Orientation week’s new faces, new dorms, and new everything made me eager to find a concrete identity. Fortunately, hundreds of posters advertised a quick and easy route to belonging on Oberlin’s campus. I could write for the Review. I could play rugby. I could learn swing dancing. Amidst the myriad posters, the one for the Sunshine Scouts, an improv group, caught my eye. Though I’d never been in an improv group before, I’d done theater all my life and wanted to continue that at Oberlin.
The audition, two hours of inventive silliness, reminded me why I chose to go to Oberlin. I was overjoyed to be accepted into the Sunshine Scouts. The Scouts were playful and intelligent, moving from brutally realistic to the surrealistically endearing. Moreover, they drew their members from beyond the theater department; there were college music majors, pre-med majors, comp-lit majors, and more. I felt I was part of a kinetic community, rather than a hermetically sealed club. They did improv because they liked using their imaginations. I came to the audition merely wanting a place among the vast expanse of Oberlin students, but found a group that demanded creative choices, individuality, and humor.
The Sunshine Scouts perform long form improv, in which an audience-suggested word propels a narrative of scenes, songs, and monologues. To prepare for this, we spend six hours a week practicing. First, there is an hour of games, everything from the simplest of word games to the advanced acting techniques. The second hour is filled with a practice long form, allowing us to understand why a monologue should happen instead of a scene or how to successfully create a group conversation. The end product is usually a show in the Cat—a terrifying and exhilarating chance to create interesting characters out of single suggestion, all under the eyes of a hundred or more fellow students.
The Scouts helped me navigate my freshman year. They gave me community, friendship, and a creative outlet. Now, as a rising junior, I have found the Scouts to be more than just a guide. Oberlin students, though sometimes quiet, are passionate about extraordinarily specific things: translating Latin, writing screenplays, and performing slam poetry. Being in the Scouts constantly reminds me of this vitality, and encourages me to follow their example. It has also taught me that groups, perhaps especially here, are not made for the people in them to sit quietly and securely. We come together to challenge each other to be brilliant, take risks, and use more of ourselves.