Pictured Above: Tessa Castor, English freshman, and Tommy Castor, ’08, ’10, stand together at the top of the 77 steps. (Taylor Forrest/Staff Photographer)
By Taylor Forrest
9 lives Laughatorium and Good Times Improvisational Comedy Troupe. This group is well-known across campus and the Winfield community for their quirky and off-the-cuff humor, but since the troupe is exclusive in selecting its members, few actually get to know what it feels like to be a part of creating the laughter.
Yet, for the Castor’s, it has become something of a family tradition.
Tessa Castor, English freshman, and Tommy Castor, SC grad and adjunct instructor of communication, are siblings with a unique relationship. Not only do they share similar the similar interests of improvisational theatre, but they are also twelve years apart in age. Because of this Tessa said she was acclimated with the Southwestern campus and 9 Lives at a young age.
“Both of my brother’s actually went to Southwestern, with my brother Tommy 12 years older than me, and my brother Zach eight years older than me, I kind of just grew up on campus and loved it,” said Tessa. “I grew up watching Tommy perform in 9 Lives and after the shows, my friends and I would go back home and play the games, I always thought it was so much fun.”
Growing up, Tessa had plenty of opportunities to watch her brother in 9 Lives. Tommy was part of the group for more than four years, starting his sophomore year in 2006 through his master’s degree in 2010.
Tommy actually wanted to join his freshman year, but said that he didn’t realize that you couldn’t just join 9 Lives when you got to campus, you had to be asked to join. Allyson Moon, associate professor of theatre and speech, said that one of the main reasons that it is so exclusive is because the troupe functions better as a smaller group with no more than nine members.
Although, by the end of his sophomore year, Tommy was being recruited by the original 9 Lives troupe to officially join their ranks.
“I was taking the Improv class, and it was like this very secretive thing and I got invited to some of the 9 Lives rehearsals the week of the show,” said Tommy. “And then like maybe 30 minutes before the show, they gave us T-Shirts. It was so last minute and quick, but it was really cool to have the chance to do Improv with the original group before they graduated.”
Moon explained the way that 9 Lives recruitment works, “To be in the group you want to enroll in the Improvisational theater class because I’m working with you all of the time. Plus, other troupe members come to the class so they get to play with you. Then the next step is to be invited to what the troupe has come to call it, the kittens. So sort of the opportunity to apprentice as an Improv troupe member, and it’s a time too for the individual to figure out whether this is something that they would like to continue doing and whether there is good chemistry between the individuals.”
Currently, Tessa has already taken the Improvisational class for credit and this semester, is still attending class, but is not taking it for credit due to her overloaded schedule. She also performed in the 9 Lives December show last semester as part of the Improvisational Theatre final. Tessa said that she hopes to join in the future because she just likes the opportunity to get up in front of the crowd and make them laugh.
Moon said that Tessa, while not yet officially apart of 9 Lives, has a bright future in the world of Improv.
Tommy said that if Tessa is asked to join, he will definitely come watch her perform. Plus, that isn’t the only family member that he would be coming to watch.
“It’s really neat because my first cousin, Carlene Dick, is in 9 Lives too. So I already had that little family connection,” said Tommy. “Like I would see her at Thanksgiving and we would talk about 9 Lives, but now I can do that all of the time with Tessa. It’s awesome that she is getting to play with them right now.”
While the two siblings have a lot in common, Moon said each have their own distinctive personalities that really show through their Improv work.
“In scene work, Tommy has a tendency to be so positive and high energy,” said Moon. “Tessa, on the other hand, has a little bit of a dark side. There is a little bit of sarcasm to her, a little bit of a slant, but they are both so quick. And there is a fearlessness that they both have, which is a great quality for an improver to have.”
Tessa readily admits that her brothers had a huge influence on her decision to come to Southwestern and in her decision to join 9 Lives as well. Moon said that before Tessa even got to campus, she was emailing her saying that she was interested in 9 Lives and Improvisational Theatre. Before she could even hit the ground running, Tessa knew that she wanted to follow her brother’s footsteps.
“I’ve always looked up to my brothers and I always wanted to be like them. That was probably the little sister in me,” said Tessa. “My brother has always been the ‘grownup’ to me, but we are still really close and we can relate about a lot of things having both experienced Southwestern as students.”
Taylor Forrest is a senior majoring in communication. You may email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.