Whitworth’s improv team, Cool Whip, is preparing for drastic change as more than half of its members graduate this year. Co-directing seniors Katie Dolan and Ryan Gerhard are leaving the group after their active involvement these past four years but are excited to pass the torch on to junior Jessica Knuth.
Cool Whip is a student-led ensemble of 11 cast members who perform on campus and at various venues. The troupe started in 1992 when a group of students taking professor and chair of the theatre department Rick Hornor’s improv class wanted to continue performing and have an audition-based team. The students originally settled on the name “Cool Whit” but later changed it to “Cool Whip;” the name has stuck ever since.
Every year the group holds auditions for incoming students who are interested in participating. Applicants list their previous improv experience and are required to enroll in Hornor’s improv class. Returning members have to audition as well; there is no guarantee they will be cast again.
“We were only planning on casting around eight people this year and we ended up casting 11 because there were so many strong auditions,” Dolan said.
Cool Whip performs every two to three weeks. Its on-campus performances are free to Whitworth students and faculty. The group also participates in fundraisers, church and school events. The Cool Whip team recently went to Seattle on a weekend tour with the University of Washington’s improv troupe, The Collective. Despite their various performance locations, Dolan’s favorite place to perform is at Whitworth.
“It’s really exciting to see people come to every show,” Dolan said. “But also really exciting to see people who have never been in the theatre building before or knew that Stage II was there.”
Seven members of this year’s group are graduating and will be leaving at the end of this semester, including Dolan and Gerhard, who voted member Knuth as this coming fall semester’s new director.
Knuth started attending Cool Whip shows regularly since she was a freshman. She joined her sophomore year and has been a part of the group for two years. In order to be considered for a leadership position in Cool Whip, Knuth had to apply for the McDonald Scholarship, a fund set aside specifically for the theatre department. She found out just recently that she was accepted. Knuth said she has high hopes for the future of Cool Whip.
“I want it to be a regular learning process for every cast member,” Knuth said, “We’ve had good performances this year. I hope that with this new group of fresh talent we will be able to continue to uphold Cool Whip’s reputation.”
Cool Whip’s final performance was Monday, May 9 at 9 p.m. in Stage II in Cowels Auditorium.
Story by Brianna Anderson
Photos by Josh Olsby