A year after graduating, I played my first VI trivia game in an attempt to capture the communal beauty I witnessed in it. Each week, Grace Ryder ’22 and Ellen Burbank ’22 met up to plan trivia night, formulating themes and questions. “Once we have a theme, we write down a list of associations, whether direct or incredibly vague, and then write questions,” said Ryder. “It's a big responsibility to pick the right theme and the right questions so everyone feels included and has a good time.”
After a few years of necessary distancing, the nightly VI trivia gathering still holds a thrill.“If there's one thing I hope stays preserved over the future years, it would be the fact that we read questions from printed out paper,” said Burbank. “We could easily read from our phones, but having those out takes away from the experience.” A respite from the digital world outside, VI trivia offers silliness in the charms and warmth of friendly competition.
“I played trivia at the VI once, with my friend Mike [Schlemmer ’71],” remembered Ryerson. “The first few questions we aced, because they were history, politics, and sports. When they started asking about contemporary music, we quickly went into last place.”
I thank Margaret and Joel Gunderson for allowing me to photograph. Much gratitude to Grace Ryder ’22 and Ellen Burbank ’22 for hosting trivia and welcoming me, and to the participants for befriending the camera and sharing their words on the notebook that floated around. For their service and wonderful friendship, I dedicate the piece to Grace and Ellen.
Trivia hosts Ellen Burbank ’22 and Grace Ryder ’22
Self-portrait (left to right): Jimmy Winkler, Birhanu T. Gessese ’21, John Ryerson ’72
"Sometimes, along with the theme, we ask people to dress up in a costume or in a specific way and it's awesome to see people actually take the time to put an outfit together. I remember the trivia on the Wednesday before Halloween when we asked everyone to dress up, kind of expecting that no one would, and then were so surprised when we walked in to see almost every person in some kind of costume."
– Grace Ryder ’22
"Thank you to every trivia host of the past for putting in the work to keep the tradition alive, the people who come every week without fail, the wonderful bartenders (Brandie, Hayley, and Jason) who put up with us, and everyone who comes to trivia. A huge thank you to Margaret and Joel Gunderson for allowing us to do this year after year."
– Ellen Burbank ’22 and Grace Ryder ’22