The University of Maine at Presque Isle hosted its first ever Variety Show on Thursday, Feb. 28, at 6 p.m. It was filled with several acts from students, faculty and staff. The show was hosted by Los Angeles-based comedian, actor and voice actor, Justin Rupple. Community members, faculty, staff and students filled Wieden Auditorium for a fun and entertaining night at UMPI.
The night also included a concession stand, run by UMPI’s Business Club. Attendees were given the chance to compete in a raffle if they followed any of the UMPI Student Activities Office social media accounts. The winner of the drawing won a “Best Seat in the House” seat in the front of the auditorium. An UMPI inspired gift basket was also given away. The show had four judges, each with a different affiliation to UMPI: Carolyn Dorsey, a faculty member; Jason Towers, a staff member; Matt Payan, a student and Sharon Roix, an alum.
A diverse number of acts performed through the show, starting with a musical performance from professors Larry Feinstein and Carol Ayoob. Between each act, Rupple shared one of his celebrity impressions, including Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Mark Wahlberg. Student Kaleb Pennell showed off his martial arts skills with his performance using a bo staff. During the show, Rupple shared past experiences he had with celebrities and stories from being a voice actor.
Student Evan Zarkadas showed off his skills on the Greek violin by performing a couple of songs. Student and contortionist Emma Hewitt came to the stage next to perform a number. Staff member Bethany Lord sang next, while sitting on the stage, using a cup as her instrument. Jahvion Lockridge, a student, stepped out and did a poetry slam. Ericka Weatherbee sang next with her husband Jon Weatherbee and Cody Blair. Sheridan Blackstone and Gracie Griffeth performed a dance number. Ashley Morton and her daughter sang a song for the last official act.
While the judges made their decisions, UMPI president Ray Rice came to the stage with his daughter Naomi and two of her friends. Deans Barb Blackstone and Jason Johnston and Athletic Director Dan Kane joined them. Naomi and her friends led the group in popular dances, such as the Floss, the Whip, the Nae Nae and the Macarena. The crowd laughed as they danced along.
At the end of the show, the audience came together to vote for an Audience Choice Award, which was given to Jahvion Lockridge. Bethany Lord won Most Creative Act. Evan Zarkadas won Overall Best Act with his performance using a Greek violin. The show ended with a closing remark by Rupple and a round of applause for the contestants.
“One of the things that made this show so great was the very wide variety of talent that we were able to showcase during the event, from slam poetry to bo-staffing to a contortionist,” Rachel Rice, director of community and media relations, said. “It’s just really impressive to think about the fact that we have faculty, staff and students that we work with every day and they have these amazing talents they were able to share with us that night. We are really looking forward to next year’s event and discovering what other talent we have out there on campus.”
The show brought laughter to everyone who attended, all while bringing UMPI faculty, staff, students and community members together during such a special event. The success of this show will hopefully bring excitement and anticipation for next year’s variety show.
“I feel the show was a great success! We had 110+ people in attendance. We had a range of people in the audience: community members, students and other UMPI faculty and staff,” Violet Washburn, the coordinator of campus enjoyments and international student services, said. “Justin was a great host and a great addition to the show! He was able to keep the audience involved and engaged in the show. He will be back in the fall!”