordic's first show this semester enjoys a funny moment. Photo by Annabelle Marcovici.
The audience at Varsity Nordic’s first show this semester enjoys a funny moment. Photo by Annabelle Marcovici.